The Chicago Bears will be tested early and often in 2017, but their strength of schedule might not be as bad as once thought:
Based on 2016 opponent winning percentage, the Denver Broncos (.578) have the toughest schedule and the Indianapolis Colts (.424) have the easiest. Somewhere in the middle tier is the Bears, whose opponent’s .479 winning percentage sits at 19th. Despite finishing last in the division in 2016, the Bears don’t have the easiest schedule among teams in the NFC North. That belongs to the Minnesota Vikings (.453) who are tied for 27th with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- One reason rookie safety Eddie Jackson is scheduled to start next to veteran Quintin Demps is because of high football IQ, writes Larry Mayer. John Fox and Vic Fangio raved about Jackson’s football intelligence, which he’ll need when attempting to defend a potent Falcons offense. It helps growing up in Nick Saban’s system, but Jackson has been guided by Demps, the team’s most experienced defensive back.
- Despite having Jackson’s football IQ and a schedule of opponents that seems favorable on paper, FiveThirtyEight paints a grim picture for the 2017 Bears. The site’s “Elo” ratings have the Bears being among the worst teams in the NFL. Only then Browns, 49ers, and Jaguars rank lower than the Bears – who have been given a less than 1 percent chance at winning the Super Bowl. Of course, projections aren’t always right and FiveThirtyEight hasn’t picked everything correctly. Maybe the Bears can buck some trends here.
- Chairman George McCaskey sat down with Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times, offering up his thoughts on the hype around Mitch Trubisky (which McCaskey believes is similar to that of what surrounded Rex Grossman when he was a first-round pick), how much time he’ll give GM Ryan Pace to rebuild a team that is 9-23 since he took over for Phil Emery, and expectations for the 2017 season. You’ll want to block some time off for this one.
- The Bears agreed to a two-week injury settlement with recently released outside linebacker Lamarr Houston, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. The two-week window suggests Houston could be healthy enough to sign on with another team relatively quickly.
- Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus dives into reviewing each of the 32 first-round picks from the 2017 NFL Draft. Monson noted that while Trubisky didn’t match his debut performance, he played well enough to make the quarterback derby more interesting than it was expected to be. Not bad work for a player saddled with third-stringers throughout the preseason.
- Hashtag emojis were all the rage last year in the NFL and are back for 2017. But something feels off about the Bears not using #BearDown. As it turns out, the Chicago Bears don’t on any rights on #BearDown or #GoBears, which are trademarked by the University of Arizona and Cal-Berkeley, respectively.
- Around the league, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald has ended his holdout and reported to the team. Donald, who was Pro Football Focus’ top-rated defensive player last year, has been hoping to receive a contract extension. For what it’s worth, the Rams would like to give him one, but the two sides were said to be far apart in negotiations. Donald passed his physical, but will not play in the team’s season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
- In case you missed it, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will be active for Week 1 and for the foreseeable future after a judge blocked the NFL’s six-game suspension stemming from a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy.