When the NFL released the 2023 schedule, I issued instant game-by-game predictions for the Bears’ 2023 season. I did so without ever having seen the roster in action or knowing what issues might arise during training camp.
Well, Week 1 has arrived, and with more information on all 32 teams, the predictions need an update.
The Bears’ improved offensive line took fewer than 10 snaps combined during training camp. Left guard Tevin Jenkins is on short-term injured reserve with a leg injury, meaning Cody Whitehair had to move back to left guard so Lucas Patrick can get the nod at center.
With the O-line changing every day of camp, the Bears’ offense had trouble finding its footing. DJ Moore is special. It gives the Bears an easy button they didn’t have on offense last season outside of the legs of Justin Fields. Chase Claypool got off to a good start to camp but missed the last three weeks with a hamstring injury. He is now fully healthy but has missed valuable time in turf building chemistry with Fields.
As for the Bears’ defense, talk of going from pathetic to pristine may be premature. The back seven have a chance to be special. I think linebacker TJ Edwards may end up being the best player on the unit, not named JaQuan Brisker. Tremaine Edmunds will create problems up the middle.
But the defensive line still looks like an issue. If the Bears can’t consistently stop the run or get to the passer, it won’t matter how good their linebackers and secondary are this fall.
The 2023 season is a crucial season for this rebuilding process. Is Justin Fields doing enough to cement himself as a franchise signal caller? Did Ryan Bulls make the right moves?
Let’s find out:
Week 1: vs. Green Bay Packers
When the schedule was released, I thought there was no way the Bears would lose this game to the Packers.
An August in which I watched a run-heavy offense fail to find its rhythm behind a shifting offensive line erased that thought from my mind.
Jordan Love looked good in the preseason. The Packers have talent on defense, employ a two-headed monster at running back, and have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
Last season, the Packers averaged just under 200 rushing yards per game against the Bears. The Bears’ “improved” defense did not appear in the preseason.
However, I don’t want to live in Chicago where Jordan Love dances around and beats the Bears in the first game of the post-Aaron Rodgers era.
Justin Fields beats Love and Kyler Gordon picks up a Week 1 win with a late interception.
Bears 28, Packers 24
Week 2: At Tampa Bay Buccaneers
People still talk about the Bucs as that team that won the Super Bowl and had a chance to repeat during the first two years of the Tom Brady era.
Yes, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are still there. Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David still shore up the defense.
But times are different in Tampa.
Baker Mayfield had a wild win Thursday night over the Raiders in one last starting gig, but I don’t think Tampa will be the place to revive him.
Tyreek Stevenson and Eddie Jackson each picked off Mayfield, and the Bears ran for 240 yards as a team in a boring Week 2 win.
Bears 27, Bucs 17
Week 3: at Kansas City Chiefs
The good vibes were beaten 2-0 in half of Week 3.
Chris Jones may still be standing. Travis Kelce may still have a hyperextended knee. It won’t matter.
Patrick Mahomes is blitzing the Bears, and the offense can’t do much to keep up.
Chiefs 38, Bears 17
Week 4: vs. Broncos
I don’t know what to do with Sean Payton’s reclamation project in Denver.
Payton was hired in part to fix Russell Wilson. But it may be beyond repair.
However, the Broncos have invested heavily in rebuilding their offensive line and plan to run the football.
This Bears defense remains suspect. This is a bad combination. They got GASHED by Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine, and Fields threw two interceptions as the Bears fell to 2-2.
Broncos 23, Bears 17
Week 5: at Washington Commanders (Thursday Night Football)
Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit got a front-row seat to the Bears-Commanders Big Ten East rocker last season. They’ll get that gift again this fall.
The Bears couldn’t keep the fields clean against last season’s vaunted four leaders. The same story is unfolding this season, but Fields takes up his mantle and saves break-up passes with his legs.
Fields rushes for 155 yards and two touchdowns as Bears win massive affair in Landover, Maryland.
Bears 17, Leaders 10
Week 6: vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings went 13-4 last season, going 11-0 in one-score games.
It won’t happen again in 2023, but the Vikings are still a terrible matchup with the Bears.
Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and TJ Hockenson are torching the Bears as Chicago’s defensive front struggles to breathe on Kirk Cousins.
Back to .500.
Vikings 31, Bears 20
Week 7: vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Native American Jimmy Garoppolo and the “maybe we’re rebuilding but maybe we’re trying to compete” come to town in Week 7.
Josh Jacobs attacks the Bears’ scrappy defense, but Fields finds DJ Moore for two first-half touchdowns to keep things off balance. With the game tied in the fourth quarter, Fields hits Chase Claypool from 10 yards out to give the Bears the lead with 1:20 remaining.
Jaylon Johnson picks off Garoppolo for the win.
Bears 31, Raiders 24
Week 8: at Los Angeles Chargers (Sunday Night Football)
Justin vs. Justin on Sunday Night Football, what could be better?
For the Bears, it’s a lot of things.
New Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore opens playbook, Justin Herbert throws for 352 yards and four touchdowns as Bolts beat Bears.
Chargers, 35, Bears 20
Week 9: At New Orleans Saints
A 4-4 start to the season keeps the Bears alive in November, but a trip to the Bayou to face the first-place Saints won’t help their cause.
