2017 Chicago Bears Positional Review: Running Backs

By Bryan Dietzler

The second positional preview in my series on the Bears players will cover the running backs.  The Bears’ running back position, in 2016, was a position of strength.  Jordan Howard led the way with a record-setting campaign and helped the Bears win the three games they won.  He was a pleasant surprise, and hopes are high that there is no sophomore slump with him this year.

Chicago has a bevy of running backs behind Howard and the depth there is strong.  In fact, it might be the deepest position on the team.  Some of the guys behind him have a lot of talent and can make Chicago’s offense competitive.

So now, let’s look at the players at running back the Chicago Bears currently have listed on the roster heading into training camp and see what the future holds for them.

Jordan Howard

Howard had a spectacular outing in his first season in the NFL.  The Bears stole him in the 2016 NFL draft as he lasted until the fifth round.  He started out slow, due to the talent ahead of him, but thanks to an injury to Jeremy Langford, he got his chance and he shined.  He set the Bears’ rookie record for rushing yards and was a direct contributor to all three of the Bears’ wins in 2016.

Sometimes, what happens to rookies who have great first seasons they have a decline in performance the next season.  Opponents figure out how to stop them, or they suffer from lapses.  Could this happen to Howard? We hope it doesn’t.

It’s easy to say that Howard will be the starter in 2017, hands down.  Unless he gets hurt or is a complete washout in training camp (not going to happen), there is no way he won’t be the starter.  I think he will have another outstanding season playing behind a line that will be much improved.

Outlook: Howard will be the starter heading into the season if he doesn’t get hurt. The Bears will probably keep his carries down in training camp to keep him fresh for the season which is a smart move.  Should he hit that “wall” we talked about, there is depth behind him that can help pick up the slack.  But, I don’t think that Howard will hit that wall in 2017.

Jeremy Langford

Langford began as the starter in 2016 but, following an injury, Howard took over, and the Bears never looked back.  He has a lot of talent and a promising future but will it be with the Bears?  If Howard were to stumble, Langford could pick up the slack and help keep the running game going but can he stay healthy?  And will they be a drop-off in talent and production if he were to be inserted in the lineup?

I believe that Langford is a solid player that the Bears can count on if Howard were to get injured.  If he can stay healthy, then Chicago will have some nice depth and someone that can pick up the slack if needed.

Outlook: Langford will be the Bears’ second running back and will probably work in a rotation with Howard spelling him as needed.  I would think that Chicago would want to use Langford more often because he is skilled and can add a different dimension to their offense.  Look for him to get quite a few more carries in 2017 to help relieve Howard and keep opponents off balance.

Ka’Deem Carey

Personally, I like Carey a lot and think that he could be an effective “between the tackles” running back.  The problem with him is he gets hurt too often and misses significant time.  He can be an asset on special teams as well as a third down back, and he can come into the game in a pinch.  However, he is not an every-down back.  With this being a contract year, he has a lot to prove.

But will the Bears give him a chance to prove that he is an asset and should stay on the roster past 2017?

I am not 100% sure that Carey will even be on the active roster following training camp.  We already know that the Bears will keep Howard, Langford and Tarik Cohen.  The battle will be for the fourth and a possible fifth running back spots.  Benny Cunningham could be targeted for that fourth spot and could beat Carey out.  Cunningham and Carey are in a similar mold, and the better of the two will make the roster.  If Chicago does decide to have a fifth running back, then Carey should be able to make the team.

Outlook: The race is going to be a tight one between Cunningham and Carey.  Because of his familiarity with the Bears, Carey would have an edge, but Cunningham may have an edge in overall talent.  I think it comes down to whichever one remains the healthiest in training camp and knowing Carey’s history; he might not make it through intact.  Consider him on the bubble with his chances of making the team at about 50/50 at the time of this writing.

Benny Cunningham

Chicago pulled a lot of guys off other team’s scrap heaps during free agency and former Los Angeles Ram Benny Cunningham was one of those guys.  He comes to the Bears with five years of NFL experience which include just three total starts.  He has rushed for 748 yards on 171 carries with four touchdowns.  Obviously, he has not been very productive, but he hasn’t had a lot of opportunities.  So why did Chicago bring him in?

The Bears may have been looking for someone act as a bruiser between the tackles when they needed a short pickup on third down or goal line score.  Carey hasn’t been able to stay healthy so Cunningham could be the guy they think will replace him.  As previously mentioned, there is going to be a battle between Carey and Cunningham and the healthiest guy will win.

Outlook: I think that the battle between the incumbent, Carey, and Cunningham is going to be a good one to watch.  With Carey struggling to stay healthy and the Bears knowing his injury history, I think it’s possible Cunningham will win the battle and perhaps be the fourth running back, on the Bears’ roster this season.

Tarik Cohen

Chicago went a different way than many felt they should have and drafted a small Division II player with a ton of talent.  Known to some as the “Human Joystick” he can perform some “gimmick moves” none of which will help him on the football field.  But he can play, well on it and that’s what the Bears need.

With his size, he is not going to be an every down back.  Instead, the Bears will put in some special packages in, giving him just a few plays a game that might be big ones.  They need all the help that they can get on offense and Cohen can help them.  But just how much can he help them?  He can run, and he can catch, but he can’t block a 300-pound defensive tackle.  He might not even be able to block a linebacker.  Ultimately, his ability to be an effective player will be determined in just a few snaps a game.

