The Chicago Bears might have been worst-coached team in the NFL last season. Head coach Marc Trestman ran the offense and generally forgot that you were allowed to run the ball. Despite having some of the best skill position talent in the NFL, the Bears were just 23rd in scoring. Jay Cutler was, well, Jay Cutler. Sometimes good, sometimes bad and always surly. The defensive coordinator last year was Mel Tucker, who probably belongs on the high school coaching level. The Bears added several additions to that defense in 2014, and it didn't matter as Chicago ranked 30th in total defense and 31st in scoring.
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So after a last-place finish and yet another year watching the playoffs, ownership cleaned house. Will the Bears be better this season? I do think a little bit at a minimum because now they have a very well-respected coaching staff in top guy John Fox, offensive coordinator Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio; those latter two were both up for the 49ers' head coaching job and Gase nearly took it. If the Bears' offense rebounds this year under the former Broncos' OC, Gase will be one-and-done in Chicago. My concern with Fangio's defense is that he's switching to a 3-4, and the Bears simply don't have the personnel for that as they have been a 4-3 team forever. It will be an interesting team to watch. Chicago will win a few games it shouldn't but also lose a few it shouldn't.
The Bears were 3-5 on the road last season (which was better than their home record), 4-4 against the spread and 6-2 "over/under." Their 2015 road schedule ranks as the 12th-toughest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2014 winning percentage of .531. That's tied with Minnesota for the hardest in the NFC North.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds. There are three road games against 2014 playoff teams.
Sept. 27 -- at Seattle (-9): Chicago could well be 0-2 entering this game as the Bears open at home against Green Bay and then Arizona, two playoff teams from last year. The Seahawks might be a tad flat as they come off a huge Sunday night game in Green Bay. First Bears trip to Pacific Northwest since 2009. They lose this, flat Hawks or not. Key trend: Bears 6-4 ATS in past 10 as a road dog of at least 9 points.
Oct. 11 -- at Chiefs (-4): Chicago is off a Week 4 home game vs. Oakland, while Kansas City is in Cincinnati the previous Sunday. Could argue the best two running backs in the NFL are in this one when you factor in receiving. Of course, I'm talking about Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles. It's Chicago's first trip to K.C. in 12 years. Bears lose this. Key trend: Bears 6-3-1 ATS in past 10 at AFC West teams.
Oct. 18 -- at Lions (-5): Detroit is off a Week 5 home game vs. Arizona. The Bears started their season-ending five-game losing streak last season with a 34-17 Thanksgiving loss in Detroit. Cutler looked great in the first quarter, throwing two TD passes to Alshon Jeffery for a 14-3 lead, but then he reverted to usual Cutler form. He finished 31-for-48 for 280 yards, two TDs and two picks. Remember I said Trestman never ran the ball? Bears had all of eight rushing attempts in the game. Bears lose this. Key trend: Bears 4-6 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Nov. 9 -- at Chargers (-4): Monday night game. Chicago is off a Week 8 home game vs. Minnesota, while San Diego is in Baltimore the previous Sunday and ahead of its bye week. Bears have won five of the past six meetings, last in 2011. They don't here. Key trend: Bears 6-4 ATS in past 10 November road games as at least a 4-point dog.
Nov. 15 -- at Rams (-4.5): Cubs-Cardinals is one of the great MLB rivalries, but a Chicago-St. Louis football rivalry never got going. Of course, they don't play every year. And this could be the Bears' final trip to their southern neighbors. Obviously a short week for Bears, while St. Louis is in Minnesota in Week 9. First meeting since a Rams 42-21 home win in November 2013. Bears lose this. Key trend: Bears 5-5 ATS in past 10 at NFC West teams.
Nov. 26 -- at Packers (-7.5): Thanksgiving night game. Incredibly hard short turnaround for Chicago considering it has to host Denver in Week 11. Green Bay is in Minnesota the previous Sunday. The Packers completed the easy season sweep of Chicago last season with a 55-14 home win in Week 10. It was 42-0 at halftime. -- Green Bay could have scored 70 if it wanted to. That was the most points Chicago had ever allowed in a half. Tucker should have been fired the next day. Cutler had two first-half picks. Brandon Marshall (now with Jets) caught eight balls for 112 yards and a TD, pretty much all in garbage time. Bears lose this on the night Packers honor Brett Favre. Key trend: Bears 6-4 ATS in past 10 as road dog of at least 7 points in series.
Dec. 20 -- at Vikings (-2.5): Chicago off a home game vs. Washington, while Minnesota has extra time to prepare as it's in Arizona on a Thursday in Week 14. Last Bears-Vikings outdoor game in Minnesota, which is a shame. The Trestman era ended in Week 17 last year with a 13-9 loss in Minneapolis. Cutler returned from a one-game benching with 172 yards on 23-for-36 passing. Forte's eight receptions gave him an NFL-running-back-record 102 catches for the season. Bears lose this. Key trend: Bears 1-9 SU (4-6 ATS) in past 10 as road dog in series.
Dec. 27 -- at Buccaneers (+1.5): After this, Bears finish at home vs. Detroit. Tampa has extra time to heal up as it's in St. Louis on Thursday in Week 15. There will probably be more Bears fans in the stands this time of year in Florida. Chicago beat visiting Tampa 21-13 in Week 12 last season in Bucs coach Lovie Smith's return to the Windy City. That would be the Bears' final win of the season. Forte rushed for two scores, and the Chicago defense forced four turnovers. Bears win this to avoid 0-8 on road. Key trend: Bears 8-2 SU (6-4 ATS) in past 10 as road favorite.
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