Schedule doesn’t do Bears any favors
BY MARK POTASH email@example.com April 20, 2013 12:36AM
The Bears will face Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Drew Brees (above), Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning and Joe Flacco in five of their first 10 games of the season. | AP
BEARS’ 2013 SCHEDULE
Sept. 8 Cincinnati Noon
Sept. 15 Minnesota Noon
Sept. 22 at Pittsburgh 7:30
Sept. 29 at Detroit Noon
Oct. 6 New Orleans Noon
Oct. 10 N.Y. Giants 7:25
Oct. 20 at Washington Noon
Nov. 4 at Green Bay 7:40
Nov. 10 Detroit Noon
Nov. 17 Baltimore Noon
Nov. 24 at St. Louis Noon
Dec. 1 at Minnesota Noon
Dec. 9 Dallas 7:40
Dec. 15 at Cleveland Noon
Dec. 22 at Philadelphia Noon
Dec. 29 Green Bay Noon
Updated: May 22, 2013 6:57AM
A mong their first 10 games of the 2013 season, the Bears will play the five teams that have combined to win the last six Super Bowls. Welcome back to the NFL, Marc Trestman.
The Bears will open the regular season with two home games, and they have a well-placed bye in Week 8. Besides that, the NFL didn’t appear to do Trestman any favors in his first season as an NFL head coach.
The schedule can be a difference-maker in the NFL. It’s an overlooked factor in the success and failure of many teams. It’s no coincidence Lovie Smith’s playoff teams with the Bears played weak schedules, while his disappointing teams that failed to make the playoffs played difficult schedules.
In 2005, the Bears finished 11-5 and made the playoffs against a schedule that ranked 28th in the NFL (combined opponents’ record of 112-128, excluding games against the Bears). In 2006, when the Bears went 13-3 and reached the Super Bowl, they played the easiest schedule in the NFL (107-133). In 2010, when they finished 11-5 and reached the NFC Championship Game, their adjusted strength of schedule was tied for 20th in the NFL (116-124).
And the last two playoff-less seasons that got Lovie fired? The Bears were 8-8 in 2011 against the fifth-toughest schedule in the NFL (127-113). They were 10-6 last season against the seventh-toughest schedule in the NFL (124-114-2).
In retrospect, last season was the result of the schedule as much as anything. The Bears went 7-1 in the first half, when they had the good fortune to face the Colts in Andrew Luck’s first NFL game in a new offense under a new head coach, the Rams in their third game under a new coach, the woeful Jaguars, the struggling Panthers and Titans and the Cardinals when they were losing 11 of their last 12 games instead of when they were winning their first four. In five games against teams that had their act together, the Bears were 0-5.
Things can change between now and Sept. 8, but at first blush, it doesn’t appear Trestman and his staff will have the wind at their backs. The Bears will face 12 teams that made the playoffs in at least one of the last two seasons, including in each of their first 10 games. That’s more than any team in the NFL.
The Lions are likely to be closer to the 10-6 team they were in 2011 than the 4-12 team they were in 2012 and the Saints closer to the 13-3 team of 2011 than the 7-9 team of 2012. Even if the Steelers are on the downside, they still have a quarterback with a Super Bowl ring. So do the Packers. And the Saints. And the Giants. And the Ravens. Such teams rarely go 4-12.
Even as mercurial as NFL teams tend to be, it’s unlikely the Bears will face too many bottom-feeding teams, especially early. The Bengals won seven of their last eight regular-season games last season. The Vikings won their last four. The Ravens finished kind of strong. The Redskins won their last seven, though they’re a candidate to take a big step back if Robert Griffin III doesn’t make it all the way back.
The good news is that things change. In 2012, the Broncos were facing the second-toughest schedule in the NFL based on 2011 records (139-117). As it turned out, they faced the fourth-easiest schedule (117-139).
Peyton Manning makes a difference. But the schedule-maker was right there with him.