The Bears collapse under the deafening Superdome noise as Derek Carr throws touchdown passes to Michael Thomas, Chris Olave and Juwan Johnson to send the Bears home under .500 and lick their wounds.
Saints 30, Bears 16
Week 10: vs. Carolina Panthers (Thursday Night Football)
Al and Kirk return to Soldier Field for: Have You Got Any Regrets, sponsored by Future Capital Project.
The Bears turned down the opportunity to draft Bryce Young, opting to stick with Justin Fields and trade the No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for Moore and a pile of draft picks.
Young may eventually become special, but this Panthers team is not.
Yannick Ngakoue sacks Young twice, Kyler Gordon and JaQuan Brisker both have interceptions, and Moore hits his former team to the tune of seven catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
Bears 28, Panthers 13
Week 11: At Detroit Lions
Are lions real? We’ll find out.
Are they still better than the Bears? Undoubtedly.
David Montgomery rushes for 137 yards and two scores, Aidan Hutchinson sacks Fields twice, and the Bears fumble at Ford Field again.
Lions 34, Bears 20
Week 12: at Minnesota (Monday Night Football)
Amid a 2-4 stretch, the Bears need a win to stay afloat heading into the bye week.
Getting Kirk Cousins in prime time is the perfect elixir for an exhausted Bears defense.
Cousins throws three picks (Jackson, Gordon and Stevenson) while Fields throws 260 and rushes for another 80 in a convincing win.
Bears 30, Vikings 20
Week 13: Goodbye
Week 14: vs. Detroit Lions
A win over the Lions in Week 14 could guarantee the Bears a record of at least .500 in the division.
Not so fast.
Jahmyr Gibbs and Jameson Williams blitz the Bears’ defense as the Lions lead by 14 points at halftime.
But there’s no quit in bears.
Fields hits Cole Kimmitt and Darnell Mooney for touchdowns in the second half to tie the game at 24.
However, Lions quarterback Jared Goff would bring it back by driving a seven-minute drive in the fourth quarter that ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Gibbs to regain the lead.
The Bears offense gets the ball with one last chance to tie the game and send it to overtime. A big completion by DJ Moore puts the Bears in the red zone, but Jack Campbell picks off Fields in the end zone to end the comeback bid.
Lions 31, Bears 24
Week 15: At Cleveland Browns
Justin Fields’ first career start quickly turned into a nightmare two years ago in Cleveland. Fields was sacked nine times as coach Matt Nagy failed to adjust the game plan to keep the rookie quarterback upright.
The Bears’ offensive line, whatever it looked like in Week 15, isn’t doing much better this time around.
Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith combine for five sacks, and Nick Chubb runs for 200 yards as the Browns tackle the Bears.
Browns 30, Bears 20
Week 16: vs. Cardinals
Will new coach Jonathan Gannon have the fire in his belly to play Kyler Murray and risk ruining his chance at Caleb Williams? I doubt it.
Roshon Johnson rushes for 105 yards, Fields throws three touchdown passes (Kmitt, Mooney, Claypool) as the Bears snap a two-game skid.
Bears 27, Cardinals 13
Week 17: vs. Falcons
The Falcons are a trendy pick to win the NFC South this season. I’m not sure I think so, but their young offensive weapons and improved defense will make life tough for the Bears on New Year’s Eve.
Bijan Robinson opens the game with a 75-yard touchdown run, and a back-and-forth affair begins.
Both offenses traded shots, and the game was tied at 27 midway through the fourth quarter.
On third-and-7 from midfield, Jervon Dexter broke out and fired a clean shot past Desmond Rieder. But the Falcons’ young quarterback slides free and finds Drake London for a 33-yard gain.
Four plays later, Raider broke contain again, this time tackling Jack Sanborn before rushing into the end zone from 6 yards out to give Atlanta the lead.
Fields’ desperation radiates from the Falcons’ 40-yard line as time expires to eliminate the Bears from playoff contention.
Falcons 34, Bears 27
Week 18: At Green Bay Packers
Although the Bears have been eliminated from playoff contention, this game gets Sunday night treatment, as the Packers need a win to secure the division title over the Lions.
Manipulating events is all the Bears have left, but Jordan Love is sharper this time.
Love throws three touchdown passes, including the go-ahead hit to Romeo Dobbs with 1:11 remaining.
Fields hits Kmet and Mooney on big plays to get the Bears into Packers territory, but Robert Tonyan drops a pass on fourth-and-6 to end the game and the season.
Packers 27, Bears 24
Predicted record: 7-10
I can already hear everyone screaming, but this is a 125 percent improvement over last season.
The Bears should be more competitive, and I think they will win games they would have lost last season. Fields will take a few steps forward as a passer, throwing for 3,400 yards and 25 touchdowns, but the offensive line will be a constant problem, and the defense will struggle to get stops.
A quick start in the first five games is vital if the Bears want to have any hope of competing for a spot in the playoffs this fall.
A 3-2 record in their first five games should allow them to survive a tough midseason stretch that includes four road games in five weeks.
If the Bears don’t regress through the middle portion of the season, they will emerge from the bye week with a manageable stretch of games and a chance to sneak into the playoffs. But they’ll need the fields to be great, not great, for that to happen.
This list still has several shortcomings that will be difficult to cover up.
A 7-10 record with positive development from Fields is a win, but the Packers winning the division would make it less sweet.
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