The Bears may have stumbled down the closing stretch of their 2015 season but the NFL has tapped the Bears to be in four prime-time games in the first eight weeks of the 2016 season, four in seven weeks in fact.
After winning their two prime-time games last season (at San Diego, at Green Bay), the Bears will host Monday Night Football games against Philadelphia Week 2 (Sept. 19) and the Minnesota Vikings Week 8 (Oct. 31) before their off week. The Minnesota game will follow a 10-day break after a Thursday night game at Green Bay on Oct. 20.
The Bears go to Dallas to face the Cowboys Sunday night for game three on Sept. 25.
Subject to playing their way into flex-time scheduling, the Bears’ only non-noon-Sunday game in the second half of the season is set for Christmas Eve at home against Washington, when the NFL has slated all but three games for Saturday rather than Christmas Day.
It is a season that invites the Bears to make a run if they can take their three phases, all of which improved over the 2014 season if only incrementally, to a next level with myriad new pieces added. The Bears play six of their 16 games against teams with winning records, two each against the Packers and Vikings, plus the AFC South champion Houston Texans and NFC East Washington Redskins, both 9-7 finishers last season.
The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.
It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.
Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.
Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.
Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.
On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.
Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.
Take a look over the NFC landscape and try to find me a team that can compete with the Rams.
Packers? Held back by Rodgers' knee and Rodgers' coach. Saints? Might not even win their own division. Washington? Does Alex Smith really scare anyone in the playoffs?
The Rams have one of the easier paths to the Championship Round/Super Bowl that we've seen in some time. Will it likely stay that way? Probably not. But there's a difference between parity and mediocrity and right now the NFC is toeing the line HARD.
Outside the NFC's "elite", how did your team do this week?
You can take a look here and see where they landed.