My immediate reaction after the NFL released the Bears 2017 regular season schedule was, “Wow, what exactly did they do to deserve this?”
First, my annual reminder that calculating the difficulty of any schedule in April is folly with the knowledge that in the NFL teams go from worst to first and vice versa as often as some folks change their underwear.
But that said, the murder’s row the schedule-makers have gifted the Bears with this September will tell us very quickly exactly what the likelihood is the Bears can be significantly improved this season.
Opening at home against the Falcons, traveling to Tampa Bay and then coming back home to face the Steelers, all at noon Sunday, and then going to Green Bay on Thursday night, the Bears will almost certainly be a touchdown or more underdog in each of their first four games.
The Bears could be much improved and still go 0-4, effectively ending their season before it really gets going.
The good news is, the only 2016 playoff teams the Bears will see the rest of the way will be a rematch with the Pack at home Nov. 12, and their two games against Detroit, and there is no week a team would rather have its bye than Week 9 – right smack dab in the middle of the season – and the Bears have drawn that straw this year.
The second quarter of the season is no walk in the park but does offer a lot more hope, with Week 5 and Week 7 home games against Minnesota and Carolina, and Week 6 and Week 8 trips to Baltimore and New Orleans.
A 4-4 start is not out of the realm of possibilities, but 1-7 or 2-6 may seem more likely.