Bears

Bears open vs. Atlanta; host Packers Week 3

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Bears open vs. Atlanta; host Packers Week 3

Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Posted: 5:38 p.m. Updated: 6:39 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The NFL does not yet have the security of a collective bargaining agreement between its owners and players. But players are working out on their own as if there will be a season, owners are managing their businesses as if therell be one, and the league has put out its 2011 schedule also based on the assumption that there will be football on time come September.

The Bears did not draw the honor of opening against the defending Super Bowl champions; the distinction of visiting the Green Bay Packers to open the 2011 season has gone to the New Orleans Saints, who preceded the Packers in the confetti shower.

But the Bears do get just their second home opener of the Lovie Smith era, facing the NFC South-winning Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 11. And the season will end with holiday specials against two division opponents: Green Bay on Dec. 25 followed by the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 1, both games away from the lakefront.

We like opening with three of our first four games in front of our fans at Soldier Field, Smith said in a statement. It is also clear that our division is well respected as we face each of our rivals in primetime this season. The NFC North deserves the showcase games and we look forward to those classic match-ups in front of a national audience.

The league also thinks enough of the Bears and the NFC North to have prime-time games with the Bears against each of their division rivals.

This marks the fifth time in eight Lovie Smith seasons that the Bears have finished with two division opponents and it is seventh time in Smiths eight years that the NFL has pitted the Bears against the Packers in one of the last two games of a season.

The schedule has the Bears facing Detroit and Philadelphia in Monday Night Football games, a venue in which Smiths teams are 6-1.

Including the two games against the defending Super Bowl champions, the Bears draw a schedule that lines up with eight teams that finished the 2010 season with winning records, in addition to the 8-8 Oakland Raiders.

The Raiders game falls in a stretch of four games against the AFC West, including a visit by Jay Cutler to Denver where the Broncos may be quarterbacked by Kyle Orton.

DayDateTime Opponent (10 record)

Sun. Sept. 11, noon Atlanta Falcons (13-3)

Comment: Division winners with Matt Ryan. Only the second time Lovie Smith has opened at home.
Sun., Sept. 18, noon @ New Orleans Saints (11-5)

Comment: For all of their successes, Drew Brees and Saints are 0-5 vs. Lovie Smith, including playoffs.

Sun., Sept. 25, 3:15 p.m Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Comment: An early season win was scant consolation after the Packers beat the Bears twice in three games on the way to the Super Bowl. Green Bays arrow clearly pointing up.

Sun., Oct. 2, noon Carolina Panthers (2-14)

Comment: Ron Rivera as head coach, Cam Newton as his starting quarterback? Story lines, anyone?

Mon, Oct. 10, 7:30 p.m. @ Detroit Lions (6-10)
Comment: The one-time doormats nearly beat the Bears twice and won their last four, including a shutdown of the Packers. If Matthew Stafford can stay healthy for a full season.

Sun., Oct. 16, 7:20 p.m. Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
Comment: The end of the Brett Favre Era finally arrives. Leslie Frazier begins the makeover of a team with an identity crisis at quarterback.

Sun., Oct. 23, 7 p.m. @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)

Comment: Currently scheduled for Wembley Stadium in London but owners-players impasse needs to be settled by Aug. 1.
Sun., Oct. 30 Off week

Mon., Nov. 7, 7:30 p.m. @ Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

Comment: Another date with Michael Vick. This makes five straight years facing the Eagles, last four decided by 5 or fewer points.
Sun., Nov. 13, noon Detroit Lions (6-10)
Comment: Last game vs. NFC before a four-game run through the AFC West.

Sun., Nov. 20, 3:15 p.m. San Diego Chargers (9-7)
Comment: One of the NFLs more enigmatic teams. Cutler and Philip Rivers can renew acquaintances.
Sun., Nov. 27, 3:05 p.m. @ Oakland Raiders (8-8)

Comment: The NFLs most hostile environment for visitors but Bears havent lost to Raiduhs since 99.

Sun., Dec., 4, noon Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
Comment: Chiefs were wild-card losers last postseason but have won five straight vs. NFC under one-time Bears asst. Todd Haley.
Sun., Dec. 11, 3:05 p.m. @ Denver Broncos (4-12)

Comment: Orton or Tim Tebow under center for Cutlers homecoming against the team that drafted him.

Sun., Dec. 18, noon Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
Comment: The division winner with the losing record were 1-1 vs. 10 Bears, including playoffs.

Sun., Dec. 25, 7:20 p.m. @ Green Bay Packers (10-6)

Comment: First of two division games to finish the season. Either or both likely to have playoff seeding at stake.

Sun., Jan. 1, noon @ Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
Comment: Vikings should have their quarterback situation sorted out by then.

WeekDateOpponentTime
TVWeek 1
Sun., Sept. 11
Falcons12:00
FOX
Week 2
Sun., Sept. 18
@ Saints
12:00
FOX
Week 3
Sun., Sept. 25
Packers
3:15
FOX
Week 4
Sun., Oct. 2
Panthers
12:00
FOX
Week 5
Mon., Oct. 10
@ Lions
7:30
ESPN
Week 6
Sun., Oct. 16
Vikings
7:20
NBC
Week 7
Sun., Oct. 23
@ Buccaneers (London)
12:00
FOX
Week 8
BYE
BYE
BYE
BYE
Week 9
Mon., Nov. 7
@ Eagles
7:30
ESPN
Week 10
Sun., Nov. 13
Lions
12:00
FOX
Week 11
Sun., Nov. 20
Chargers
3:15
FOX
Week 12
Sun., Nov. 27
@ Raiders
3:05
FOX
Week 13
Sun., Dec. 4
Chiefs
12:00
CBS
Week 14
Sun., Dec. 11
@ Broncos
3:05
FOX
Week 15
Sun., Dec. 18
Seahawks
12:00
FOX
Week 16
Sun., Dec. 25
@ Packers
7:20
NBC
Week 17
Sun., Jan. 1
@ Vikings
12:00
FOX
Check back on Comcast SportsNet for more information as it becomes available.

