There’s no denying that the Bears’ second-half schedule is more challenging than their first eight opponents — at least on paper.
But each of the top six teams in the NFC also face a tough homestretch based on their opponents’ records, with the exception of the 7-0 Atlanta Falcons, who have a virtual cakewalk to the NFC South championship.
The Bears will have a more difficult time. Even if you include Sunday’s meeting with the 3-5 Tennessee Titans in Nashville, the Bears’ final nine opponents have an impressive combined winning percentage of .586 (41-29). The Falcons’ final nine foes are a combined 27-38 (.415).
At the other end of the spectrum are the Minnesota Vikings, who could be on the verge of a breakdown. Their last eight opponents have a combined winning percentage of .633 (38-22). They must play the Bears and Packers twice each and the 6-1 Texans in Houston.
After the Vikings, the Bears have the toughest schedule, on paper, among the top contenders. But, upon further review, the Bears’ slate might not be as difficult as it appears. Two of the games are against the 5-3 Vikings, who have benefited from an easy early schedule and have been exposed in recent weeks against better competition.
Double-digit losses to the sub-.500 Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Bucs in the past three weeks don’t bode well for Minnesota’s final two months. Five of the Vikings’ last eight games are on the road.
For now, the Bears insist they’re focused on the present and not looking ahead to their next two games — at home against the 6-1 Texans and on the road against the 6-2 San Francisco 49ers, both in prime time.
“I don’t look ahead,” cornerback Tim Jennings said. “I just look at the team that we’re playing. Of course we check the schedules out, but we know it’s (always) going to be a tough one. This is the NFL. We don’t take anybody for granted. Any team could have a lights-out game on that Sunday.”
The Bears found that out last week when they barely escaped against the last-place Carolina Panthers.
“We had a 1-5 team that came in here and played pretty good football,” coach Lovie Smith said. “If you’re a true pro, you don’t get into (looking past a team). Y’all talk an awful lot about letdowns and things like that, but for us, I just think you look at what happened to us last week.
“I know who we play this week, and I know who’s coming up, but as far as the order, we can’t look at that.”
For now, the Bears say the Titans have their complete attention.
“We know our division,” Jennings said. “We know who we have to play twice a year. But I know who’s coming next, and that’s Tennessee.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.