Outlook: Because he was a draft pick, he will make the team.  Plan for him to be the third running back on the roster but play much less often than the other guys.  He reminds me a lot of Garrett Wolfe (if fans remember him).  If he can be a big-time playmaker, then he will have value, but if he falters and can’t perform at the NFL level, he needs to be gone quickly.  But he won’t be gone this year.

Let’s see what he can do.  Could he be the next Darren Sproles?  Bears fans hope so.

Joel Bouagnon

Bouagnon is an undrafted free agent from the University of Northern Illinois and is a guy who is on the outside looking in as training camp gets ready to start.  He is an appealing prospect as he had a productive career at NIU and is somewhat like Carey and Cunningham.  He likes to pound the rock on the inside and could be used in short yardage situations.

The “book” on Bouagnon is that he is a bruising runner and tough to bring down.  He is always going forward and hardly ever loses yardage.  He sees the field well and is patient.  But he is raw and needs work.  Bouagnon doesn’t do much to make special things happen and isn’t a great pass catcher.

Outlook: Of the group, Bouagnon is the last guy in the pecking order.  He may just be a body used to carry the ball and relieve the other running backs in camp.  But if he can find his way in on special teams he might be able to gain a foothold there and make the roster.  What is more likely to happen is that he gets cut at the end of the preseason and ends up on the practice squad.

Chicago’s running back group looks pretty good heading into training camp, but health will be a huge factor.  If the key players can stay healthy and be productive, the running game will be successful in 2017.  However, an injury to either Howard or Langford could set them back a ways.  Hopefully, if that happens, another player will step up and shine.  But who will that be?

2017 Chicago Bears Positional Review: Quarterbacks

By Bryan Dietzler

The 2017 season isn’t that far away folks.  We are under 100 days until the start of training camp and the Bears are gearing up for what hopes to be a better season than last year.  There are a lot of new faces around Halas Hall, and one of the position groups that has seen the most change is the quarterback position.

Technically, there is only one player from this position who was on last year’s squad.  That player is Connor Shaw.  And he was almost out of Chicago before an injury to Mark Sanchez pushed him back onto the roster.

Chicago marches into the 2017 NFL season with many unknowns at quarterback.  This may be the shakiest position on the roster right now and could be the one that gets this team in trouble.

Let us look at the players that Chicago has on the roster, right now, at the quarterback position.  We will get an idea of what they might be able to do in 2017 and see how they can contribute.

Mike Glennon

Glennon has been named the starter heading into the season but that’s could change.  But it’s likely it won’t.  For the money, Chicago has invested in him, he is going to be their starting quarterback.  It will take an injury or lights-out play by one of the three guys behind him for him to not be the starter.

So what do the Bears have in Glennon?  No one knows because he doesn’t have a lot of NFL experience.  He comes from Tampa Bay where he played in 21 total games.  He did play quite a bit in 2013 and 2014 and put up decent numbers, but they weren’t anything spectacular.  But, keep in mind he didn’t have a strong supporting cast in Tampa Bay, so he struggled.  The problem is, he might not have too strong of a supporting cast in Chicago either.  At least to begin with.

He is a huge question mark heading into training camp.  He has a lot of confidence; you have to give him that.  Glennon has been telling the media that this is “his” year.  That’s good for him, and hopefully, the rest of the team feeds off of this.  But can he live up to what he is saying about himself?  And no matter how good he is, can he be good with what he has around him?

My prediction for Glennon is that he is going to have a very shaky start to the season but, with time, will get better.  Three of the Bears’ first four games are going to be very tough, and Glennon will struggle.  But, after that, I think he will pick things up and play better.

Outlook: Glennon should, barring injury, remain the starter for the season and give way to Mitchell Trubisky in 2018.  I think that the Bears have too much money invested in him not to let him be the starter.  General Manager Ryan Pace will also want to prove that he was not wrong about Glennon and will stick with him until the end.  Let’s just hope, for all of our sakes, Glennon isn’t a complete disaster.

Mark Sanchez

The “Sanchize” comes into the quietest part of the off-season on the bench thanks to a knee injury.  From what we can tell, Sanchez hurt his left knee during OTA’s a little over a week ago and is expected to miss some training camp time.  What does this mean for him?

The Bears are tied to Sanchez for $1 million guaranteed so, if he comes back healthy, the Bears may consider that they have to keep him because of the money.  Another reason they may want to keep him, and a very good reason, is that he has experience. Sure, he may not be in the same league as some other quarterbacks, but his experience can help the Bears.

This writer thinks that Sanchez would be an asset to the team if he comes back healthy.  Should Glennon get injured, Chicago would be in better hands than they would be with Shaw or even Trubisky.  And with his experience, Sanchez could help mentor and help get Trubisky ready for starting in the future.  And should Sanchez need to play, he does have experience and could step in and keep things together while the Bears plan their next move at quarterback.

Outlook: If Sanchez doesn’t miss a lot of time, and has a good training camp, then he will be the Bears second string quarterback.  I do think that he can beat out Connor Shaw with ease.  I also feel that there is no way the Bears don’t go into the season without three quarterbacks.  So, barring major health problems from Sanchez, it will be Sanchez, Glennon, and Trubisky.

