In the second quarter of the year, the Bears will face two NFC East opponents, an NFC South foe and one hated division rival.
Let's break it down and see how the Bears could be looking going into weeks 10-13:
Week 5: vs. New Orleans Saints
Key Draftees - Kenny Vaccro (Texas) - SS, Kenny Stills (OU) - WR
The Good - The Saints' defense was historically bad last year and despite some upgrades in the draft it should still be a work in progress. The Saints also have a new defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan and could still be suffering through some growing pains as they adapt. Other than drafting Vaccro, the Saints have not done much to shore up their awful pass defense and this should have Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer drooling while game-planning that week.
The Bad - Namely, Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham. The former needs little explaination; he's one of the best in the business and the last time these two teams met he torched the Bears for three touchdowns and 270 years. The latter because the Bears have a tendency to get burned by them. Graham had only 79 years in the 2011 meeting, however he had six receptions. Brees will be the main issue though, because he will find the open man no matter what.
The Ugly -The one thing Rob Ryan likes to do is get after the quarterback. Despite their offensive woes last year and their paltry 30 sacks (which tied for 14th in the league), they still have a formidable rush led by Cameron Jordan (8 sacks last year) and Will Smith. The Bears will have to have their overhauled offensive line on full display and get the short passing game Trestman will rely heavily on going if they want to stave off another Jay Cutler beat down.
Prediction - Saints 31-21. Sorry but I just don't think the Bears and Trestman in year one will be able to keep up with Brees and Co., especially with Sean Payton back on the sidelines. The Saints' big play ability worries me a bit, because despite the fact the Bears don't give up too many big plays, the Saints' offense creates a lot of them. The Saints were third in the league with 13 pass plays of over 40 yards and second in the league with 66 plays of over 20 yards. It's too early to say that the Bears can keep up with a high-flying offense like New Orleans. Especially because I think the 2013 Saints will be on a full-scale "Avenge Sean Payton Tour."
Week 6: vs. New York Giants
The Good - The Giants are the definition of inconsistent. They could whip on the Eagles in week 17 and the Saints in week 14. However, they also became the first defending Super Bowl champ to lose at home in their opener and get blanked by the Falcons. The Giants' defense was their biggest weakness, allowing their opponents to covert 42% of third downs, second worst in the league. They also gave up the second most yards in the league, 383.4, just behind the Saints (440.1).
The Bad -The Giants are also the face of mediocre. Their defense was rather poor last year but offensively they are very much in the middle of the pack ranking 14th in rushing offense, 12th in passing and 14th overall. They have a good quarterback and a second year tailback with high expectations in David Wilson. However, their strong suit is their receiving corps, consisting of Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Reuben Randle and the new signings Brandon Myers and Louis Murphy. These guys are going to have Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman on high alert and provide some match up nightmares. They will test the cornerback depth chart of the Bears.
The Ugly - Their defensive line should still strike fear into the hearts of Bears fans everywhere. Yes the defense was very much down last year but head coach Tom Coughlin is a steady force who gets the most out of his teams. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell hangs his hat on takeaways (sound familiar?) and last season despite the defense's shortcomings, the defense was third in the league in takeaways with 35 and had 14 interceptions. That could spell trouble for Cutler and Co.
Prediction - 17-10 Bears. This is going to be a slug fest, a good old-fashioned knockdown, drag-out football game between two of the sport's heavyweights. The offense should be able to find holes in the Giants defense and as long as the Bears can hold off the Giants' pass rush they should be OK. A fun stat for you: Eli Manning is 2-1 all-time against the Bears but has completed only 54% of his passes, thrown only one touchdown to four interceptions and has a 56 rating.
Week 7 at Washington Redskins
The Good -The Redskins pass defense was third worst in the league last year, surrendering 281.9 yards per game and 31 passing touchdowns to only 21 interceptions. Trestman should see some holes in the Redskins secondary that he can exploit. Bears fans will cringe when they think about Cutler sharing a field with DeAngelo Hall again, but there isn't much to be worried about, the Redskins secondary wasn't very good last year.
The Bad -The Redskins' rush defense is much more formidable, giving up only 95.8 yards a game last year, three spots better than the Bears. They allowed only six teams to rush for over 100 yards and only three individual 100 yard performances. They even held all-world back Adrian Peterson to a season-low 79 yards. Needless to say, running space for Matt Forte and Michael Bush is going to be hard to come by.
The Ugly - Robert Griffin III. Easily one of the most dynamic players in the league in only his second year, RGIII has transformed the game with his ability to run the read-option and his world class speed. He can sling the ball with the best of them or tuck and run it 80 yards. Despite his recovering from torn ligaments in his knee, it is expected that he could be ready to go week one and there is little doubt he could be back to his old self by this time in the season.
Prediction - 24-21 Redskins. Provided RGIII is already back and does not suffer a sophomore slump, this game should be a good one. Griffin should pose problems for the Bears much like Russell Wilson did last year. Paired with second year running back Alfred Morris, this rushing attack is going to pose problems for the Bears despite their tough rush defense and new up-tempo conditioning.
Week 8 BYE
Week 9 at Green Bay Packers
The Good - Uh...not much. The Packers have been pretty good at handing our butts to us on silver platters. They're one of the best teams in the league and the main reason that Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo have been let go in successive off seasons: the former got beat too much and the latter left too big a talent gap for the Bears to overcome quickly. However, it's not all bad, the Packers' defense hasn't been great and they have spent much of the last two offseasons trying to shore it up. Also their biggest weakness has been their rushing attack, or lack thereof. Last season it ranked 20th in the league and the Packers currently have the longest running streak of games without a 100-yard rusher in the NFL. Hence why they spent two picks on RBs.
The Bad - The Bears have given up plenty of sacks to the Packers, last season alone they surrendered eleven in two games against the green and gold. Clay Matthews had 5.5 of those. The Bears' new offensive line should help alleviate some of that pressure or at least the Bears better hope so. Whatever they have tried against Matthews and the rest of their squad the last couple years has not worked. If Trestman wants his tenure in Chicago to last longer than a couple years he has to figure out how to slow down the Packers rush.
The Ugly - Jay Cutler. Cutler is 1-7 against the Packers and has thrown nine touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Last year he threw two touchdowns, five interceptions and had a 39 rating in his two games against the Packers. Trestman needs to coach up Cutler and try and get him over whatever it is that is holding him back against the division rival to the north.
Prediction - 31-17 Packers. A game that could get very, very ugly and it wouldn't surprise any Bears fans. The woes against the Packers are nothing new and especially at Lambeau Field. The Bears have not won there since 2007.
I do not share the same level of enthusiasm for the Bears in Q2 of the 2013 season as my esteemed colleague does for the first portion. Unfortunately the Bears' schedule gets tougher and thus with a first year coach I think the wins will be harder to come by.
Where do you see the Bears sitting after eight games?