The only NFL rewards for losing campaigns are higher draft picks and an easier schedule the following season.
The Bears didn’t reap the benefits of a top ten pick after going 6-11 last season, having traded their first-round pick for the New York Giants in a Justin Fields deal.
However, the Bears will find their 2022 slate to be more manageable than the 2021 schedule. Chicago has the ninth easiest schedule based on competitors’ winning percentage from last season.
The Bears appear to have won games against the Houston Texans, Giants, Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, and two against the Detroit Lions.
Six potential wins, a few coins, and many potential losses shape the Bears’ trajectory in 2022.
Do not expect much from the team in the first year of a large-scale rebuilding. The success of the bears in 2022 will likely be determined by something other than gains and losses.
But a crucial five-game period mid-season could determine the direction the Bears take in the first year of the Matt Eberflus-Ryan Poles era.
From week five to week nine, the Bears face five teams with legitimate aspirations in the playoff. However, three of the team are legitimate wild cards.
Week Five: Minnesota Vikings
Week Six: Against the Leaders of Washington (TNF)
Week Seven: The New England Patriots (MNF)
Week 8: The Dallas Cowboys
Week 9: vs Miami Dolphins
The Bears should expect to enter this stretch at 2-2 and it could be 3-1 if they can achieve a Week 1 upset against the San Francisco 49ers.
They will face articulated back-to-back matches against a talented Vikings with a new head coach and Commanders with quarterback addicted to making bewildering decisions with football in Carson Wentz.
Both Vikings and leaders have the potential to be watershed teams. But it’s also not hard to see finishing the season at 8-9 and missing out on the playoffs.
With road games in New England and Dallas on deck, it’s imperative that the Bears at least split matches against Vikings and leaders.
Back-to-back road matches against the Patriots and Cowboys will likely result in two losses. Bill Belichick has young backers, and the Bears don’t have the defensive firepower needed to slow the Cowboys’ attack.
The expansion ends against the true mystery team of 2022 – the Miami Dolphins.
Miami has a lot of pace after adding Tyreek Hill in the offseason. Dolphins also spent a lot of money on star attack Terron Armstead. The defense remains solid, with Xavien Howard and Jevon Holland leading a talented secondary.
But everything about dolphins hinges on Tua Tagovailoa and how he looks in Mike McDaniel’s offense. If Tagovailoa manages to excel, the Dolphins could enter the Soldier Field as one of the best teams in the AFC. If he struggles, Teddy Bridgewater could be responsible for the crime, and the Bears might be able to snatch them away.
Can the Bears score two wins in this five-game game? Or is it a month-long descent into the abyss, one from which they will come out at 2-7? While the Bears’ win-loss record won’t define their season, it’s hard to sell any positivity from a 2-15 or 3-14 season.
The Bears need to win win-win matches against other predictable lower tier teams and then have some articulating games to eliminate the possibility of a morale-shattering streak of losses.
After the match against the dolphins, you encounter lions, hawks, and jetties. These games may be less winnable if the season is already in shambles after the 1-4 or 0-5 stretch. But if the Bears can get into Week 10 at 4-5, the second half of the season will be a chance for Epervloss to lay a solid foundation for its rebuilding. Having the Bears near 0.500 in Week 10 will keep the focus on the 2022 season and the idea of gradual progress, not the draft and the 2023 season.
Rebuilding processes take time and patience. But it also requires moments of progress, benchmarks to indicate that the team is improving, and hope for the future.
It would be very difficult for the bears to achieve that if they exited Week 9 at 2-7 or worse, after five straight losses.
The success of the first season of Eberflus could well depend on how well the bears survive those five weeks.
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