I'll admit that I was terribly wrong about the 2014 Chicago Bears. I fell into the Marc Trestman trap from the year before when the Bears had one of the best offensive seasons in franchise history. Trestman even made journeyman quarterback Josh McCown look like a Pro Bowler in his time replacing an injured Jay Cutler (and McCown is still cashing in just from that seven-game stretch). But Trestman's play-calling really was very questionable last year as the team often abandoned the run completely. Jay Cutler was typical Jay Cutler, i.e. sometimes good but mostly reckless. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery both had disappointing seasons. Really only Forte and tight end Martellus Bennett had great years on offense, and no one did on defense. The Bears dropped to 5-11 and last in the NFC North when I picked them to beat out Green Bay for the division title. Oops! I don't expect much of anything this season under new head coach John Fox, although I do think Chicago will be better than a five-win team.
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The Bears were 2-6 at home last season, 3-5 against the spread and 2-6 "over/under." Their 2015 home schedule ranks as the 11th-toughest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2014 winning percentage of .531. That's tied for the easiest in the division with Detroit.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds.
Sept. 13 -- Packers (-5): This is probably the one team on the schedule that Chicago didn't want to open with because they simply never beat Aaron Rodgers. I'll be curious to see how different the Bears offense is under new coordinator Adam Gase, who came from Denver with Fox. Green Bay has won eight of the past nine in the series, and that lone loss was when Rodgers broke his collarbone in the first series of the game (Cutler was out that one and McCown starred). Last year in Week 4 the Packers won 38-17 in Soldier Field. That lousy Chicago defense allowed Green Bay to score on its first six possessions. Cutler was 22-for-34 for 256 yards, two touchdowns and two picks. Forte rushed for 122 yards. The Bears had nearly 500 yards of offense and held the ball for more than 36 minutes. Key trend: Bears have failed to cover past four as home dog in series.
Sept. 20 -- Cardinals (-1): Arizona is off a Week 1 home game against New Orleans. The Cardinals are of course coached by Bruce Arians. He was a finalist with Trestman for the Bears job those couple of years ago. Clearly Chicago got that wrong. First meeting since a Chicago 28-13 win in Arizona in December 2012. Key trend: Bears 4-6 ATS in past 10 as home dog of under 3 points.
Oct. 4 -- Raiders (+6): I could easily see the Bears 0-3 entering this one with those two tough home games above and then a Week 3 trip to Seattle, which they are definitely losing. Oakland is off a Week 3 trip to Cleveland so perhaps will just stay that next week in the Midwest. It's the first Raiders visit to the Windy City since 2003. Key trend: Bears 3-6-1 ATS in past 10 at home as a favorite of at least 5 points.
Nov. 1 -- Vikings (+2): Long break between home games for Chicago as it goes on the road for two following the Raiders matchup and then is on the bye in Week 7. Minnesota is in Detroit the previous Sunday. Expect a big day for Adrian Peterson here as he usually torches the Bears. Chicago beat the visiting Vikings 21-13 last season (no Peterson). Cutler had one of his best games of the year, throwing 330 yards and three touchdowns. Jeffery had 135 yards receiving and a touchdown catch. Ryan Mundy intercepted Teddy Bridgewater's 29-yard pass in the end zone in the closing minute. Key trend: Bears 4-4-2 ATS in past 10 after a bye (any location).
Nov. 22 -- Broncos (-2.5): Chicago comes off road games at San Diego and then St. Louis. Denver is home to Kansas City in Week 10. I would assume if any team would be well prepared for the Broncos it would be the Bears with all that Fox and Gase know about their former team/players. This is the first time Chicago has faced Denver since Peyton Manning joined the team. Key trend: Bears 3-6-1 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC.
Dec. 6 -- 49ers (-1): Chicago will have extra time to prepare as it is in Green Bay on Thursday in Week 12 (Thanksgiving). San Francisco is in Arizona the previous Sunday. Gase, incidentally, nearly became the 49ers head coach. San Francisco wanted him to promote Jim Tomsula as his defensive coordinator if hired and Gase didn't want to do that. Tomsula then got the head coaching gig. Chicago's best win last season was 28-20 in Week 2 at San Francisco. The Bears outscored the 49ers 21-0 in the fourth quarter on three Cutler TD passes. Marshall, now with the Jets, caught two of them. Key trend: Over/under 8-2 in Bears' past 10 at home vs. NFC West.
Dec. 13 -- Redskins (+4): Short week for Washington as it's home to Dallas on Monday night in Week 13. I remember well the last game between these teams, a 45-41 shootout at the Redskins, who won, in October 2013. That was one of the better games that season. Key trend: Bears 3-7 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC East.
Jan. 3 -- Lions (TBA): No Week 17 lines because of too many intangibles on the final Sunday of the regular season. Chicago is off a trip to Tampa in Week 16, while Detroit is home to San Francisco the previous Sunday. Bears used to own the Lions but were swept in 2014. Chicago lost 20-14 at home in Week 16, the final home game of Trestman's career as a head coach (and Marshall's career as a Bear). Trestman for some reason started Jimmy Clausen in the game even though Cutler was healthy. Clausen wasn't terrible, going 23 of 39 for 181 yards, two scores and a pick. Key trend: Bears 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 at home in series.
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