Connor Shaw

There were a few people who felt that Shaw could have been a potential starter for the Bears in 2016.  At least before he broke his leg in the preseason.  And, many fans were eager to see what the Bears had in him.  As mentioned, he was almost cut loose by the Bears a few days ago but was retained.  Now, he is the second quarterback on the roster until Sanchez gets healthy.

Shaw can shine and show the Bears coaching and management staffs that he belongs on the team and should be the second quarterback.  But does he have the skill and the talent to be that second quarterback?  Shaw has not played in many games during his NFL career.  In fact, he has only one game and one start during his entire career.  And it wasn’t a good outing.

Shaw seems to have some kind of cult following among fans.  They want to see him get a shot at the starting job and do something positive.  But Shaw is a lower tier guy who isn’t’ going to be a starter in the NFL, ever.  He might fill in at some point, but he’s not a long-term answer.

Outlook: The Bears need Shaw to help fill in while Sanchez heals up, so he will see many snaps.  I think that the Bears have their sights set on keeping Glennon, Sanchez, and Trubisky.  I think that’s almost set in stone.  However, if one of those three should get hurt, Shaw may be ushered back in and could end up being a second or third string quarterback in 2017.

Mitchell Trubisky

When the Bears traded up one spot to pick the University of North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, Bears fans and the media went nuts.  No one thought that he was worth that much effort and the price they paid in draft picks to get him.  Now, he has become the most scrutinized sports figure in Chicago.  Some people think he’s the “savior” they have been looking for at quarterback and that he will bring this franchise out of the dark ages.  Others think that he is going be a bust.

First of all, we should all have faith that Trubisky is going to come to Chicago and play well enough to provide some kind of stability to the position.  This potential stability is something that the Bears haven’t had for years.  They need it.

As of this writing, there are issues getting Trubisky signed to a contract.  Chicago “should” be able to get that taken care of before the start of training camp.  But what happens if they don’t?  If Trubisky misses any part of training camp, then he will be behind and will have a slim chance of starting this year.  But, in all reality, he should not get a shot at starting at any point this year.

The ideal scenario for the Bears is to let Trubisky sit for 2017 while he learns from the guys ahead of him.  Not throwing him to the fire in his first NFL season would go a long way to making sure that he can be a successful NFL quarterback.  If he can watch, learn and develop his skills while manning the bench, the Bears and Trubisky would be much better off.

I honestly don’t think that Trubisky will get a single start this year.  As long as they have health with the two quarterbacks ahead of him, I think that he will sit on the bench.  Even if the guys ahead of him get hurt, Chicago may choose to sign some street free agents to keep him on the sideline.  That’s a good possibility.

Outlook: If the Bears can get him signed in time for camp and get him learning, Trubisky will be able to start absorbing what Chicago is trying to do.  The longer he can learn the better off he will be.  I think it’s a good bet that the Bears will keep him sidelined until 2018.  It’s better for Trubisky and the team if they do that.

Finally

I think that Chicago’s quarterback situation is pretty much set in stone. I think that you will have Glennon starting, Sanchez backing him up and Trubisky as the inactive number three on most, if not all game days.  If there are injuries, then this will change, but I think this is how it will go.  Even if both Glennon and Sanchez fail, I think that Chicago will still keep Trubisky on the bench.  Save him for next season and give him time to develop. Only then will he be a success.

The Chicago Bears 2017 Schedule Reviewed: December

By Bryan Dietzler

The month of December will signal the end of the 2017 regular season and will, most likely, be the end of the Bears’ season.  Chicago will start the year struggling but will end it as a better team.  However, they won’t be quite good enough to make the playoffs.  But they won’t end the season with as poor a record as many prognosticators are saying.

In fact, the Bears will be much better off at the end of the 2017 season than they were at the end of last year’s miserable campaign.  You can bet on it.  And they will have a strong finish to the season, in the month of December, to show how far they have progressed.

So here, in our final preview of the Bears’ schedule for 2017, we will look at the last five games of the season.  Can they end the year on a high note or will they suffer a big blow and lose out?  Let’s find out.

December 3rd @ 1 pm on Fox San Francisco at Chicago

If you remember last year’s game between these two teams, the Bears, after a rough start, pretty much had their way with the 49ers.  Thanks to extremely poor play by San Francisco’s quarterbacks and a shoddy run defense, Chicago earned one of their three wins on the year.  The 49ers, like the Bears, are in rebuilding mode now.  But, they have a longer way to go than the Bears do.

I think this will be an easy win for the Bears.  The 49ers quarterback situation will still be a problem next season so don’t count a lot of passing.  Ironically, Chicago could be facing one of their two temporary starters from last year, Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley.  That should make things interesting.  The Bears’ defense should be able to take care of those two.  With issues on defense to boot, San Francisco has a way to go before they can be very competitive again.

Chicago will get another win and start the month of December on a high note.  It could be what kicks off a strong close to a promising season.

Early “Don’t hold me to it” Prediction: Chicago 27 San Francisco 13

December 10th @ 1 pm on Fox Chicago at Cincinnati

The Bengals had a tough season last year and will hope to rebound in 2017.  If they can stay healthy, they have a chance at a lot better than last year.  But there are some holes they need to fill before they can count on winning a lot of games.  For one, their offensive line needs work, and if they can’t protect quarterback Andy Dalton, they will struggle.  The defense has some talent but can they put it all together?

