The Bears 2013 schedule closes with another Monday Night game against the Cowboys, two road games, and of course, a week seventeen showdown with the Packers. We've predicted the Bears will be 8-4 heading into the final quarter of the season, and should have a solid chance of locking down a playoff spot. For each game, we'll look at the good, bad, and ugly information for the Bears' matchup, and make a prediction about the game.
Check out the previous three schedule breakdowns for a refresher:
Week 14: Cowboys on Monday Night Football
The Good: The Bears faced off against the Cowboys last year on Monday Night Football, crushing the 'Boys in week four 34-18. That game featured two interception returns for touchdowns and a Devin Hester receiving touchdown (enjoy the gif here, since you may not see that ever again). Tony Romo was terrible in that game, and has thrown eight interceptions in three games against Chicago. Oh, and Doug Free is still the Cowboys right tackle, which is nice.
The Bad: Romo's interceptions against Chicago have been killer, but the guy has thrown for at least three hundred yards in each of those three games. Plus, the team is switching from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, led by tampa 2 mastermind Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli. The scheme switch could have been a good thing for the Bears, but by week fourteen I'm sure the Cowboys will have things ironed out defensively. The addition of Justin Durant (from the Lions) should help with the transition, and Kiffin/Marinelli are a better upgrade than any free agent Dallas could have acquired.
The Ugly: Well, when I think ugly, I think Romo's new contract, but that only applies if Romo is feeling pressure to perform at a higher level due to his newfound riches. The real ugly for the Bears could be DeMarcus Ware, who had a sack and forced fumble against the Bears last year. He'll be dealing with a switch from 3-4 linebacker to 4-3 defensive end, but I imagine Marinelli will be creative with Ware and he'll continue to wreck havoc upon quarterbacks.
Prediction: Bears 27-20. I think the Cowboys defense will be fine with the transition to a 4-3 by week fourteen, but they still are lacking some playmakers in the defensive secondary. Romo has another big yardage game to keep things close, but the comeback falls short and the Bears move on to 9-4.
Week 15: at Browns
The Good: Like the Cowboys, the Browns are transitioning to a new defensive scheme this year, but are instead heading to a 3-4 defense. They do have some good young players on both sides of the ball, but the Browns haven't won more than five games in a season since 2007 (or, back when Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn were still considered halfway decent quarterbacks).
Plus, the Browns current quarterback depth chart boasts second-year player Brandon Weeden (14 TD, 17 INT, 72.6 QB rating) and ex-Bears' Todd Collins impersonator, Jason Campbell. The fact that some think Campbell could start at some point during the season boasts very well for the Bears' defense. The Browns had the third-worst third down percentage in the league in 2012, and only averaged 18.9 points per game.
The Bad: Trent Richardson and the young guns. And no, I'm not talking Emilio Estevez teaming up with Lou Diamond Phillips. Richardson struggled with injuries during his rookie season, and only averaged 3.6 yards per carry, but expect him to have a bounce back year, and young wideouts Josh Gordon (50 catches, 805 yards, 5 TDs) and Greg Little provide some potentially dangerous big play opportunities for Cleveland. Also, by week fifteen, Mingo could be a monster pass-rush specialist.
The Ugly: The Browns have Kellen Davis. So if there is any justice in the football world, he'll drop a potential first-down/touchdown during this game. Also ugly is the Bears' regular season record in Cleveland. Chicago has lost their last four games in Cleveland dating back to 1980, and haven't won in Cleveland since 1972 (or, when Weeden graduated high school).
Prediction: Bears roll 24-13. I think the Browns defense will be improved this year, but right now the Browns' #2 cornerback is Buster Skrine who was regularly torched last year for big plays (when he wasn't committing nine penalties). I think Skrine or the rookie McFadden (both 5'9") have no chance against a healthy Alshon Jeffery, who collects a touchdown as the Bears move on to 10-4.
Week 16: at Eagles
The Good: The Bears won four of five meetings with the Eagles from 2007-2011 before "needing a break" from their relationship. Now Bears-Eagles is back on, and good news for the Bears: the Eagles still have Michael Vick. Vick is 1-5 against Chicago in his career, with a quarterback rating of 72.5, only three passing touchdowns, and no rushing touchdowns. Mel Tucker may be running the Bears' defense, but I imagine some of Chicago's veterans will fill him in on how to slow down Vick.
The Bad: Not only do the Eagles have Brent Celek, but they added Ertz in round two, giving them two solid tight ends to torment the Bears' defense. Speedster DeSean Jackson is still there, and I doubt Chip Kelly maintains the obscene pass-run ratio of Andy Reid, meaning more LeSean McCoy. Couple that with Kelly's innovative, lightning quick offensive pace, and Vick could finally have a good game against the Bears.
The Ugly: A big part of the Eagles' downfall last year was the offensive line, with injuries to Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, and Danny Watkins affecting four out of five positions on the line. With the addition of Johnson, this line could be impressive if they can stay healthy and get with Chip's program.
Prediction: Bears 31-27. I think the Eagles give the Bears' fits in this game, and really, the main reason I think Chicago pulls out a close win is because of their success against Vick over his career. I wouldn't be surprised if Chicago loses this game, especially on the road, but I'm giving them the win here to move to 11-4.
Week 17: Packers
The Good: The Packers still have no running game, at least until rookies Franklin or Lacy prove they can take some of the pressure off of Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay was 20th in rushing yards last year and 22nd in yards per carry (3.9). In fact, their top three running backs (Cedric Benson, Alex Green, James Starks) averaged less than 3.7 ypc each, and totaled less than a thousand between them. Their running game was so bad, Rodgers was second on the team with 259 rushing yards, and tied for the team lead with two rushing touchdowns.
In addition, the Packers recent offensive line shuffling mirrors the Bears recent attempts at fixing weak spots in the line by playing a shell game. Except, you know, their line actually has decent talent.
The Bad: Chicago has lost eleven of their last thirteen games against the Packers, including six straight. That's awful. Even worse: Rodgers owns the Bears. In ten games, he has an 8-2 record, a 69% completion percentage, and has nineteen touchdowns versus only six interceptions. The Bears have allowed 23 sacks over the past six meetings with Green Bay, and haven't scored more than twenty-one points against Green Bay since 2007.
The Ugly: Um, did you see the bad section? Isn't that ugly enough? How about the fact that second-year players Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, and Casey Hayward are still there and improving? No? How about Clay Matthews averaging a sack a game against the Bears in his career (eight games, 7.5 sacks)? Still not buying it? Ok, lastly, I give you Jay Cutler's career numbers against Green Bay: 1-7 record, 55% completion percentage, nine touchdowns, sixteen interceptions, 61.5 quarterback rating.
Prediction: Yeah, Bears lose 26-17. I know I seem down on the Bears' chances in this game, but really, if you look at the recent history of this "rivalry," what other conclusion can you have? Other than, you know, "the Bears are due!"
Anyway, that puts Chicago's final record at 11-5 after going 3-1 in the final quarter of the season. That would be a one game improvement over last season's record, and would just about guarantee a playoff appearance for Chicago. How do you think the Bears will do in the last quarter of the season? What will be Chicago's final record, and will they make the playoffs?