Because it’s the NFL, a 12-month enterprise filled with free agency, a combine, a draft, minicamps, organized team activities, training camp and also some football games, I thought I’d find a way to squeeze in several urgent thoughts about the Bears’ looming season. If you’re asking how a season that’s 4½ months away can be considered looming, you’re naive or a Bolshevik.
I have applied all of my analytical powers, tapped into my 32-year association with the league and huddled with my sources, and I’m here to tell you the Bears’ schedule is a beast.
There will be tougher opponents in 2019 than there were in 2018, when the team went 12-4 and stunned the NFL. There will be an international game, five night games and a Thanksgiving game. The Bears also will be celebrating their 100th season, and why do I think that’s going to be some sort of cosmic drag on their performance?
If they come out of all of this 10-6, they should be extremely satisfied. A scary thought to consider for you diehards: 9-7 isn’t out of the question.
Here’s how they get to the kinder number:
Sept. 5 vs. Packers
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be highly motivated after an offseason in which he was portrayed as a coach-killer and a bad guy. The Bears signed former Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Extra points for any team with a Ha Ha on the roster. Bears win. Record: 1-0.
Sept. 15 at Broncos
Just forget about this game, OK? There’s no way the Bears can win. Vic Fangio, their former defensive coordinator, is the Broncos’ new coach. He’ll be so far inside quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s head that Trubisky will have to be reminded what a forward pass is. Bears lose. Record: 1-1.
Sept. 23 at Redskins
A Monday night game against a bad team will give Trubisky the opportunity to bounce back. The Redskins will be without quarterback Alex Smith, whose gruesome leg injury last season was a horror flick that went straight to video. As of now, Colt McCoy or Case Keenum will have to face Bears brute Khalil Mack. Good luck with that, fellas. Bears win. Record: 2-1.
Sept. 29 vs. Vikings
The Vikings are going to rebound after a disappointing 2018. So is Kirk Cousins, their quarterback. However, there will be no rebounding at Soldier Field. Bears win. Record: 3-1.
Oct. 6 at Raiders (in London)
It’s hard to know how a team will react to a trip to England. Jet lag, unfamiliar food, people saying ‘‘loo’’ when they mean ‘‘bathroom’’ — it’s a nightmare waiting to happen. The Raiders, still dealing with their decision to trade Mack to the Bears before last season, will struggle more than their opponents at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Bears win. Record: 4-1.
Oct. 20 vs. Saints
The Bears got jobbed by their kicker in the playoffs last season; the Saints got jobbed by The Man. So give the Saints the advantage here. Look for Drew Brees to negate the Bears’ pass rush with quick throws. Bears lose. Record: 4-2.
Oct. 27 vs. Chargers
A devoted Bears fans is not going to like the unpleasantness I envision in the three-game stretch that starts with the game against the Saints. The Chargers and Philip Rivers went 12-4 last season and are going to be formidable again. Bears lose. Record: 4-3.
Nov. 3 at Eagles
The new kicker, whomever he is, will be under extreme pressure to do well against the team the Bears lost to in the playoffs. The goalposts will be whispering in the same way they did to Cody Parkey against the Eagles. Bears lose. Record: 4-4.
Nov. 10 vs. Lions
With panic establishing a foothold in Chicago, the Bears turn and face the kindly Lions, who make people in other uniforms feel very good about themselves. Bears win. Record: 5-4.
Nov. 17 at Rams
Yeah, I don’t think so. This isn’t Chicago, and there won’t be brutal weather the way there was when the Bears beat the Rams last season. Concern starts creeping in again. Bears lose. Record: 5-5.
Nov. 24 vs. Giants
The Giants no longer have Odell Beckham Jr., but they still have Saquon Barkley, who, if he weren’t a running back, would be a mobile home being rolled down a highway. The Bears still have that nasty defense. Bears win. Record 6-5.
Nov. 28 at Lions
The Bears still will be dealing with the bruising caused by tackling Barkley, but they’ll take care of business against the Lions on Thanksgiving. Bears win. Record: 7-5.
Dec. 5 vs. Cowboys
Trubisky will show some improvement this season, but we won’t see it against a tough, talented Cowboys defense led by DeMarcus Lawrence. However, the Cowboys will have to contend with Chuck Pagano’s defense and will fail. Bears win. Record: 8-5.
Dec. 15 at Packers
This prediction is predicated on the idea that there won’t be two feet of snow and wind chills of minus-35. The Bears are the more talented team, and a three-game winning streak should give them plenty of confidence heading into Lambeau Field. Bears win. Record: 9-5.
Dec. 22 vs. Chiefs
Trubisky has a tendency to put too much pressure on himself, and this game is going to feel like an SUV sitting on his chest. He spent all of last season hearing about how he wasn’t nearly as good as the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes. Here’s his chance to block out the noise. Bears lose. Record: 9-6.
Dec. 29 at Vikings
This is the game that will decide whether the Bears go 10-6 or 9-7. It also might be the game that will decide whether they go to the playoffs. I say they rise to the occasion. I don’t say it very loudly. Bears win. Record 10-6.