This Cincinnati team is going to be a little hard to predict.  They are usually up one year then down the next, and I think they are an inconsistent team overall.  I do think this will be a good game and it will be a close one no matter what.  Do I think the Bears can beat the Bengals?  Yes, I do.  Will they beat the Bengals?  Yes, they will.

It will be a close game, but I think the Bears will take this one.  Health will be the biggest factor.  If the Bears are healthy at this point, they will win.

One question comes to mind now is, could Mitchell Trubisky be starting by the time they play this game?  With this being a pivotal point in 2017, with lots of changes, changes at quarterback could happen.  That’s just something to think about.  There will be more on this in future postings.

Early “Don’t hold me to it” Prediction: Chicago 23 Cincinnati 18

December 16th @ 4:30 pm on NFLN Chicago at Detroit

The Bears and the Lions will face off for the second time this season in a game that could be important for the Lion’s playoff hopes.  That’s if they still have playoff hopes.  Some feel, including this writer, that the Lions have a real shot at making it to the postseason.  At this point in the year, the Lions may be pushing hard for a playoff berth and will be playing lights out to earn every victory.  Some teams turn it on at the end of the year, and the Lions could be in a position to do that.

I had the Bears taking the first game and think they will play tough in the second one.  But if the Lions are poised for the playoffs, Chicago won’t beat them. I do think that if Detroit is headed towards the basement, then I think the Bears will win.  These division games are so tough to predict, most of the time they could go either way.  But this one belongs to the Lions.

Early “Don’t hold me to it” Prediction: Detroit 23 Chicago 20

December 24th @ 1 pm on Fox Cleveland at Chicago

The Bears hope to get an early Christmas present on Christmas Eve as they play host to last year’s worst team, the Cleveland Browns.  I believe, after several good drafts, Cleveland has a lot of potential, and they will do better in 2017.  But, they won’t beat the Bears.  With questions on offense, particularly at quarterback, the Browns aren’t going to climb out of their hole just yet.  And the Bears will not be a rung on the ladder they use to climb out of that hole.

This game could see the Bears earn the largest margin of victory they have against any team in 2017.  I predict the Bears will have a good game through the air.  If they haven’t run him into the ground by this time, Jordan Howard may be able to have a solid game too.  And the defense could benefit from what should be an unsettled Cleveland offense.

Chicago will roll in this game and grab their third victory of the month.

Early “Don’t hold me to it” Prediction: Chicago 32 Cleveland 17

December 32st @ 1 pm on Fox Chicago at Minnesota

The Bears will play their final game of the season against division rival Minnesota, at Minnesota, for the second season in a row.  The Vikings could take a bit of a dip this season, and I predict that they will compete with the Bears for the bottom spot in the NFC North.  So, this could be dubbed the “basement bowl, ” and the loser could end up having the most losses in the North.

I think that this will be a hard fought game and will be one played for pride more than anything else.  Remembering last year’s result, the Bears are going to want to play better and should play better.  Hopefully, their key players will be healthy and ready for this game.  The last game of the season for a team that isn’t bound for the playoffs can be a good test for rookies or players who haven’t seen a lot of action during the year.  Could it be the game we see Mitchell Trubisky play in?

The Bears and Vikings will be playing for next year at this point.  So who will come out on top?

This will be a win for the Vikings giving them each one win over the other.  I think that the Bears will have a bit of a letdown in this game and end the season on a low note.  But it’s certainly not going to be a down season.  It won’t be a playoff season, but it will be better than last year.

Early “Don’t hold me to it” Prediction: Minnesota 24 Chicago 20

If you have been keeping up with my predictions, you will see that the record I have predicted might leave you shocked.   All told, I have Chicago going 7-9 in 2017 which should be right about on the money. This record, of course, is barring a massive amount of injuries or a complete collapse which is possible.  But I don’t think it will happen.

The Bears’ defense should be strong, but their offense will be a question mark.  The running game will be solid, but there are some questions in the passing game where their quarterback, Mike Glennon, is not a seasoned signal caller.  The wide receiver corps is a group of underachievers and could be the biggest question mark on this team.  It could also be its biggest weakness.

There is so much we don’t know yet.

So here’s hoping for a 7-9 record or better.  Achieving this mark will make it a “winning” season for the Bears and will show they are on the right path.

What are your thoughts?  What do you think the Bears’ record will be in 2017?

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The Chicago Bears 2017 Schedule Reviewed: November

By Bryan Dietzler

The Chicago Bears will play three games in the month of November starting it off with a bye.  That bye arrives in the first week of the month and comes at a good time.  It will give the Bears a break, allow them time to regroup and heal before taking on a tough stretch of games.

With two division games and a tough Eagles team to play, the Bears are going to have their work cut out for them.  Can they win in the month of November or will they get shut out?  We are about to find out as we make predictions on the entire month of November and see where the Bears will stand when the dust settles, and December arrives.

So, here we go again, a review of the Bears schedule this time for November 2017.

November 12th @ 1:00 pm on Fox Green Bay at Chicago

The oldest rivalry in the NFL comes to Soldier Field as the Bears take on the Packers for the second time in 2017.  By this time, the Bears should know “who they are.”  We should know if they are a “now” team or a “later” team.

What we will want to see is a good game and hopefully will get that in this second “clash” of 2017.  Hopefully, the Bears will have good health and will have been able to find a rhythm which will allow them to compete evenly with Green Bay.  But, in 2017, Chicago will not be able to beat the Packers.  But it will happen eventually.

