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Columnist
No matter how you cut it, looks like nothing better than .500
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 9/8/2010 12:00 AM

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Upon further review and after a game-by-game evaluation of the schedule, the Bears still look like an 8-8 team.

Based on the 2009 records of their opponents, the Bears' schedule is tied for the 14th-most difficult in the league. Eight games, including the final four, are against teams that made the playoffs last season.

After Sunday's season opener against the Detroit Lions, Lovie Smith's team faces a tough three-game stretch: traveling to Dallas to meet the Cowboys, hosting the Green Bay Packers on a Monday night, then heading east on short rest to face the New York Giants.

After that, there are four straight very winnable games: at Carolina, home against Seattle and Washington and then up to Toronto to face the Buffalo Bills.

But it still ends up looking like a .500 season.

Sept. 12 vs. Detroit (W, 1-0)

The Lions are better than they've been the past two years, when they won a total of two games. But they're still a long way from good. If the Bears can't win this one at home, they may as well mail in the rest of the season, and everyone in the front office and on the coaching staff should start updating their resumes.

Sept. 19 at Dallas (L, 1-1)

The Cowboys are considered a serious Super Bowl contender; the Bears aren't. If the Bears can't block Kamerion Wimbley, they don't have much chance of keeping DeMarcus Ware off Jay Cutler. On paper the Bears' defense may not be able to handle the Cowboys' multifaceted running and passing attacks.

Sept. 27 vs. Green Bay (L, 1-2)

Prime-time Monday nighter against the Packers looks like a mismatch, even if it's at Soldier Field. But the Bears did play the Pack tough twice last year, losing 21-15 and 21-14, and Green Bay's offensive tackles and cornerbacks are ancient.

Oct. 3 at N.Y. Giants (L, 1-3)

A short week after a Monday night game and a road trip to the East Coast for a Sunday night clash adds up to a third straight loss. The Giants have a defensive line that would challenge a great O-line, and the Bears' line isn't great.

Oct. 10 at Carolina (W, 2-3)

In a virtual must-win game, the Bears get back on track by topping Julius Peppers' old team, which realizes how much it misses him.

Oct. 17 vs. Seattle (W, 3-3)

The Seahawks will be better under Pete Carroll, but after a combined 9 wins in two years, they've got a long way to go, a weak group of receivers and very mediocre line play on both sides.

Oct. 24 vs. Redskins (W, 4-3)

Misguided owner Daniel Snyder finally hired the right coach in Mike Shanahan. Now Shanahan just has to find a way to motivate the 350 pounds of dead weight he inherited in Albert Haynesworth and infuse some youth into an overaged roster.

Nov. 7 at Buffalo in Toronto (W, 5-3)

The streak goes on, as the Bears get a break in the schedule against a bad team, which won't have much of a homefield edge since the game is north of the border.

Nov. 14 vs. Minnesota (L, 5-4)

The Vikings aren't nearly as dangerous as they were last year because they lost free-agent running back Chester Taylor to the Bears, and wide receiver Sidney Rice, Brett Favre's go-to guy, is out for at least half the season. But they're still pretty strong throughout.

Nov. 18 at Miami (L, 5-5)

Bears fans who travel to this one might enjoy the weather in South Florida but not the outcome Thursday night in prime time.

Nov. 28 vs. Philadelphia (W, 6-5)

The Bears have home field plus an extra three days' rest to prepare for a declining Eagles team coming off a division game vs. the Giants.

Dec. 5 at Detroit (W, 7-5)

This one will be tougher than the opener, but the Bears should still be playing for something, and they've outscored the Lions 71-30 in the last two games at Ford Field.

Dec. 12 vs. Patriots (L, 7-6)

This is not a typical Super Bowl-contending Patriots team, but it's still a good playoff bet.

Dec. 20 at Minnesota (L, 7-7)

Monday nighter is the third straight home game for the Vikings, where they have beaten the Bears three straight, including a combined score of 70-24 in the last two.

Dec. 26 vs. New York Jets (W, 8-7)

I'm not on board the Jets' Super Bowl Bandwagon that is so popular, plus they'll be coming off road trips to New England and Pittsburgh sandwiched around an AFC East home game vs. Dolphins leading up to this one.

Jan. 2 at Green Bay (L, 8-8)

They can hope the Packers will have clinched a playoff berth and will rest starters, but it won't matter.

rlegere@dailyherald.com