As the 2018 season fades into the mist (or whatever it was that was in the eyes of Sean McVay and Jared Goff and clouding their visions), the 2019 one is already a-formin’. For the Bears, faced with their first first-place schedule since 2011, major changes already have been in process with a yet-undetermined impact on the Bears in 2019.

Two teams have new head coaches. At least three will have new opposing coordinators. Three had their postseason dreams dashed by the New England Patriots. One lost its postseason dream dashed by officiating. One ended the Bears’ postseason dream.

The Chinese say that you can never step into the same river twice. You certainly can’t play the same teams twice because they won’t, from one year to the next, be the “same.”

And neither will the Bears.

The significant uptick in schedule difficulty doesn’t automatically translate into a down one in wins. For one thing, the Bears are a combined 7-6 in the last times they faced the teams on their 2019 schedule.

For another, using the seasons’ first 10 games for purposes of comparison: The Bears record was 7-3 in 2010 against what was a third-place schedule coming off a 7-9 year before. Through the first 10 games of 2011 (at which point Jay Cutler was lost for the year with a thumb fracture), the record was 7-3, against what was a first-place schedule.

The way it happened was via Bears improvement from within. Cutler dropped his interception percentage from the second-highest of his career (3.7) to the lowest (2.2). Matt Forte went to the Pro Bowl off his career-best rushing average (4.9 ypc). The offense upped its point production by nearly 6 points per game through the games Cutler played.

 

(Message: Keep Mitchell Trubisky healthy.)

While the Bears re-signed right tackle Bobby Massie and have worked through scenarios at kicker, nickel corner and safety, their 2019 opponents already have been hard at work, in some case quite hard indeed:
 
 
NFC North
 
Detroit               No. 8 draft pick and as much as $50 million in cap space = changes.
 
Green Bay        Can new coach (Matt LeFleur) deal with Aaron Rodgers? The end for Clay Matthews?
 
Minnesota         Fired OC and one-time hot coaching prospect (interviewed by Bears) John DeFilippo.
 
 
AFC West
 
Denver              New head coach (Vic Fangio) and several staff hires know well Bears personnel.
 
Kansas City      New D-coordinator (Steve Spagnulo), and how much better can Pat Mahomes get in his year 2?
 
LA Chargers     Fourth Philip Rivers game vs. Bears, third different head coach. 
 
Oakland            Not sure where they’re playing, but new GM Mike Mayock has 3 No. 1 picks (Nos. 4, 24, 27) coming, one (24th) from Khalil Mack trade to Bears
 
 
NFC East
 
Dallas                Promoted Kellen Moore to OC as Jerry Jones declares Jason Garrett secure – for now – has HC.
 
NY Giants         Annual and ongoing Eli Manning questions for a bad (5-11) team holding the No. 6 pick. 
 
Philadelphia     Will teammates be liking Carson Wentz by then?
 
Washington      Baker Mayfield working out as Cleveland QB; with Alex Smith’s injury, do Redskins draft another OU QB (Kyler Murray?)?
 
 
Other
 
New Orleans    No team likely more motivated after NFC Championship shafting.
 
LA Rams           Super Bowl hangover? Bears hope so after showing that