While I feel that Chicago will be much more competitive in this game I still think the Packers will earn a comfortable win.  Green Bay will be firing on all cylinders while the Bears will put up a good fight but ultimately fold.

Early “Don’t hold me to it” Prediction: Green Bay 26 Chicago 17

November 19th @ 1 pm on Fox Detroit at Chicago

This will be the first game of the season against these two teams.  Last year, they both took a game from one another, and that could happen again this season.  Detroit looks to be poised to be at least a little bit better, but they may meet a Bears team that’s doing well.  I project this to be the Bears closest win of the year.

Yes, folks, I did say win.  I think that Chicago will beat the Lions in the first game.  I believe that the Bears, coming off of a loss against the Packers the previous week, will right the ship and play a tight one this week.  Both defenses will be tough, and there won’t be a lot of scoring, but if the Bears’ secondary can clamp down on Detroit’s receivers and the pass rush can get to Matthew Stafford, then they should be able to keep the reigns on Detroit and squeeze out a win.

This game is hard to predict, but I will give the Bears the edge in this one.

Early “Don’t hold me to it” Prediction: Chicago 17 Detroit 16

November 26th @ 1 pm on Fox Chicago at Philadelphia

I have taken a long look at the Eagles and think that they are going to be a pretty solid team in 2017.  If Carson Wentz continues to grow and the offense can mold around him, they could be a playoff contender easily.

The Wentz-led Eagles beat the Bears last season upsetting a lot of fans (I was one of them).  No one thought that a rookie who was playing his first few NFL games should have been able to beat the Bears.  But Chicago had a lot of problems last year and wasn’t in a good place.  I think that they will be in a much better place than they were when they played the Eagles in 2016 but still won’t be able to beat them.

Philadelphia should be rolling by the time they meet the Bears.  But Chicago’s defense will be doing well and should be able to keep the point total down.  But they won’t be able to keep the Eagles from winning.  Philadelphia will edge the Bears but not by much.  This loss will help us continue to realize that Chicago is still a rebuilding team.

Early “Don’t hold me to it” Prediction: Philadelphia 21 Chicago 13

With the bye week, the month of November is a short month for Chicago.  Hopefully it will propel the Bears to a better December.  The problem with November is, they face two teams that they just cannot beat.  Green Bay and Philadelphia will beat the Bears.  The Detroit game will be close and could go either way, but I like the Bears to win that one.

Let’s hope that Chicago can pull out at least one victory in November to help keep their future looking bright.

Next Up: The final month of the season, December, is predicted.  What will the Bears’ final record be?

 

The Chicago Bears 2017 Schedule Reviewed: October

By Bryan Dietzler

In my last article, we looked at the Bears’ schedule in September. They play three out of four games against playoff teams from 2016 and could go winless. What a bad way to start the year. But after looking at October’s schedule, it’s possible the Bears could not only earn their first win of the season but grab even more victories to help their record.

There are so many unknowns heading into the 2017 season that it’s hard to predict exactly what the Bears are going to do. It’s more of a “best guess” than anything else. But you can see some of the trends that have taken place over the last few seasons and get a pretty good guess as to what might happen.

Remember, all of this is just a guess.

When making these selections, I try to factor in what has happened to both teams during the offseason what, if any improvement has been done by both teams. For the Bears, I can only hope that their arrow is pointing up for them next season. You would think it would be after all the moves that they have made. And while they may not see a lot of success in 2017, they are poised for greatness beyond it.

So, once again, here we go with a review of the Bears games for 2017. This time, we will tackle the month of October.

October 9th @ 8:30 pm on ESPN Minnesota at Chicago

The Vikings were riding high last season before they met the Bears on Halloween, lost, and started their downward spiral. They did take the second game against, at the end of the season, leaving both teams with a win against one another in 2016. Now it’s a new year and a fresh start for both teams.

Minnesota made some moves to help get themselves in a better spot next year. However, they are still a little ways away from being a playoff contender. So, at this point in the 2017 season following a rough start, this is the team that the Bears need to play.

This will be a hard-fought game, but the Bears will have enough in the tank to get past the Vikings. Things will finally start clicking for Chicago here, and they will show the Monday night crowd that they can win. Along with that, with this being a division game, both teams are sure to be ready to fight it out. But the Bears will have the edge and get their first victory of the year.

Early “Don’t hold me to it” Prediction: Chicago 17 Minnesota 10

October 15th @ 1:00pm on Fox Chicago at Baltimore

The Ravens were not a “great team” last season earning a .500 record but no trip to the playoffs. They have done some work to try to make themselves better this off-season and may show some improvement. One thing about Baltimore you can usually count on is that they will have a strong defense. But, by this point in the season the Bears offense could (and should) be clicking and, barring injuries, could be doing just enough to look better each week. And they could look and do better against the Ravens.

The Bears’ defense may also be in much better shape by this time, and if they are, they should be able to shut down the Ravens’ rebuilding offense. While this game may not be a high scoring affair due to struggling offenses and stronger defenses, it should be a Bears’ win

Early “Don’t hold me to it” Prediction: Chicago 13 Baltimore 10

October 22nd @ 1:00pm on Fox Carolina at Chicago

After riding high in 2015, the Carolina Panthers came crashing down to earth and struggled. They have made some adjustments during the offseason and may look a little better, but they may not climb completely out of the basement in 2017. They have a little ways to go.

