Ranking the 2020 Bears schedule from easiest to hardest
With the uncertainly of the sports world during the COVID-19 pandemic, judging the challenges ahead in the Chicago Bears’ 2020 schedule is a difficult task. No one knows what games will look like this fall – or if they’ll even be played.
If fans can attend games by December, but not in September, that can greatly change the difficulty of road games throughout the season. The same can be said about home games. When Tom Brady at the Buccaneers arrive in Chicago for a night game in Week 5, will Solder Field be electric or silent?
Here’s a ranking of the Bears’ toughest games in 2020 – from easiest to hardest – as we try to account for these unique factors.
16. Week 16: at Jacksonville Jaguars
If the Jaguars’ season goes like I think it will go, Jacksonville will be in full “Tank-for-Trevor” mode by Christmas and Doug Marrone might not even be the coach anymore. If the Bears lose this one, they have major issues.
15. Week 2: vs New York Giants
Joe Judge was a good hire for the Giants, but it’s going to take this team time to gel. They may improve as the season goes along, but this early-season matchup should be one of the Bears’ easiest games of the year.
14. Week 6: at Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are full rebuild mode, especially on defense. Teddy Bridgewater and Christian McCaffrey pose a challenge, but the Bears’ defense should be able to handle it. Whoever is quarterbacking for the Bears should be able to score enough points in Charlotte to win.
13. Week 13: vs Detroit Lions
I expect there to be some drama in Detroit by Week 13 with Matt Patricia on the hot seat. Matt Nagy is 4-0 against Patricia, and while that might change in Week 1, the rematch at Soldier Field should have the Bears as somewhat comfortable favorites.
12. Week 10: vs Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins brings his 0-9 Monday Night Football record to Soldier Field. Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is 4-0 against Mike Zimmer. At home, this should be a win for the Bears.
11. Week 14: vs Houston Texans
I don’t expect the Texans to fall apart this year, but at some point these bizarre moves by Bill O’Brien have to cause some damage. Will this be a Mitchell Trubisky-Deshaun Watson matchup or will Nick Foles be on the field in December, a month in which he holds a 10-4 record as a starter since 2013? With the cold weather a factor, I give the edge to the Bears.
10. Week 7: at Los Angeles Rams
We now move from games I expect the Bears to win to games that really could go either way. After missing the playoffs last year, the Rams appear destined to regress even more in 2020. There’s enough talent there to make this a tough game, but the Bears should be in a better place than they were when they looked awful in Los Angeles last year. As bad as it was, they were still in the game in the fourth quarter and if fans are allowed, Sofi Stadium will be loaded with Bears fans.
9. Week 9: at Tennessee Titans
The Titans ended the Tom Brady era in New England, but can Ryan Tannehill really replicate his 2019 magic? Bears fans will invade Nashville if they’re allowed to do so and this game could go either way.
8. Week 3: at Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons went 6-2 in the second half of the 2019 season and Todd Gurley might be stronger in September than he will be later in the season. This is game that could be greatly influenced by whether or not fans are able to attend.
7. Week 5: vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Same issue here -- this is a game that could be greatly influenced by the atmosphere at Soldier Field. If fans are allowed, the place should be electric in prime time against Tom Brady. If not, Brady comes in with a high-powered offense and we saw what he was able to do two years ago at Soldier Field with the Patriots. That said, Allen Robinson and Khalil Mack were both limited in that game and the Patriots benefitted from two special teams touchdowns. This time, the Bears’ defense rises to the challenge at home.
6. Week 17: vs Green Bay Packers
The Packers are 9-1 in their last 10 trips to Soldier Field, with the lone loss being the Bears’ NFC North clinching victory in 2018. This one should be huge. Playoff implications could be on the line or, if things go horribly wrong, perhaps jobs will be on the line. I have the Packers pegged for regression this season and who knows how much drama there will be with Aaron Rodgers and Matt LeFleur.
5. Week 1: at Detroit Lions
Matt Nagy is 4-0 against the Lions, but Matthew Stafford is back, and this was a .500 team before he got hurt last season. Detroit had a strong draft and will be a tough opponent in 2020. If Ford Field is empty, that will make things easier, but this is not an easy opener for the Bears, who haven’t started 1-0 since 2013.
4. Week 4: vs Indianapolis Colts
I’m really high on the Colts, ranking them No. 6 in my post-NFL Draft power rankings. Philip Rivers took a bad Chargers team into Soldier Field and won last year. This year, he has more talent with him and a dangerous running game. This could be a sleepy Noon game at Soldier Field and if there are no fans, I like the Colts’ chances even more.
3. Week 12: at Green Bay Packers
The Bears are 1-7 against the Packers in their last eight games, 2-11 in the last 13 and 3-17 in their last 20. Should I keep going? Reversing this trend should be priority No. 1 for Matt Nagy, who is 1-3 against Green Bay.
2. Week 15: at Minnesota Vikings
While the Vikings might take a quick step backward this season, they will continue to be a tough opponent, especially at U.S. Bank Stadium. While there was some major turnover on defense, Zimmer should have the group playing well by December. One of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, there’s a greater chance it will be full of fans this late in the season.
1. Week 8: vs New Orleans Saints
The Saints might have the most complete roster in the NFL and they gave the Bears their worst loss of the season last year at Soldier Field – without Drew Brees. Assuming Brees is healthy, this will be the toughest test of the season and a true barometer of how far away the Bears are from winning a Super Bowl.
Final Record: 11-5
I expect a bounce back season for the Bears, but it’s fair to call this a very optimistic outlook in May. The first six games on this list are ones I expect them to win, but the next seven can be considered tossups. I think the Bears have the capability of going 5-2 in those seven games, but I’d also listen to an argument claiming they go 2-5, which would put them closer to 8-8 on the season. Let’s just hope the games actually get played.