Luckily for the Bears, sandwiched between games 5 thru 8 is their bye week in week 6. And the next quartet of opponents appears to be a less daunting bunch… on paper.
But the Jaguars, Lions, Panthers and Titans will all be looking to show the Bears why the game isn’t played on paper.
The first week of the second quarter lands the Bears a very favorable matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Even though the game will be played in Jacksonville, the Jaguars don’t exactly have a dominating home field advantage, or anything close to a dominating team.
The best case scenario here would obviously be to win; the truly good teams beat the teams they are supposed to. The Jaguars are one of those teams. They have untested talent at almost every position on the field outside of running back (Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings) and middle linebacker (Paul Posluszny).
After dealing with MJD’s holdout all offseason, I shouldn’t see the Jaguars as any semblance of a threat to the Bears. As long as the d-line stops MJD on a consistent enough basis, it should be easy enough to key in on rookie Justin Blackmon and shut down Blaine Gabbert’s main receiving threat. And as long as the offense doesn’t phone it in and get sloppy with the ball, I don’t see the Bears having any trouble putting up 28+ points.
But notice I said “shouldn’t” see the Jags as a threat. In an absolute worst-case scenario, however, I can envision the nightmare of a loss to Jacksonville.
MJD running wild on the Bears defense, so much so that the Jags instantly give him the contract extension he held out for… Justin Blackmon having his coming out party and catching multiple TD passes… Cutler completing more passes to the Jags defense than Bears wide receivers…
It seems that the Bears have at least one complete clunker like that every season, and I have a sneaking suspicion it can be the Jaguars who deliver that haymaker. I REALLY hope I’m wrong.
If the Bears do manage to find a way to lose to the Jaguars, I can see them dropping the next one to the Lions, even though it’s a home game after a bye week. The Lions are much like the Cowboys in the sense that their talent is not their limiting factor. Their roster is loaded with playmakers.
Calvin Johnson hasn’t exactly had a track record of lighting up the Bear’s defense (5 catches and 77 yards per game and only 4 receiving TD in 9 career games), but Megatron can strike anyone at anytime. Not to mention Matt Stafford is coming off a 5000+ yard passing season and on the cusp of elite status.
If the Lions can piece together a rushing attack with Jahvid Best coming off of the PUP list before this game, and their defense makes the Bear’s offensive line resemble a row of revolving doors like they very well could, the Bears can be in for a long day at the office.
But let’s get back to happy thoughts.
This game would be a bit of a toss up even if the Bears win against the Jags. But I have to give the edge to the Bears. Home field advantage and an injury-plagued Lion’s running game will limit the threats to Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford, and the Lion’s pass rush. The Bears are 11-3 vs. the Lions since 2005 and I think the Bears continue this positive trend with a win.
Regardless of the outcome against the Lions, I have a strong feeling the Bears will take the final two games of quarter 2 against the Panthers and the Titans.
With the Panthers, it all boils down to Superman a.k.a. Cam Newton. Their defense is pretty stout, anchored by stud middle linebacker Jon Beason, but there are too many question marks on offense to justify me picking against the Bears.
Cam Newton has to prove to the world that he wasn’t just a one hit wonder, and it will be exponentially harder than last year because there’s a season’s worth of film for teams to dissect. The same goes for receiver Steve Smith, whose career was left for dead untilNewtonresurrected it. Can he have a repeat performance? Can their running back tandem of Stewart and Williams find their former talent or will they continue to regress?
One-upping Cam Newton’s rookie performance may be impossible, even for Cam Newton himself. I see him struggling a bit through the first half of the season and the offense will go as he goes. The Bears will take this one at home.
That leaves the week 9 showdown versus the Titans inTennessee. Chris Johnson is the focal point of their offense, plain and simple. With Jake Locker at the helm, the passing game doesn’t figure to be too explosive while he continues to feel out the NFL. Their main receiving threat Kenny Britt has been dealing with a serious knee injury since week 4 last season, and the names Nate Washington and Kendall Wright don’t scare too many people.
I can actually see this being one of those games where the Bear’s offense steamrolls the opposition in a 35+ point effort. Just like they’re liable to put up a clunker at any time, this newly explosive offense has the potential to erupt at the drop of a hat. With Cortland Finnegan, their best corner back, shipped off to St. Louis, I can see Jay Cutler having a field day. Not to mention the Titan’s defense was the 24th worst rush defense in the NFL last year. I can almost hear Matt Forte licking his lips.
For the optimists out there, it’s feasible that the Bear’s can be in poll position of the NFC North by the end of week 9 with a 7-1 record. It’s also not a ridiculous assumption to say the Bears could be staring down the barrel of a 4-4 record should the season take a turn for the worst.
Can they be in between these polar opposites? Sure. I’m even willing to say a 6-2 start might be more realistic to allow for a slip up somewhere. But I’m still leaning towards the best case scenario for the Bears, who’re finally getting the national praise they deserve.
The 3rd quarter will match up another mixed bag of opponents against the Bears: 2 playoff teams in the 49ers and Texans, and 2 not-so-playoff teams in the Vikings and Seahawks.Follow paulmbanks