With a strong showing by their defense, the Bears can win this game. They have to contain Cam Newton, which got easier for teams last year. Hopefully, the Bears defense will be hot at this time of year with good health and greater comfort with Vic Fangio’s system. If they have both of those things nailed down, they could be capable of stopping Carolina.

I think that Chicago will be able to beat the Panthers, at home and continue their winning streak. This is a winnable game if all the pieces for the Bears are clicking. And it’s possible they could be at this time of the season.

Early “Don’t hold me to it” Prediction: Chicago 20 Carolina 14

October 29th @ 1 pm on Fox Chicago at New Orleans

The Saints have one of the most talented offenses in the NFL, but they will be developing some new talent on that side of the ball. Quarterback Drew Brees is one of the best and can throw the ball all over the field racking up yards and points. The suspect unit for the Saints is their defense. They have struggled the last few seasons, but with some moves made this off-season, they will be a little bit better.

Chicago’s’ defense will need to be at it’s strongest in this game. If the Saints’ offense is firing on all cylinders, which it will be, it’s going to be hard to stop. Chicago’s secondary needs to be up to the task covering Brees’ targets. They need to get perfect pass pressure against the Saints’ quarterback and need to keep New Orleans from scoring a lot of points. This is because Chicago’s offense will probably not be able to keep up.

This could either be a shootout or a lopsided win by the Saints. Unless something happens to tie the hands of the Saints offense (an injury to Brees perhaps) their offense will be hot as usual. Chicago’s offense will lack the firepower to keep up with their consistently productive offense.

Chicago will come out of this game on the losing side ending the month on a low note. Incidentally, their bye week will be the next week, so they will go into that week having lost some momentum.

Early “Don’t hold me to it” prediction: New Orleans 27 Chicago 17

The Bears will get some wins in the month of October and will look better. This team is built to progressively get better, and as the season goes on, they will get better. There is talent on the team, especially on defense and this team will start climbing out of the basement in 2017 and eventually get to the playoffs maybe even as early as 2018.

Next Up: The month of November and continued improvement.

The Chicago Bears 2017 Schedule Reviewed: September

By Bryan Dietzler

The 2017 NFL schedule was released a while ago, and a lot of people have taken a stab at trying to predict how many games the Bears will win.  It was harder to predict when it first came out because the draft hadn’t taken place yet.  It’s still difficult because mini-camps hadn’t happened and of course, we don’t know who is going to get hurt in between now and the time the season starts.

There are so many variables right now so predicting the wins and losses next season is very difficult.  What some people base their predictions on is how the teams’ did last year.  We all know that the record of a team the previous season doesn’t have much bearing on how they are going to do the following season.  So we can just about throw the previous seasons records.

What we need to look at is what the team did this off-season to improve, if anything.  You need to look at what players they added, what players they lost and what the situation is with the coaching staff.  All of that is critical to evaluating how a team will do the next season.

The Chicago Bears, simply put, are going to struggle in 2017.  But their future is bright, and quite honestly, they may not do as bad as some people think.  They still have some pieces that they need to put into place and have some player development to work on.  But anything is possible this coming season.

I had made a prediction earlier that the Beas would win more games than they did the previous season, seven to be exact.  But my prediction may change a little as I dig into what the other teams have done this offseason and try to see how they match up against the Bears.

I am going to do a four part series on the Bears’ 2017 schedule, month by month, giving my initial predictions as to what I think will happen with their games next season.  Of course, please don’t hold me to this, but who knows, maybe some of these “guesses” will be right.

Let’s start off with the month of September

September 10th @ 1 p.m. on Fox Atlanta at Chicago

The Bears start off the 2017 season with a visit from Super Bowl runner-up Atlanta.  That’s not a great way to start the year.  Atlanta’s offense is electric and should return pretty much the same set of players that it had last season.  Their defense is also going to be better, and Chicago’s offense may not be clicking on all cylinders right away.  Look for the Falcons to put up some points, but it won’t be a total blowout.  Chicago’s defense has a lot of talent but will they have the talent to overcome the Falcons high powered offense?  Probably not but they won’t let Atlanta run all over them.

The most interesting thing about this game will be that it should be quarterback Mike Glennon’s first start with the Bears.  He will see time in the pre-season, but this will be the real thing.  Fans will be tuned in to see how he performs and he will cross the threshold of being the most criticized player on the team in 2017.  The defense will also get some looks by fans and the media with a revamped secondary and, hopefully, better health.

Early “Don’t hold me to it” score prediction: 24-13 Atlanta wins.

September 17th @ 1:00 p.m. on Fox Chicago at Tampa Bay

Glennon will face his old team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in the Bears second game of the season.  While there are those people that feel the Bears won’t win this game, of any game this month, this is the one they have the best chance to win.  The defense needs to be on their toes to shut down Jamies Winston and the Bucs rushing attack.  If Chicago can make them one dimensional, this could be their game to win.

But the defense is going to need some help from the offense, and the biggest question that will be asked is whether or not the offense can provide that help?  Will Glennon and his receiving crew be up to the task?  And will the running game be able to help keep the pressure off of the Bears’ passing game?  With a balanced attack, the Bears can win this game but can the offense be consistent?

I think this is going to be closer than everyone thinks but still a loss for Chicago.

Early “Don’t hold me to it” score prediction: 17-13 Tampa Bay wins.

