The best thing about predicting the Bears season game-by-game on April 20 is that it’s not a mock draft. It’s way too early to make any real judgments about the 2018 Bears. We still haven’t seen Mitch Trubisky throw downfield darts over the middle to Adam Shaheen on seam routes for “touchdowns” in training camp that no doubt will convince many of us the Bears might actually have a chance against the Patriots. Actually, at the rate the Matt Nagy honeymoon is going, this might be as conservative as Bears predictions get — so maybe now is better than ever to forecast the 2018 season.
I’m not exactly on a roll after picking the Kings over Vegas and the Ducks over the Sharks in the Stanley Cup playoffs — both teams were swept before winter ended in Chicago. But here goes:
Sun., Sept. 9 — at Green Bay: The last time the Bears opened the season at Lambeau Field, Brian Urlacher suffered a dislocated right wrist in the first half that ended his season and all but doomed Jay Cutler’s first season with the Bears as soon as it started. Then again, the time before that, the Bears dominated Brett Favre and the Packers in a 26-0 rout in 2006 that signaled the beginning of a glorious season that ended in the Super Bowl. So it can go either way. Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Packers are still the Packers. Still can’t pull the trigger on this one, though. L (confidence level, 71 percent).
Mon., Sept. 17 — vs. Seattle: The last time the Bears played the Seahawks at Soldier Field, Brian Urlacher suffered a pulled hamstring in the second half — chasing Russell Wilson in futility — that ended his season and his Hall of Fame career and doomed the Bears to a 10-6 non-playoff season after a 7-1 start — not liking the trend here. The time before that, the Bears were swamped 38-14 in a loss with Caleb Hanie at quarterback, all but ending their playoff hopes after a 7-3 start before Jay Cutler was injured. Seahawks also might be on the way down and are rebuilding their defense. I could eventually talk myself into this one, but not right now. L (confidence level, 59 percent).
Sun., Sept. 23 — at Arizona: The last time the Bears played the Packers, Seahawks and Cardinals in the first three games of the season, they lost all three in dispiriting fashion in 2015, and the John Fox honeymoon was over literally before it even started. But like the Packers and Seahawks, the Cardinals aren’t the team they’ve been in recent years. As the Nagy-Trubisky offense grows, indoor elements will be to their liking (and spark a call for Chicago to build a U.S. Bank-like indoor stadium, just you watch). W (confidence level, 62 percent).
Sun., Sept. 30 — at Tampa Bay: The Bears’ victory over the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in 2015 helped seal Lovie Smith’s fate as coach of the Bucs. The Bucs turned to offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to maximize No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston. But it hasn’t worked out as they planned and the Bucs are struggling again. W (confidence level, 58 percent).
Sun., Oct. 14 — at Miami: Still think the Bears should have fired John Fox after the 2015 season and promoted Adam Gase? The Dolphins made the playoffs in Gase’s first season in 2016, but fell to 6-10 last season with (mostly) Jay Cutler at quarterback after a preseason injury to after quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Bears will be coming off a bye and figure to benefit from a week of self-scouting and introspection. W (confidence level, 61 percent).
Sun., Oct. 21 — vs. New England: The last time the Bears played the Patriots at Soldier Field, a snowstorm engulfed Soldier Field and the Patriots blew out the Bears — but at least Brian Urlacher did not suffer a season-ending injury. The weather figures to be better and so do the Bears seven weeks into Nagy’s first season. I’m picking the Bears to cover, but that’s as far as I can go at this time. L (confidence level, 81 percent).
Sun., Oct. 28 — vs. New York Jets: The Jets are like the Bears — the team everybody picks as their sure win. No telling who the Jets will be starting at quarterback by this time. And it still probably won’t matter. If the Bears don’t win this game, it likely will spark some doubt about the Nagy era. W (confidence level 87 percent).
Sun., Nov. 4 — at Buffalo: The Bills made the playoffs last season for the first time since 1999, but a lot of things went right for them to finish 9-7 and without a quarterback, it remains to be seen if they’re a team on the rise or a flash in the pan. They could have a rookie at quarterback here — and a good one. They also will be on a short week after either an exhilarating upset or demoralizing loss against the Patriots at Foxborough. But these teams will be familiar with each other after playing in the preseason and the game figures to close. Real close. Reeeeeaal close. T (confidence level, 10 percent).
Sun., Nov. 11 — vs. Detroit: The Bears have lost four of their last five games against the Lions at Soldier Field, but each one has been close. The Lions, who finished 9-7 the past two seasons (making the playoffs in 2016), are always a tough team to figure. And there’s no telling what they’ll do in Matt Patricia’s first season. Bill Belichick disciples don’t have a great track record, but you never know. W (confidence level, 72 percent).
Sun, Nov. 18 — vs. Minnesota: The Vikings with that defense and Kirk Cousins at quarterback sure look like a team ready to take a big step and they already were Super Bowl contenders last season. Mike Zimmer always does a solid job, so unless they have injuries, they figure to come to Soldier Field with a full head of steam. L (confidence level, 67 percent).
Thurs., Nov. 22 — at Detroit: The last time the Bears played on Thanksgiving Day, they beat the Packers fair-and-square 17-13 with Jay Cutler out-dueling Aaron Rodgers. Lions lost to the Vikings on Thanksgiving Day last year, but have won four of their last five Thanksgiving Day games. Short week, travel, road game, holiday just doesn’t bode well. L (confidence level, 74 percent).
Sun., Dec. 2 — at New York Giants: Great spot for a Bears road game, with 10 days between games, facing the Giants who will be coming off a rivalry game against the Eagles and will have another division game the following week against the Redskins — though that is unlikely to be a big factor at this point of the season. W (confidence level, 70 percent).
Sun., Dec. 9 — vs. Los Angeles Rams: In Week 14 last year, the Eagles beat the Rams 43-35 in a battle of upstart teams that the Bears currently are modeling themselves after. Even after losing Carson Wentz to injury, the Eagles still went on to win the Super Bowl. No telling how big this game could be. L (confidence level, 57 percent).
Sun., Dec. 16 — vs. Green Bay: Can you believe the Bears haven’t beaten the Packers at Soldier Field since 2010, when Brian Urlacher forced a key fumble in a 20-17 overtime victory on Monday Night Football? Bears have lost eight straight since them. There’s no telling how beat up the Bear will be by this time. But if they’ve got all their key parts, they should be able to pulls this off. It could be the dawn of a new era. W (confidence level, 51 percent).
Sun., Dec. 23 — at San Francisco: As impressive as Jimmy Garoppolo’s finish was last season — leading the 1-10 49ers to five consecutive victories, with a 96.2 passer rating — the 49ers still are a rebuilding team that figures to hit some rough spots. Still, the quarterback makes a difference and Garoppolo sure looks like the real deal. L (confidence level, 57 percent).
Sun., Dec. 30 — at Minnesota: One of these year’s this apparently annual finale will mean something. But it’s very likely this will match the up-and-coming Bears and Trubisky against a Vikings team that has a playoff spot clinched and doesn’t want to get anybody hurt. The last three times these teams played in Week 17, the status of the Bears’ head coach seemed to be on the line. That better not be the case this time. L (confidence level, 74 percent).
Final record: 7-8-1.