As we enter the final month of the monotony that is the NFL off season, I bring you my schedule preview for the last month of play. The last four games feature the second edition of divisional games and a confidence booster game sandwiched in between. This stretch of the schedule should prove crucial in the divisional race and to set the tone against two teams that will likely be in the playoff hunt.
Opponent: @ Minnesota Vikings
Details: By this point in the season the Vikes should have a healthy (Or is that unhealthy?) number of losses and will be looking to play spoiler for the other three teams in the division. If Christian Ponder can settle into a groove and Adrian Peterson returns to form, then they just might be able to do it against an emotionally charged team like the Lions, but the Bears are too experienced to take a week off at the end of the season. This one may end up being relatively close, but there is little chance that the defense will let extra breathing room slip through their fingers by giving up yards to a young offense.
Key To Success: Veteran leadership
Opponent: vs Green Bay Packers
Details: Playing the Pack at home helps, but it doesn’t change Aaron Rodgers’ ability to destroy a secondary. Rodgers has thrown for 1489 yards against the Bears in the last three years, if the defense has one weakness it’s against pass happy teams with elite quarterbacks (go figure). The X-factor in this game will come from mother nature, a mid December tilt could turn out to be a blessing if the weather forces both teams to pound it on the ground. If that happens, then the Bears have a decent shot against the inexperienced defensive line of Green Bay, but counting on the weather at any point is absurd, much less five months out. If conditions hold, then the Packers win again to sweep the season series.
Key To Success: Weather, defensive line
Opponent: @ Arizona Cardinals
Details: The Cardinals should come in with one of the least improved teams in the league next season after making few meaningful changes in free agency and drafting at an already strong position by taking receiver Michael Floyd in the first round. The problem is that they still have no one decent to throw the ball to Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald, as the three passers that were used by the Cards last year combined for a paltry passer rating of 73.9. A defense ranked in the bottom half of the league will pose no threat for a healthy Bear offense, and this one could turn into a laugher quickly. It will be interesting to see who can win the battle of the returners as Devin Hester will square off against electrifying second year man Patrick Peterson, who has the potential to keep his team close in games by securing good field position.
Key To Success: Special teams
Opponent: @ Detroit Lions
Details: There might be no better way to end the season than to see the Bears battle a talented divisional foe in a game that could very well have playoff seeding implications. The Bears step onto the turf at Ford Field to avenge the 24-13 embarrassment in Detroit last season. Unlike the Packers game, this one won’t be influenced by the elements, which should be just fine for Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall. On the flip side Matthew Stafford will have ample opportunity to gain yards through the air via Calvin Johnson or Brandon Pettigrew. The Bears must come out with an edge early and set the tone, and hopefully by the fourth quarter they can push the margin to a place where they feel comfortable taking out the key offensive players. The Lions could be out for blood at the end of the game like they were in Week 10 last year, however if the Bears can avoid any key injuries I don’t see any reason why they can’t beat the Lions like they did last year with timely defense and a consistent passing attack.
Key To Success: Early playmaking on defense
So if the games fall according to plan, the Bears can finish at 12-4 this year, a record that might win them the divisional crown and should guarantee the five seed in the playoffs. With a decent bill of health, the sky’s the limit for the ‘12-’13 Bears, and the Super Bowl is clearly not out of the question. Now all we can do as fans is watch, hope, and predict how things might turn out. This season just might be the one that sees Chicago football reign victorious once again.