September 24th @ 1 p.m. on Fox Pittsburg at Chicago

The Bears will play their third game of the season against another playoff team from last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers.  If all of the big weapons for Pittsburgh are healthy, like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Levon Bell, the Bears will struggle.  The Steelers are a solid team, and while they have a few holes, they can compensate for them.

The Bears will have their hands full with the Steelers offense but what about Pittsburgh’s defense?  Will the Steeler’s defense shut the Bears offense down?  That’s a huge question mark because it’s so hard to predict just how Chicago’s’ offense is going to react.  Will Glennon and his receivers be on the same page by then?  Can the running game help bail them out? By the third game they should be in sync but just how good will their offense be?

This game appears to be one that the Bears will easily lose, unfortunately.  Hopefully, it won’t be a blowout.

Early “Don’t hold me to it” prediction: Pittsburgh 27 Chicago 10

September 28th @ 8:30 pm on NBC Chicago at Green Bay

The Bears will play their first game of the season within the NFC North against the Green Bay Packers.  The Packers have done a lot of work on their defense this offseason and look to be much better there.  Their offense should be better as well so honestly; the Packers may be the best team in the division at least to start the season.  But the games between these two teams are always interesting, and hopefully, Chicago will be able to give the Packers some tough competition.

Chicago’s’ defense will be a big key in this game.  They must do something they have rarely done, and that is stop quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  But remember, the Packers were not only able to cause the Bears problems through the air but also on the ground.  Can the Bears put up a good fight against their multi-faceted attack?

And what about the Bears’ offense?  Can they match up against the Packer’s defense with all their improvements?  Or will Chicago’s offense struggle?

This game will mark the first time former tight end Martellus Bennett has played against the Bears since they sent him to New England.  Now he is with their biggest rival, so that will be a big storyline leading up to the game.  There should be plenty of bulletin board material by the time this game starts on Sunday.

The Packers will best the Bears in their first game against one another in 2017.  But, there are going to be brighter days ahead for the Bears when they play the Packers again in the future.

Early “Don’t hold me to it” prediction: Green Bay 27 Chicago 12

The Bears may end up going winless in the month of September due to a tough opening schedule.  Their best chance at victory will come against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they could surprise anyone.  It’s the NFL.  Anyone can win on any given day.  Chicago will get better and there will be some winnable games ahead.

Next Up: October and the Bears first win

An Early Look at the Chicago Bear’s 2017 Schedule

by Bryan Dietzler

I may be a little behind the times due to what has been happening with the 2017 NFL Draft.  I apologize.

The Bears schedule was released recently and there is a lot to cover.  I thought that I would give a brief overview of the new schedule then do a more in-depth look at it a little later on.

The Bears 2017 NFL schedule is as follows:

September 10th-Atlanta at Chicago

September 17th-Chicago at Tampa Bay

September 24th-Pittsburgh at Chicago

September 28th-Chicago at Green Bay

October 9th-Minnesota at Chicago

October 15th-Chicago at Baltimore

October 22nd-Carolina at Chicago

October 29th-Chicago at New Orleans

November 5th-Bye Week

November 12th-Green Bay at Chicago

November 19th-Detriot at Chicago

November 26th-Chicago at Philadelphia

December 3rd-San Francisco at Chicago

December 10th-Chicago at Cincinnati

December 16th-Chicago at Detroit

December 24th-Cleveland at Chicago

December 31st-Chicago at Minnesota

The first month of the season is going to be a rough one.  They play three playoff teams, from last season, and take on an up and coming Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  It’s possible the Bears might go winless in the month of September.

October has some opportunity for Chicago to get some wins.  The Bears will play some teams that had were weaker last year and that opens the door to some possible wins.  With Baltimore and Carolina struggling last season, they may have a chance at winning those games.  But teams can do a 180 so, right not, it’s hard to predict how these two teams will be playing by the time the Bears see them in 2017.

Games against the Minnesota Vikings are always tough to predict.  Chicago could win so they might be able to get another one in October.  The Saints could be a team the Bears can beat as long as they can keep their offense tied down.  It’s not out of the question to think the Bears could get two to three wins that month. I might even go out on a limb and say they could get four.

The month of November is going to be interesting.  You have Green Bay in there which is always tough.  The Bears have been getting beaten pretty regularly by their arch rivals over the past few seasons but they have managed to squeeze out a couple victories here and there. It would be nice to get one (or two) against the Pack.

It’s hard to predict how the Eagles are going to be this coming season.  But in year two of the Carson Wentz era, the Eagles could be better.  Then you have the Lions coming to Chicago.  These games are always hard fought and even harder to predict.  This one could go either way.

They close out the month with San Francisco.  That just might be a win for the Bears.

December may be a good month for the Bears.  Cincinnati could be a win and Cleveland should be.  There are two division games that month, one against Detroit and one against Minnesota.  Chicago has just as much of a chance to win those games as they have a chance to lose them.  I am a broken record when it comes to the Bear’s play in division games because I always say that they are hard to predict.

Bears fans should be optimistic for the season.  There are some winnable games and Chicago should win (and will win) more than three games next season.  The playoffs may still be out of reach but they have an opportunity to start getting on the right path.

I will put out a much more detailed and in-depth review of the Bears schedule out over the next few weeks.  But my preliminary guess right now, without looking at all the fine details, is that the Bears will have a record of seven and nine (7-9).

