The NFL schedule does not break into four, neat sections for most teams. Some have 5-6 week runs of easy games. Some face a brutal slate down the stretch. The 2022 Bears schedule seems to break into four uneven sections; a quartet if you will.
Section One: Weeks 1-6
The Games: home Niners, at Packers (SNF), home Texas, at Giants, at Vikings, home Commanders (TNF).
The Analysis: Vegas has opened the Bears as nearly a touchdown underdog at home to the Niners on 9/11. But remember, that line is based on the 2021 Niners, a very good football team, and not a potential Niners club with a question mark at quarterback and their best player residing on the Disgruntled List. It’ll be surprising if the Bears don’t have a chance to win their home opener.
After the opener, this first section features (a) two tough divisional games on the road and (b) three of the ten worst teams in the sport, a category in which the Bears might also find themselves. If the team intends to play meaningful games in late December/early January, one has to think they must come out of this stretch at .500 or better.
Section Two: Weeks 7-10
The Games: at Patriots, at Cowboys, home Dolphins, home Lions.
The Analysis: This is the most difficult stretch of what is generally considered an easy schedule.
Three of these four teams think they are contenders to win the whole thing this season. Belichick always does. Jerry Jones too. And the Dolphins had the most all-in offseason of any team in the sport. If the Bears struggle in the first section of the season, it is very unlikely they’ll improve enough to get the train back on the tracks here. But if the Bears have a respectable first six games, these next four could go a long way towards establishing what the team is capable of achieving in 2022.
(And while the Lions seem to be doing the right things as an organization, Matt Eberflus can’t let Jared Goff beat him at Soldier Field.)
Section Three: Weeks 11-13
The Games: at Falcons, at Jets, home Packers.
The Analysis: The Falcons have designs on the first overall pick. The Jets added playmakers, but their coach and his defense were borderline non-professional in 2021. The Packers are still the Packers, but this season will test Aaron Rodgers as much as any before. (He simply doesn’t have the weapons outside.) This is the momentum section. The Bears could be coming home, to play their rival, on a two-game win streak. Even if the first ten games didn’t go well, this is the place in the schedule where the 2022 Bears can start building excitement for the 2023 Bears.
Section Four: Weeks 15-18
The Games: home Eagles, home Bills, at Lions, home Vikings.
The Analysis: The Bears will lose to Buffalo. Just accept it. The Bills are probably the best team in the league and their quarterback will relish playing at Soldier Field on Christmas Eve. He’s that kind of competitor.
These other three games are winnable, and that’s important for a team installing a new program. They’ll be looking to contend, of course, but they’ll be more focused on the progress shown from Week One to Week Eighteen. The 2022 Bears don’t belong on the same field as the 2022 Bills, but if this program is progressing well, they should be giving the other three opponents in this section one hell of a fight.
- The opener is going to set the tone for the entire season. If the Bears beat the Niners, it won’t be surprising to see them hover at or above .500 for most of the season. And that would be a very successful campaign for the new leadership.
- This still feels like a middle of the road season, with somewhere between seven and nine wins. There are just too many questions on the offensive side of the ball at this point. Now, by midseason, we may have answers to those questions and if those answers are positive, the schedule is clearly positioned for the Bears to have a successful late-season surge.
- Like always with this franchise, it’ll come down to the play of the quarterback.