Brock Osweiler

Bears open season against defending NFC champion Falcons, check out full 2017 schedule

Bears open season against defending NFC champion Falcons, check out full 2017 schedule

Week 1: vs. Atlanta Falcons (Sunday, Sept. 10, 12 p.m.)

A very good team got stronger in its defensive core with addition of defensive tackle Dontari Poe to help one of NFL's worst run defenses. Super Bowl losers can struggle the next year and Falcons need to get past devastating loss to the New England Patriots.

Moon's call: L

Week 2: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, Sept. 17, 12 p.m.)

The Bucs are difficult case study in what the Bears haven't been able to do over the past several seasons: get the franchise arrow pointing conclusively up. Tampa Bay was 2-14 in 2014 while the Bears were collapsing under Marc Trestman, got the quarterback thing right by selecting Jameis Winston No. 1 overall and have gone 6-10 and 9-7 the past two seasons, missing the 2016 playoffs only by a tiebreaker. The Week 10 game vs. the Bears last season was a Jay Cutler low point.

Moon's call: L

Week 3: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, Sept. 24, 12 p.m.)

One of two 11-win opponents (Falcons) for the 2017 Bears. The Steelers haven't been sub-500 since 2003 — when Ben Roethlisberger arrived — and reached the playoffs the past three seasons. May be toughest opponent on Bears schedule.

Moon's call: L

Week 4: at Packers (Thursday, Sept. 28, 7:25 p.m.)

Bears have produced surprises — good and bad — in Lambeau, including going up 10-6 early in the second half of their game in Green Bay last year with a defensive touchdown before losing Brian Hoyer and Kyle Long to arm injuries and collapsing defensively.

Moon's call: L

Week 5: vs. Minnesota Vikings (Monday, Oct. 9, 7:30 p.m.)

Jay Cutler's last Bears win was over the Vikings, who've shaken up their roster, signing new offensive tackles' Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers and running back Latavius Murray to improve the offense, and underachieving defensive end Datone Jones from Green Bay for the defensive line.

Moon's call: W

Week 6: at Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, Oct. 15, 12 p.m.)

A top-10 defense and a stable quarterback situation (Joe Flacco) make Ravens a consistent threat, and beating the Bears to sign safety Tony Jefferson upgrades their secondary. Credit Ravens for creative thinking, going by cruise ship to game in London rather than by airplane.

Moon's call: L

Week 7: vs. Carolina Panthers (Sunday, Oct. 22, 12 p.m.)

Another sufferer of the Super Bowl curse now looking to regain dominance, bringing back Julius Peppers and Mike Adams to defense. Head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman can't afford another underachieving year with Cam Newton in place.

Moon's call: W

Week 8: at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, Oct. 29, 12 p.m.)

The Saints traded Brandin Cooks to the Patriots but Drew Brees, Bears GM Ryan Pace's template for a franchise quarterback, predicts Saints' rise despite being sub-.500 in four of the last five seasons. Coby Fleener is matchup problem for Bears, who haven't handled good pass-catching tight ends well.

Moon's call: W

Week 9: Bye

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Week 10: vs. Green Bay Packers (Sunday, Nov. 12, 12 p.m.)

The Packers underwent massive offseason changes, and new tight end Martellus Bennett adds a threat but the Bears simply need to end second-half collapses regardless of specific Packers on the field. As long as Aaron Rodgers dresses, the Bears remain underdogs.

Moon's call: L

Week 11: vs. Detroit Lions (Sunday, Nov. 19, 12 p.m.)

Matthew Stafford directed eight comeback wins in 2016 but the Lions lost their final three games and were blown out at Seattle in the wild-card round of the playoffs. Bears have lost seven of last eight to Lions. Turnover on the offensive line makes the Lions offense an unknown until the parts mesh.

Moon's call: W

Week 12: at Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday, Nov. 26, 12 p.m.)

Eagles made their big quarterback move in least year's NFL Draft (Carson Wentz) and handled Bears easily in Soldier Field. Now Bears have to deal with motivated Alshon Jeffery, presuming injury issues don't return for the talented wide receiver.

Moon's call: W

Week 13: vs. San Francisco 49ers (Sunday, Dec. 3, 12 p.m.)

"The Brian Hoyer Bowl" is probably a touch strong for this meeting of 2016 bottom-feeders, both making wholesale changes and owning top-3 picks going into the draft. The 49ers were the Bears' only victim over final eight games last season. Kyle Shanahan becomes fourth head coach in past four years in down-spiral since Jim Harbaugh.

Moon's call: W

Week 14: at Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, Dec. 10, 12 p.m.) 

Bengals flop in playoffs but they get there under Marvin Lewis (6 of last 8 years). And 11 picks in the 2017 draft should add talent to a good core of defensive tackle Geno Atkins, quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green.

Moon's call: L

Week 15: at Lions (Saturday, Dec. 16, 3:30 p.m.)

Bears have lost four straight in Ford Field, the last two by field goals, including Week 14 last season when Josh Bellamy dropped a pass for a fourth-down conversion, all this after the Bears rallied from 10 down to lead 17-13 but could not stop a 76-yard go-ahead Lions drive.