Stay tuned for more about the Bears schedule coming soon.

Chicago Bears Draft Review 1.2: The Fourth Round Picks and the Fifth Round Pick

By Bryan Dietzler

The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and there are a lot of people who are frustrated with the players the Bears picked.  From the first to the fifth round, there doesn’t appear to be a player that any of the Bear’s fans appear to agree upon, so far.  But there is one guy that was drafted in the latter half of the draft that might have the most impact, at least this season.  The rest have some work to do to become effective contributing members of the team.

The Bears had only five picks in the entire draft and had to maximize the potential of each.  Some people don’t believe that the guys from the Division II schools that the Bears picked up will be able to do much.  But these guys have potential and may be able to have an impact at some point.  We are all hoping they will.

Let’s take a look at the last three picks for the Bears, in the 2017 NFL Draft.  We will see what they bring to the team, what they need to improve upon, and what their roles might be in the future.

With the 112th pick in the draft, the Bears selected Alabama safety, Eddie Jackson.  There are many experts, including this writer, that feel Jackson may be the best pick the Bears made.  But he also has his critics, and some feel the pick could end up a disaster for the Bears.

Jackson was a four-year starter at Alabama who had a chance to come out after his junior season but chose to stay put and enhance his draft stock.  However, he broke his leg in the eighth game of the season and missed the rest of his senior year.  His draft stock fell a bit because of that.

He has good athletic ability, his range is decent, and he can stick with wide receivers and tight ends in coverage.  His previous experience as a cornerback will help him in coverage, and that had to be attractive to the Bears.  His special teams ability, in his ability to return punts, will be very valuable to a team that has struggled with that.  Another thing that they should like about Jackson is his leadership ability.  He was a great leader at Alabama and could eventually be one in Chicago.

Of course, his injury history does send up some red flags.  He tore an ACL and has a rod inserted in that leg.  Jackson does have an ankle issue on his medical report as well.  Some fear that he could get hurt and miss a significant amount of time.

As far as his ability to play, Jackson has some problems tackling with proper form and will miss tackles at times (16 missed tackles in three years).  He doesn’t hit with authority, and some runners can break free from his tackles because he doesn’t wrap up well.  With good coaching, he should be able to clean up some of his issues with instincts and reading the play to become more effective.

It’s possible Jackson could become the best player out of this draft, for Chicago, in the short term, if he can stay healthy and make some adjustments.  He definitely appears to be the most pro-ready of the five draftees.  Look for him to get a start on special teams returning punts and then work his way into the lineup sooner than later.

A little later in the fourth round, at number 119, the Bears took North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen.  Cohen, a Division II player, has been called a “human joystick” by some.  He is certainly an interesting player that appears to be a gadget guy rather than an every down starting running back.  Cohen is well known for the “hype” video showing him doing a backflip while catching two footballs.

There is a lot to like about Cohen.  Some of his upside includes his ability to move in open space.  He can get moving one way and then change, suddenly, and go another leaving the defender grasping for air.  He can cut well and moves from side to side with ease.  Cohen sees the field well and catches the ball effectively.

His size is the number one issue that can be considered a negative with his experience being a close second.  He was a man among boys on the football field in college, but that was against lower level competition.  Some worry how he will stack up against bigger and just as fast or faster NFL defenders.  Cohen doesn’t always follow his blockers and will try to do a lot on his own.  He may only be good for just a handful of plays in a game taking up a roster spot that could be used for a player that could contribute in more situations.

A thought that arose from some that felt that Cohen could be used as a kick and/or punt return specialist.  However, he lacks experience there and may not work out as a return specialist.

So what place could Cohen have on the team?  It’s likely he will make the active roster in 2017 and could be used as a “gadget” guy.  They could get him out on the edge and throw the ball to him, get him in on reverse plays or make up some special packages for him.  He won’t see that many touches but his impact on a game could be sound.

I will have more on Cohen and the running back situation, overall, a little later.

The final pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bears selected Kutztown offensive tackle Jordan Morgan out of tiny Kutztown.  It should be noted that Morgan is not going to be an offensive tackle but will, instead, play guard.

Some of the upside that Morgan has includes his size and body composition.  He’s a big guy with a thick body.  His arm length is sound which is good for a guard.  Morgan keeps his feet moving at all times and moves very well side to side.  His knees bend well blocking, and he gets his hands in proper position on the defender’s body.  If you have watched any of histape (even looking at his highlight reels on YouTube will help), he finishes plays.  Morgan stays on his man until the play is over which indicates that a hard worker.

Of course, his experience is a drawback and one he will have to overcome with NFL coaching and playing time.  His mechanics could use some fine tuning, and he will need to adjust to the nuances of being a guard.  Morgan may hit a wall, at first, going against NFL defenders but could quietly end up being a solid player in two to three years.

Morgan, provided he can develop well, could be a solid starter with the Bears sometime in the future.  If he doesn’t get rushed into action and has time to learn the NFL way he could be good.  He has the basics, and now he just needs the refinement.

Taking so many Division II players had a lot of experts scratching their heads and wondering what the Bear’s plans were.  But there must be a method to Ryan Pace’s madness. We will find out over the next couple of seasons.

And practically none of the players drafted in this draft, except perhaps Jackson, will be contributing much, if at all in 2017.  This draft was for the future and not for the here and now.  So we will have to wait a year or two to see how these picks pan out.

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