NFL Mock Draft: Bears add pass-catching TE in 2nd round

NFL Mock Draft: Bears add pass-catching TE in 2nd round

Get used to the Bears being connected to just about all of the top tight end prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft as the mock-draft season kicks into high gear.

The latest mock draft from the Draft Wire is no exception. In this two-rounder, the Bears snag Washington tight end Hunter Bryant at No. 43 overall.

Here's how Bryant's game profiles, via The Draft Network's scouting report:

Hunter Bryant should be a dynamic receiving threat at the NFL level. Bryant brings excellent quickness, run after catch skills and versatility to a flex tight end role. Plugging Bryant into a traditional inline role will water down his receiving skills — he's best working off the LOS or as a flexed slot receiver who can serve as a H/W/S mismatch for opposing defenders. If Bryant it put in such a flex role, look for early production and long-term starter status in the pros. 

Sure sounds like the kind of player the Bears could use in the passing game, where the entire tight end depth chart combined for just 44 catches last season. Trey Burton led the way with 14. It was a brutal year at the position.

Naturally, adding a playmaker who can expand Matt Nagy's playcalling toolbox is a critical 'must' for Ryan Pace this offseason, and a prospect like Bryant could be an ideal fit.

In Round 2 of this mock draft, the Bears add Ohio State linebacker Malik Harrison. Like tight end, linebacker will be an area of need depending on what happens with free agents Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski. It's likely that one of them will return, but even with Trevathan or Kwiatkoski back in the fold, the Bears have to add depth behind the starters. Will they address that need as early as the second round? Probably not, especially with pressing needs along the offensive line and in the defensive backfield.

If, however, Harrison does end up being the pick, the Bears would be getting a strong run defender who doesn't project as an every-down player at this point in his evaluation. He's likely to slide into the third round, if not later.

Should the NFL’s playoff changes mean the Bears should be more aggressive in a quarterback trade or free agent signing?

Should the NFL’s playoff changes mean the Bears should be more aggressive in a quarterback trade or free agent signing?

If the NFL’s proposed collective bargaining agreement is ratified, seven teams from each conference will make the playoffs in 2020— a change that will immediately alter the league's player movement landscape in the coming weeks and months.

Under the proposed structure, the Los Angeles Rams would’ve been the NFC’s No. 7 seed in 2019, with the 8-8 Bears finishing one game out of a playoff spot (really, two games, given they lost to the Rams). But as the Tennessee Titans showed last year, just getting into the dance can spark an underdog run to a conference title game. The vast majority of the NFL — those not in full-on tank mode — should view the potential for a seventh playoff spot as a license to be more aggressive in the free agent and trade market as soon as a few weeks from now.

So, should the Bears look at this new CBA as reason to be more aggressive in pushing to acquire one of the big-name quarterbacks who will, or could, be available this year? After all, merely slightly better quarterback play could’ve leapfrogged the Bears past the Rams and into the playoffs a year ago.

The prospect of Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr or Andy Dalton representing that upgrade feels tantalizing on the surface, right?

But the CBA’s addition of a seventh playoff team does not, as far as we know, also include an addition of significantly more cap space available to teams in 2020, even if the salary cap has increased 40 percent over the last five years. An extra $25 million is not walking through that door to add to the roughly $14 million the Bears currently have in cap space, per the NFLPA’s public salary cap report.

So that means every reason we laid out why the Bears should not make a splash move at quarterback remains valid, even with the NFL lowering its postseason barrier to entry.

The Bears’ best bet in 2020 remains signing a cheaper quarterback like Case Keenum or Marcus Mariota (who shares an agent with Mitch Trubisky, potentially complicating things) and banking on roster improvements being the thing that gets them back into the playoffs. Adding a quarterback for $17 million — Dalton’s price — or more would hamstring the Bears’ ability to address critical needs at tight end, right guard, inside linebacker and safety, thus giving the Bears a worse roster around a quarterback who’s no sure bet to be good enough to cover for the holes his cap hit would create.

Does it feel like a good bet? No, and maybe feels worse if it’s easier to get in the playoffs in 2020. But a Trubisky-Keenum pairing, complete with a new starting right guard to help the run game and more than just Demetrius Harris to upgrade the tight end room, is a better bet than Dalton or Bridgewater and a worse roster around them.

Also: This new playoff structure will tilt the balance of power significantly toward the No. 1 seeds in each conference. The last time a team made the Super Bowl without the benefit of a first-round bye was after the 2012 season, when the No. 4 seed Baltimore Ravens won the title. Otherwise, every Super Bowl participant since hasn't played on wild card weekend. 

So while the Bears may become closer to the playoffs if the new CBA is ratified, they won’t be closer to getting a No. 1 seed. And that holds true even if they were to find a way to sign Tom Brady.

Getting in the playoffs can spark something special. But the Bears’ best path back to meaningful January football still involves an inexpensive approach to addressing their blaring need for better quarterback play. 
Is it ideal? No.

But it’s far less ideal to be in this situation three years after taking the first quarterback off the board with 2017’s No. 2 overall pick. 

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