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Chicago Bears: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2021

Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

There's plenty of excitement surrounding rookie quarterback Justin Fields, but a difficult schedule tempers expectations for the Bears this season

The Chicago Bears limped into the 2020 playoffs, and unsurprisingly didn't stick around long, losing 21-9 in the Wild Card Round to New Orleans. Since then, the Bears seem to finally have their long-awaited franchise quarterback. But they've also lost key talent at crucial positions (wide receiver, cornerback, kick returner) and are dealing with uncertainty at others (backup running back, offensive line, pass rush) while also bringing a new defensive coordinator into the fold. More importantly, the Bears have a much more difficult schedule than they did last year.

The Bears' 14 opponents this season combined to win 124 games in 2020. Seven of those opponents were playoff teams in 2020, including the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears also will match up against the AFC North, which sent three of its four teams to the playoffs last year. New defensive coordinator Sean Desai's scheme will be tested early, and the Bears will play 17 games with the expanded schedule going into effect. It will be an interesting season.

Athlon Sports asked several experts to share their realistic win/loss projections for the Bears in 2021.

Chicago Bears: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2021

Chicago Bears: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2021

Gabe Salgado (@GabeSalgado82)
We all know that Justin Fields is going to be the starting quarterback, it's just a matter of when that will actually happen. If Matt Nagy doesn't pull Andy Dalton the moment he starts struggling, that's only going to hurt the Bears. The offensive line must stay healthy, and the Bears need their run game to be sound. And unless Sean Desai can resurrect the somewhat dormant Bears pass rush, it'll be a long season for the defense.

The difficult schedule certainly doesn't help, highlighted by a brutal five-game stretch from Weeks 6-11 with the bye (Week 10) mixed in. This team has more questions than answers at the moment. So unless they can prove me wrong, eight wins are reasonable.

Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
Justin Fields could be all that is advertised and more when he replaces Andy Dalton as the starting quarterback but it doesn't change the brutal schedule facing the Bears or cover up some of the glaring holes on this roster. Fields may become the starter sooner rather than later simply because the offensive line can't protect Dalton, who doesn't possess the same dual-threat ability as the rookie. And while the front seven for the Bears figures to be stout if not downright terrifying, the secondary leaves much to be desired. And the schedule? Matt Nagy may want to ask who he ticked off in the league office as the Bears face six playoff teams from last season on the road. In fact, Nagy needs Fields to show why he's the future face of the franchise because that will take some of the focus off of what will likely be his first losing season as a head coach.

Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)
Justin Fields might be the best quarterback the Bears have had in decades if not ever. But the thought of throwing him into the fire behind this banged-up offensive line is a bit scary. He already took a massive hit in the preseason, so Chicago will have to step up its protection.

Still, Fields represents the Bears' best chance to make a run at the playoffs. His dual-threat abilities should take pressure off David Montgomery and unlock Allen Robinson II and Darnell Mooney's full potential. Remember that Robinson has yet to play with an above-average quarterback in the NFL.

The pass rush remains stout, but the Bears have enough question marks in the secondary after the departure of Kyle Fuller that I find it unlikely they can make another surprise run at the playoffs. Unless Fields is up to speed quickly, the mid-season stretch vs. Green Bay, at Tampa Bay, vs. San Francisco, at Pittsburgh, and vs. Baltimore will be tough to overcome.