The schedule for the 2014 NFL season was announced, so it’s officially time to analyze the hell out of it, because, you know, off season. I’m here to look specifically at the Bears 2014 schedule.
Before I get started, I know there are plenty of people who aren’t sure how an NFL schedule is made up. Believe it or not, it is not an arbitrary process. Each team must: 1) Play every team in their own division twice. 2) Play every team from another division in their own conference. 3) Play every team from a division in the other conference. 4) Play the teams with the same ranking in the previous season from the two remaining divisions in their own conference.
So this year the Chicago Bears are paired up with the AFC East, the NFC South, the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys. The Bears are sure to field a powerful team in the 2014 season, but they certainly have their work cut out for them. Here are three things fans should keep in mind.
1) Super Bowl Contenders
By my count, the Bears face off against five teams that are very real Super Bowl contenders. The Green Bay Packers, the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints, the New England Patriots, and the San Francisco 49ers could all make a run towards the Lombardi Trophy this year. San Francisco and Carolina should be manageable games. The Bears defense is designed for gap control and zone coverage, so if the players cover their positions properly, then they should be able to win those games. But when you look at Green Bay, New England and New Orleans, you notice that they all have something in common: elite quarterbacks. You have to go all the way back to Week 3 of the 2010 season for the last time the Bears won against an elite QB*. If the bears hope to win those games, they have to put at least 28 points on the board.
2) Pesky Teams
No game in the NFL is a gimme, but some teams are more dangerous than others. Teams like the Lions, Dolphins, Jets, and Falcons could be very dangerous for the Bears. None of these teams are division favorites, but they are all in the Wild Card picture, and to get in the Wild Card, you need to defeat some pretty impressive teams. On paper, the Bears should be able to beat any of these teams, but determination and heart can be incredibly influential. Not to mention that the Lions swept the Bears last year, which made my heart sad.
3) Later Divisional Games
The Bears play the Green Bay Packers in Week 4, but after that they have to wait until Week 10 to see another one of their division rivals. Five out of their eight final games are against teams in their own division. This means that finishing off their season is incredibly important. The Bears will need to stay healthy, keep competitive, and have variable schemes on both offense and defense if they hope to make the playoffs, let alone win their division.
Winning the division is in reach, but the Bears need to win the division if they hope to accomplish this goal. The injury situation for the Bears could be the deciding factor here.
To belabor a well-known point, every game is a must-win situation – and that’s what makes the NFL awesome.
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