Moon’s call: L

Week 16: vs. Cleveland Browns (Sunday, Dec. 24, 12 p.m.)

The Browns have lost 13 straight away from their lakefront as quarterback issues fester — cutting ties with Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown, The Browns have had 26 different starting quarterbacks since 1999. And now they have Brock Osweiler after his failed trip to Houston, plus an expected addition via the draft.

Moon's call: W

Week 17: at Vikings (Sunday, Dec. 31, 12 p.m.)

Bears haven't won in Minnesota since 2011 and their last two losses there were by 21 and 28 points, as Vikings have been on the rise and Bears on the decline both during recent seasons and as competitive franchises. Bears desperately need prove-it road win to start regaining relevance in NFC North.

Moon's call: W

Moon’s season prediction: 8-8

Bucs' Jameis Winston yet another young QB problem for Bears

Bucs' Jameis Winston yet another young QB problem for Bears

Maybe they should be used to this by now. But facing young, relatively inexperienced quarterbacks, something defenses are supposed to fatten up on, has not been a positive for the John Fox Bears. And now here comes another one.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston will be one of four first-or-second-year starting quarterbacks on the Bears’ 2016 schedule, following Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles), Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys) and ahead of Marcus Mariota, who arrives to Soldier Field in two weeks leading the Tennessee Titans. The Bears lost to the first two.

And last year the Bears were outscored 61-37 in two losses to the Minnesota Vikings and second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. They managed to escape Tampa with a win despite Winston’s 295 passing yards and two touchdown passes, and defeated the Oakland Raiders and second-year quarterback Derek Carr, albeit only through a Robbie Gould field goal with two seconds remaining.

Brock Osweiler wasn’t a rookie or second-year guy in 2015 but he was starting his first NFL game last season when he and the Denver Broncos defeated the Bears, 17-15, in Chicago.

Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, has not produced the impact of some others among the kid-QB corps. His passer rating (85.4) is about what it was his rookie season (84.2), his completion percentage remains sub-60 and his interception rate again hovers near 3 percent — all numbers not up to the performances of the others mentioned above.

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But Winston is seeing differences. After losing three straight, Winston brought the Bucs to .500 with road wins over the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers before stumbling the last two weeks in home losses to the Raiders and Atlanta Falcons.

“The goal is to get better every day, so I'm definitely ahead as far as my preparation from last year to this year,” Winston said on Wednesday. “I don't really see a difference in other teams as far as scheming against us. The difference for me as a player is just being able to process information and just being very familiar with the playbook.”

The early performance of a young quarterback again is worth considering given the likelihood of the Bears investing a high-round pick in one in the 2017 draft.

That involves a commitment, as Bucs coach Dirk Koetter knows from being Tampa Bay offensive coordinator last year when the decision to go with Winston over Mariota was made.

“That’s an entire organization decision,” Koetter recalled. “So that goes from ownership, management, down into coaching. And I would think that you would be signing up for patience.

“I was the offensive coordinator when we drafted Jameis and lucky to be that. But the whole patience thing, that’s sometimes in other people’s hands. So I look at Carolina as a good example in our [NFC South] division. They drafted a quarterback [Cam Newton]. They drafted a middle linebacker [Luke Kuechly]. They built around those guys. I think [Carolina is] a good model for us as someone who has been in the division for five years now.”

Upon further review: John Fox would have thrown the challenge flag

Upon further review: John Fox would have thrown the challenge flag

His Bears had enough trouble trying to stop the Houston Texans on third downs, the tipping-point down and which the Texans converted 12 of the 20 times they reached that point. But John Fox would ask for a second opinion on one of those conversions, if he had it to do all over again.

Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler sneaked for what officials ruled was a first down on a third-and-one from the Chicago 22 on the second play of the fourth quarter with the Bears clinging to a one point lead at 14-13. Osweiler appeared to come up short, but the chains moved, and three plays later Osweiler completed an 18-yard throw to wide receiver Will Fuller and the Bears never led again in a 24-13 loss.

Had the challenge been successful, the Texans might’ve settled for the short field-goal attempt (which would have lessened the final margin of victory Or they might’ve gone for the conversion on fourth down.

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Fox was questioned on the non-challenge and said after the game that challenges on spots of the football rarely result in reversals. But on Tuesday, looking back with the benefit of more replays and hindsight, Fox conceded, “Yeah, I think at the time if I had the ability to see what people get to see at home, with yellow lines and blue lines and all the things ... I think that ... we might have won it.

“Hindsight I wish I would have challenged it. My experience has been especially after a measurement — it wasn’t one of those bang-bang plays where all of the sudden the other team’s in hurry-up — you have time to look at it, have people see it upstairs and all that. We had all day. They measured it. Even at the measurement, it was by a hair.

“So whenever there’s a scrum like that in a quarterback sneak, my experience has not been good as far as the spot specifically. If they ruled it a first down, if there’s not irrefutable evidence, it doesn’t change.”