COMMENTARY | According to the NFL, in 2013 the Chicago Bears will play opponents with a 2012 combined record of 128-127-1 -- a .502 winning percentage, good for 16th out of the 32 clubs. On the surface, the Bears are facing what looks like middle-of-the-pack resistance on the road to Super Bowl XLVIII. While this may seem like easy pickings for a team coming off a 10-win season, the journey to Metlife Stadium isn't as easy as it appears.
Of the first nine teams the Bears will face, eight are led by franchise quarterbacks. The one exception -- Minnesota -- features reigning MVP Adrian Peterson. Make no mistake: the Bears are in for a bumpy ride this season. To help you make sense of their schedule, I will break the season down game by game, point out the key matchups and give you my prediction for how Chicago will fare.
Week 1: vs. Cincinnati
The Bengals' tandem of QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green are one of the best pairings in football, but the talent in other areas is thin. Also, who's going to cover Brandon Marshall?
Bears 31, Bengals 21
Week 2: vs. Minnesota
Adrian Peterson rushed for 224 yards and three touchdowns against the Bears ... in 2007, as a rookie. Six seasons later, the Vikings still lack an elite-level quarterback at the helm to oppose a Bears defense that got younger and faster at linebacker.
Bears 29, Vikings 24
Week 3: at Pittsburgh
Don't let the name fool you; these aren't the Steelers of championship lore. However, they are a better team than the Chicago Bears of present ... not to mention, Pittsburgh is a difficult place to win a game.
The Bears will battle valiantly but come up short in this early season key matchup.
Steelers 28, Bears 18
Week 4: at Detroit
Unless Calvin Johnson (aka Megatron) lines up at cornerback across from Brandon Marshall, the Lions have no real threat to stop No. 15 and thus, no real chance at winning this game.
Bears 28, Lions 21
Week 5: vs. New Orleans
Unless Mother Nature drops the temperature into the 30s or pours down rain, the Saints should have no problem outlasting the Bears in an offensive track meet.
Saints 31, Bears 21
Week 6: vs. N.Y. Giants
The second key matchup of the season, the Bears and Giants could be splitting images of each other. New York has Victor Cruz, Chicago has Brandon Marshall. The Giants feature Justin Tuck, the Bears have Julius Peppers.
Giants 17, Bears 14
Week 7: at Washington
In his first NFL start, mobile QB Colin Kaepernick led San Francisco to a 32-7 pasting of the Bears. With the backs, tight ends and receivers he's got, imagine what RG3 will do.
Redskins 29, Bears 18
Week 8: Bye.
Week 9: at Green Bay
The Bears will face the rival Packers in a key mid-season division matchup. Against Chicago, Aaron Rodgers is 8-2 with 19 touchdown passes and has a 102.7 QB rating. This is no longer a rivalry -- it's a domination.
Packers 31, Bears 19
Week 10: vs. Detroit
A dome team with only one real threat versus Chicago at home in November is the perfect way for the Bears to end a four-game skid.
Bears 25, Lions 13
Week 11: vs. Baltimore
No Ray Lewis. No Ed Reed. No Anquan Boldin. No problem, right? Well, there's lots of Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith and Terrell Suggs. Should be a brutal battle, but one Jay Cutler will win in the end for the home team.
Bears 24, Ravens 21
Week 12: at St. Louis
Steven Jackson is an Atlanta Falcon. The Rams' best receiver in 2012 -- Danny Amendola -- is a Patriot. St. Louis is a work in progress; the Bears won't care.
Bears 31, Rams 18
Week 13: at Minnesota
This game will be key as the 6-5 Bears make a push for one of two wild cards in the NFC. During the offseason, Minnesota shipped one of its key weapons -- Percy Harvin -- off to Seattle. Worse than that, Christian Ponder is still their quarterback.
Bears 24, Vikings 17
Week 14: vs. Cowboys
Yet another key matchup in what seems to be an annual late-season push for the playoffs ... for Dallas. QB Tony Romo carries a 13-17 record in the month of December. The Bears will host the Cowboys on Dec. 9. With a solid performance, RB Matt Forte can carry Chicago to victory.
Bears 24, Cowboys 14
Week 15: at Cleveland
What once was a proud franchise has been reduced to an also-ran. Forte and company should have big games against a Browns run defense which gave up 118.6 yards per game a year ago.
Bears 27, Browns 14
Week 16: at Philadelphia
NFL defenses will figure out Chip Kelly faster than the NCAA got to him. Expect a tough game from a motivated Eagles defense but a clunker from Eagles QB Nick Foles, subbing for the injured Michael Vick.
Bears 27, Eagles 21
Week 17: at Packers
Will this last key matchup lose some of its luster? Green Bay could rest its stars for the impending playoffs. There is a chance this happens, but Roger Goodell's move to have more division games toward the end of the season sure has paid off. Late-season contests have been a thrilling affair, and this should be no exception.
By this point in the year, the jury will be in on the Marc Trestman hire. If he and Cutler have worked out the inevitable kinks and have the Bears' offense humming by the time of this rematch, things could be interesting in Green Bay. But Rodgers and Packers coach Mike McCarthy are long past working out any kinks. Their successes and their cohesiveness are what Bears fans want for Cutler and Trestman.
Until Chicago's duo can prove its mettle, it's a safe bet to go with what works.
Packers 24, Bears 21
Doc Hopkins has followed Chicago sports for decades. He has worked in sports media over 10 years and has been published in the Chicago Tribune. Find him on Twitter @SupermanHopkins or leave him a comment below.
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