Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011
By John Mullin
Winning the NFC North division got the Bears into the 2010 playoffs. That and division finishes elsewhere in the NFC also got them their lineup of opponents for the 2011 season.
The gimmes are the obvious: games home and away against the Lions, Packers and Vikings (against whom the Bears were a combined 5-1 this season).
The divisional cycle has the Bears playing the NFC West, meaning the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All but the Panthers won at least 10 games in 2010 and the Panthers will get the No. 1 pick of the draft.
The rotation also draws the AFC West for the Bears: Denver, Kansas City, Oakland and San Diego.
And the prize for winning your division is that you play the other division winners, so add Philadelphia and Seattle to the schedule, which looks like this:
Looking beyond just the teams, the schedule is about the same difficulty as the 2010 slate, based on opponents records (but not taking the cumulative win-loss total for all, which I think can be skewed for better or worse based on a few seriously awful teams). Consider:
The Bears will have nine games against opponents with 2010 records of .500 or better, up just one from this seasons total of eight (New England, NY Jets, Green Bay and Minnesota twice each, and both Carolina and the NY Giants were .500 teams in 2009;
Seven games are against teams in the 2010 playoffs; the Bears faced eight teams this year which had made the 2009 playoffs (Dallas, Philadelphia, New England, NY Jets, Green Bay and Minnesota twice each)
Theres no shortage of betting lines, odds, tips, touts, whatever on the playoffs but Bodog.com weighed in with the Seattle Seahawks at 100-1 odds for winning the Super Bowl. Players dont play based on odds but they may prepare just a little harder if theyre mad, so heres guessing Pete Carroll has let his lowlies know what the wagering world thinks of them.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.