Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Never-Too-Early-To-Analyze-The-Bears-Schedule Post

Two nights ago, the NFL release the entire 2012 schedule.  Let's take a look at what the Bears' 2012 season will look like.

Week 1 vs Indianapolis
Let's hope Jay Cutler isn't running
for his life all season.
What's up Andrew Luck?  Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, and company will greet the rookie quarterback, who the Colts said today will in fact be the number one overall pick next week.  Here's hoping Rod Marinelli throw some wrinkles at Luck, because the Bears' Cover 2 scheme could allow Andrew Luck to get into a rhythm.  The Colts had one of the worst scoring defenses in the league, so Jay Cutler could have a field day with his new receiver Brandon Marshall.

Week 2 at Green Bay
The Bears' first NFC North test comes early, as the Bears will travel to Green Bay on a short week, as the game will be played on Thursday night.  It's their only Thursday night game in the NFL's new Thursday night schedule, in which there's a Thursday night game every week from 2-15.  This one could be a shootout, as everyone knows what the Packers offense is capable of, but they also had one of the league's worst defenses.  Should be fun.

Week 3 vs St. Louis
The Rams regressed in 2012, going from seven to two wins.  Sam Bradford battled injuries and didn't have much help around him.  They traded the number two overall pick in next week's draft for a king's ransom, so don't expect them to be down for long.  They traded this year's #1 for the Redskins' #1 this year and their top picks for the next two years.  They'll also receive the Redskins' second round pick this year.  Bradford is good, but it's too early to judge what the Rams will be this year, because they have a chance to draft several impact players.

Week 4 at Dallas
Last time the Bears went to Dallas, they won a 27-20 game when the Cowboys were expected to be the class of the NFC.  As it turned out, the Bears were the ones who made it to the NFC Championship Game. Last year, they reeled off four wins a row starting in Week 9, but finished by losing four of their last five.  Will Tony Romo ever become that elite quarterback?

Week 5 at Jacksonville
Is Jacksonville happy with Blaine Gabbert?  They limped to a 5-11 finish last season, and Gabbert was less than spectacular.  He completed 50% of his passes and barely averaged 120 yards per game.  How much longer will Maurice Jones-Drew be able to carry this offense?  Mel Kiper has the Jags drafting defense in the first round, so the offense will be much the same, with the biggest weapon outside of MJD being Marcedes Lewis.

Week 6 is the Bears' Bye Week

Week 7 vs Detroit
The Lions will continue to improve, but their season does hinge on the health of Matthew Stafford.  They got a healthy 2011 and made the playoffs.  The Bears and Lions most likely will be battling it out for second place in the NFC North, and thus a wild card berth.  I don't think there's any reason that both of these teams can't make the playoffs, as long as they're both healthy.  If I had to guess, I'd say that the Bears will split with the Lions, each team winning at home.

Week 8 vs Carolina
The Panthers come to Chicago for the second season in a row, in what has to be some sort of scheduling quirk.  Cam Newton almost singlehandedly beat the Bears on the lakefront last year (in what was the first Bears game I ever attended).  He ran away with the Rookie of the Year award, and proved that he is a dual threat.  He threw for over 4,000 yards and ran for more than 700 yards.  Kiper has them drafting interior defensive line help to improve their run defense.  Should be another good one.

Week 9 at Tennessee
This could have been a game against Peyton Manning, but of course he signed with Denver.  So, we have Jake Locker to look at.  Locker, playing behind Matt Hasselbeck for most of the season, got in five games and wasn't terrible.  He threw for over 500 yards and four touchdowns without throwing an intereception.  I would imagine, though, that this season will be his true rookie season.  He'll take over the reins for the first time, and likely will struggle.

Week 10 vs Houston
Jay Cutler should feel a little better that Mario Williams is now in Buffalo, but Charles Tillman still has Andre Johnson to deal with.  Many consider Johnson to be the best receiver in the league, and Matt Schaub usually has no trouble finding him.  Add in the running threat of Arian Foster, and the Bears defense will have their hands full at Soldier Field.

Week 11 at San Francisco
The Bears will travel to the city by the bay for a Monday night battle with the 49ers.  It'll be the first time Jim Harbaugh coaches against his former team, and I think the marquee matchup in this one will be the Bears' offense against the Niners' defense.  The Niners' defense was the second best scoring defense in the league last year, allowing just over 14 points per game.  Before Jay Cutler got hurt last year, the Bears' offense was on a nice roll.  Hopefully they can get back to that and then some with the addition of Brandon Marshall.

Week 12 vs Minnesota
The Vikings are another team that will be playing with a young quarterback, as Christian Ponder will take over control.  What we don't know is how long he'll be without Adrian Peterson, who tore his ACL on Christmas Eve.  Even if Peterson is able to come back, who knows how effective he'll be? The Vikings will most likely be predicted to finish last in the NFC North.

Week 13 vs Seattle
Matt Flynn will come to Chicago and by this point in the season we'll have a good idea of how good he is as a starter.  He signed in Seattle for three years after playing just a few games in his career backing up Aaron Rodgers.  Granted, he was awesome in those games, but that's a big leap of faith for the Seahawks to take.

Week 14 at Minnesota
Whatever goes wrong in Week 12, the Bears will have a chance to rectify it pretty quickly.  See Week 12.

Week 15 vs Green Bay
It seems as though the NFL has done this on purpose the last few seasons; one game with Green Bay early, and one late.  This one could decide the NFC North.  See Week 2.

Week 16 at Arizona
This should be a nice break from the winter weather in the midwest, and at the very least, they'll play indoors.  If they're lucky, it'll be outdoors in pretty mild weather.  As far as the game goes, Kevin Kolb was largely disappointing last season, but any team with Larry Fitzgerald on it is dangerous.  Kiper has them drafting Michael Floyd, so the secondary could have their hands full.

Week 17 at Detroit
Another game that could have major playoff implications, be it for the division or a wild card berth.  See Week 7.

Overall, I think it's a very favorable schedule for the Bears in 2012.  It's the only silver lining in the Jay Cutler and Matt Forte injuries, along with a higher draft pick.  The addition of Brandon Marshall should make the Bears' offense a lot more formidable.  That addition also allows them to look to improve the offensive line in next week's draft.

Mel Kiper has them drafting Whitney Mercilus, a defensive end out of Illinois.  It's just one of the positions on defense that presents a real need, and as Kiper points out in his latest mock draft, Julius Peppers won't be around forever.  They also need to address linebacker (though they just signed Geno Hayes to boost the linebacker depth), cornerback, and safety.

Stay tuned to the Walk Off Balk as the Bears select 19th overall in the NFL Draft next week.

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