I wonder how painful it was for Chicago Bears head coach John Fox to watch last year's Super bowl considering his previous two jobs were with the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. And in Fox's second season in those stops, the clubs took a big step forward. In 2002, the Panthers were 7-9 in Fox's first season and then improved to 11-5 the next year and won the NFC title. In 2011 with Tim Tebow as his QB, Fox's Broncos were 8-8 in his first season. They jumped to 13-3 the next year and the AFC's top seed with Peyton Manning under center but were upset in the playoffs by Baltimore.
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The Bears might improve off last year's 6-10 record and last-place finish in the NFC North, but I don't see anything dramatic. There was just very little talent on this roster when Fox and GM Ryan Pace took over before last season. Fox has rebuilt the defense completely, and that unit might be pretty decent this year with the offseason additions of linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman. The club also took pass-rushing outside linebacker Leonard Floyd from Georgia with its first-round pick. He's way too small/light to play every down right now, but he might be good for 6-7 sacks as a rookie. The Bears probably had the worst group of LBs in the NFL in 2015, and now it may be a strength if Pernell McPhee is healthy. The secondary looks like a major weakness, however.
QB Jay Cutler had his best season in a Bears uniform in 2015 under offensive coordinator Adam Gase, but Gase is now Miami's head coach, and I think that's a big loss. The Bears also let one of the best running backs in franchise history (that's saying something), Matt Forte, leave in free agency. They also downgraded at tight end in trading talented but mercurial Martellus Bennett to New England for a song. I don't see Jeremy Langford and Zach Miller, respectively, replacing those guys' production. At least Chicago adds its 2015 first-round pick in receiver Kevin White after he missed all of last season. He and Alshon Jeffrey could be a pretty good duo if Cutler has time to throw behind a questionable offensive line.
The Bears were 1-7 at home last season, which is almost unthinkable, 2-6 against the spread and 4-4 "over/under." Chicago hosts three 2015 playoff teams this year. I project a 4-4 record. BetOnline list the Bears' season win total at 7.5, with the under a -145 favorite. And I'd go under as this looks like a 7-9 team. Overall, Chicago's record is tied for the second-easiest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2015 winning percentage of .461. Only Green Bay's schedule is easier. Odds listed below for the home team.
Sept. 19 vs. Eagles (-2.5): Monday night game. Chicago is likely to be 0-1 after visiting Houston in Week 1. Philly should be 1-0 after hosting Cleveland in Week 1. One of the lowlights of the Marc Trestman coaching era in Chicago -- and there were more than a few -- was a 54-11 loss in December 2013 in Philadelphia in the most recent meeting. Key trend: Bears 5-4 ATS at home in series.
Oct. 2 vs. Lions (-1.5): Bears off a Sunday night game in Dallas in Week 3. Detroit is in Green Bay the previous Sunday. Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson absolutely murdered the Bears in his career, so the Chicago players still around from those won't be sad he's retired. The Bears lost 24-20 in Week 17 at home to Detroit last year to finish last in the division. Megatron said goodbye to the Bears with 10 catches for 137 yards and a TD. Cutler was 17-for-23 for 245 yards and two scores but had three picks. Forte had 110 yards of offense and a TD catch in his final game with Chicago. Key trend: Bears 4-5-1 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
Oct. 16 vs. Jaguars (-3.5): Chicago is in Indianapolis the previous Sunday. Jacksonville actually also comes off a game vs. the Colts, but that's in Week 4 in London and then the Jags are on their bye. Chicago won the last meeting 41-3 in Jacksonville in October 2012. Key trend: Bears 2-4 ATS vs. AFC South at home.
Oct. 31 vs. Vikings (+2.5): Monday night game. Bears will be practically coming off their bye week here as they are in Green Bay on Thursday in Week 7. And this is ahead of Chicago's bye. Minnesota is in Philly the previous Sunday. The Bears lost 23-20 at home to the Vikings in Week 8 last season. Chicago had won seven straight at home in the series and led 20-13 with two minutes left. Cutler threw for 211 yards and a score and Jeffrey caught 10 for 116 and a TD. Key trend: Bears 7-3 ATS in past 10 as home dog in series.
Nov. 27 vs. Titans (-5): Chicago is off a trip to the Giants in Week 11. Tennessee is off a trip to Indy the previous Sunday. There was some talk the Bears were trying to trade Cutler to Tennessee before the 2015 draft; of course Cutler went to Vanderbilt. Chicago won the last meeting 51-20 in Nashville in 2012. Key trend: Bears 3-6-1 ATS in past 10 as home favorite vs. anyone of at least 5 points.
Dec. 4 vs. 49ers (-5): San Francisco is in Miami the previous Sunday, so back-to-back 10 a.m. Pacific time starts for the Niners. They won at Soldier Field in Week 13 last year, 26-20 in overtime. The Bears led that one 20-13 with two minutes left. They allowed a 71-yard TD pass in overtime after the Bears' Robbie Gould missed a field goal at the end of regulation. Key trend: Bears 2-8 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC West.
Dec. 18 vs. Packers (+5): Bears are in Detroit the previous Sunday. This starts three straight games vs. 2015 playoff teams. Green Bay is off a big home game vs. Seattle in Week 14. Chicago lost Week 1 at home to the Pack last year, 31-23, despite outgaining Green Bay by 80 yards. Cutler threw a 24-yard touchdown to Bennett with 34 seconds left, but Green Bay recovered the onside kick. Key trend: Bears 2-8 ATS in past 10 as home dog in series.
Dec. 24 vs. Redskins (pick'em): Chicago goes to Minnesota after this one. Washington is on a short week, hosting Carolina in Week 15 on Monday night. The Bears lost at home to the Skins in Week 14 last year, 24-21. Gould missed a late 50-yard field goal to tie it. Cutler threw for 315 yards and two scores. Jeffery went 6/107/1. Key trend: Bears 3-7 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC East.
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