But maybe things aren’t going to be as difficult as once imagined.
Warren Sharp of the aptly named SharpFootballState.com calculated the strength of schedule of each NFL team based on win totals set by Las Vegas oddsmakers. The concept is as simple as taking a team’s opponents and calculating the win totals for those teams to give an idea of what a team’s strength of schedule could look like in 2018. I suppose it might even provide a more accurate reading than simply looking at 2017 won-loss records from 2017.
Based on Sharp’s calculations, the Bears’ strength of schedule is 18th. Not quite what one would expect after a last-place finish that should have resulted in an easier schedule than the one the team has on its plate this year, but it’s firmly in the middle of the pack. Could be better, but it could be much worse.
First-year head coach Matt Nagy will certainly have his share of mountains to climb in 2018. His team will square off against six top-10 opponents this season, which is tied with nine teams (Cardinals, Bills, Panthers, Lions, Chiefs, Vikings, Saints, Redskins) for the most in football. And only the Vikings will face more top-5 opponents than the Bears in the year to come.
It’s important the Bears get off to a good start, as five of the team’s final seven games are against teams on the “harder” end of the spectrum and includes four projected top-10 squads. A surprisingly strong start to the season could mitigate some concerns about the dregs of a potential late-season slump. And if they don’t … yikes.
On the bright side, the Chicago will face six bottom-10 opponents in 2018. Games against the Cardinals, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Jets, Bills, and Giants present an opportunity for the Bears to make hay against some of the league’s bottom feeders. And as fate would have it, nine of the Bears’ first 12 opponents are graded as “easier” on this particular grading scale. That group includes all six of the teams projected to be in the bottom-10. So it’s not as if the Bears won’t have ample opportunity to catch some good vibes early.
As Bears luck would have it, the Packers are tied with the Jets with the sixth easiest strength of schedule. Go figure. The Packers start their season with bottom-10 teams in three of its first four games, while the second eight-game half of the team’s schedule features four bottom-10 teams – including three listed among the bottom five. And if you want to find yourself even more annoyed, Green Bay plays more bottom-10 opponents (7) than Chicago (7) in 2018.
One of those bottom-10 teams is *sigh* the Bears.
The Texans and Patriots have the easiest strength of schedules, while the Jaguars, Raiders, and Chargers round out the top-5. It’s notable that each of the five easiest schedules (and 13 of the 16, if we want to look even deeper) belong to AFC teams. It’s as if Vegas’ oddsmakers see the NFC as stacked bunch.
Hey, no one said the road to rebuilding a competitive team was going to be easy.