Chicago Sun-Times

Final four: Bears to play all teams in championship games, but have easiest schedule

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PITTSBURGH--How is this for a 2009 schedule?

The Bears are the only team in the NFL that will play all four teams from the championship games next season.

They will host Arizona, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and travel to Baltimore, ensuring the Bears will face the Super Bowl XLIII champion. Unless Joe Flacco can become the first rookie to win four playoff games, it will be a home game against the defending champions.

But that is about as hard as the Bears' 2009 schedule gets. Get this: Thanks to some math by John Clayton over at ESPN, ESPN.com and every other four-letter media platform that he appears on, we've determined that the Bears have the NFL's easiest schedule for 2009. Although the Bears will have seven games vs. 2008 playoff teams (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Minnesota, counting the Vikings twice) they only have seven games against teams that finished above .500. It's the same seven opponents.

According to Clayton, the combined 2008 record of the Bears' opponents is an underwhelming 105-149-2, a .414 opponent winning percentage. Minnesota has the next easiest schedule in the league at .420 and Green Bay has the third-easiest schedule at .428.

It's a product of not only having the winless Detroit Lions in the division and counting them twice, it's because the NFC North faces the AFC North and NFC West. That means dates with Cleveland (4-12), Cincinnati (4-11-1), St. Louis (2-14) and Seattle (4-12).

*** Caught up with Pittsburgh backup quarterback Byron Leftwich after the Steelers' win over San Diego Sunday night. He said he thought the Bears were going to draft him with the fourth overall pick in 2003 before they dealt that selection to the New York Jets a week before the draft. Leftwich will be a free agent and said the Bears are an interesting team, one that he would consider. Of course, his first choice is to find a situation where he can win a starting job.

"Tell them to look me up,'' Leftwich said.

He would be an intriguing possibility if you believe he can stay healthy. He's looked good in limited time with Pittsburgh this season and has proven that he's over ankle injuries that plagued him the last two years. When you take a look at the list of free-agent quarterbacks, you can do a lot worse. Matt Cassel is going to be franchised and it's fair to assume the Bears will not be in play for Kurt Warner.

We'll be taking a look at other positions in free agency as the week moves along. We've already rolled out the lists of quarterbacks and wide receivers and will stay on the offensive side of the ball for now. But before that, later today we'll have another edition, well a second edition of Four Down Territory.

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15 Comments

The only free agent QB that makes sense is David Carr. He got a raw deal in Houston and hasn't had a chance in Carolina( hurt his back) and N.Y. He has a good arm and is pretty nimble. Leftwich is too slow, doesn't learn from his mistakes, and has only an aversge arm with a slow release,

Yeah i wouldn't want Leftwich either to be honest. I actually really hope the Bears don't sign any free agent QB's. Orton deserves one more shot at the job. I like Caleb Hanie and i think he can be a reliable back up given some more opportunity, especially now that he has a year practicing this offense under his belt (and it doesn't look like ron turner is going anywhere). If the bears sign any free agents, i think it should be Jeff Garcia, the guy is just a winner. he wins everywhere he goes.

Let the meaningless speculation begin. Until things shake down a bit more, I'm more interested in the Cubs and Blackhawks. I wonder a bit about what would have happened if the Bears had gotten Warner when they had the chance and wonder what wiil unfold in the Rex/Kyle scenario, but basically am willing to wait for some firm information.

man he does have a cannon of an arm though.. did you see that throw in the last minute or so downfield? a rocket!!

My only concern is if Orton gets hurt again is the season over? Quarterback is the hardest position to predict so it makes sense to get a guy like Garcia with a proven track record. If a young Mark Sanchez of USC or Matt Stafford of Georgia falls in your lap fine but at some point you have to develop the talent you already have. Caleb Hanie doesn't look bad he's just not ready to win consistantly in the NFL.

With the bears easy schedule of 2009 expectations will be very high for this team to make the playoffs and host at least one game at Soldier Field. Now that we have a solid defensive coaching team we should expect not just wins over the easy guys but to be competitive with the other playoff teams as well. That is the only way the bears will be considered a legitimate contender from the rest of the league. We definitely have to protect our home field, if another playoff team beats us at home we will have no respect.

I would like to see Carr or Alex Smith. Smith looked like he was going to be a star 2 years ago then he got hurt and lost his off. cord. Plus Pep Hamilton really likes him.

I don't think the answer for a starting QB is in free agency, the answer is on the roster, Kyle Orton is the Bears QB, now, as far as a backup, Angelo has to go the free agent route for a proven backup. I would still like to see how Caleb Hanie looks running the second team offense, but for insurance, someone proven as a backup wouldn't be a bad idea, my guess is still Patrick Ramsey, we'll just have to wait and see GO BEARS!!

Yo, if it's not the Bears then I'm rooting for the Ravens to take it all. Now there's a team that knows how to consistently play defense with fire and intensity. Legend has it Chicago used to be known for that. Sigh.

Brad, why do experts put any stock at all in strength of schedule? It doesn't mean a thing. The 2006 Bears were not the 2007 Bears, the '07 Seahawks were nothing close to the '08 Seahawks, the same can be said for the differences between the '07 Packers and '08 Packers who not only lost a whole bunch more, but had a change of face at QB. There are different players via FA, trades, drafts, and there are always outside factors like off-field incidents, injuries etc. Personally I would expect the Bungles and the Seahawks to improve on the return of injured personnel alone.

That being said, Leftwich would be a great acquisition to bring in. I don't think we'll get him or Garcia for they'd probably be picked up by more QB desperate teams like the Lions, Jets, Vikings, 49ers, (Panthers?), who would pretty much guarantee them a starting role. Carr, maybe. I don't know much about him. He's had a tough history and would be a gamble.

But a guy like Alex Smith, amidst what his personal cheerleader EstevenJ says (lol, just kidding esteven), wouldn't be of interest to me. I mean, the guy wanted to stay with San Fran. and take a pay cut. How much louder can you say, "I suck, but I still want to be paid a six/seven-figure salary!"?

Hey, anyone find it downright eerie how the Patriots, who lost their starting QB but still managed to go 11-5, missed the playoffs? Curse....CURSE!

I'm 50-50 on Leftwich. Yes he was a starter, but he has been injury prone and his release of the ball takes FOREVER. But hey anyone is better than Grossman. If Orton does go down, at least we will have someone with starting experience.

I know so many are high on Hanie, but he was playing against the 3's in preseason. Give him more time to develop and he may shock us, but now if we want to contend we need a capable back up.

If you look at that list of free gaent QB's we could do alot worse.

MAIN CONCERN of MINE is still WR. Can we get one? How good has Fitzgerald looked all season? We will never get him, but can we at least get someone with experience?

Angelo says you don't win with your receivers. I beg to differ when you look at the Arizona offense with Boldin and Fitz. That strikes fear in any team. Look at our team with Drops Davis and Booker..doesn't even strike fear in high school teams.

Anyways, GO BEARS.

Off course the bears dont need another qb, their just perfect with Orton because hes the best qb in the world. In fact, he will be at every pro-bowl from now on until he retires.

I do think we need a veteran on the roster to back-up Kyle and give him a real run for his money in camp next season, getting someone to come in with that understanding is key. anyone thinking going into next season with Hanie, who I like as the primary back-up is a great idea is not thinking about making a run to the playoffs. Kyle got hurt this year and having Grossman around at least made us some what competitive in the Titans game..do not expect much from Hanie and we might just like what we get in return. As for prospects I'd do with Garcia #1 proven winner, then I'd look at Leftwich- big arm, big heart, too big sometimes, but slow release, then Simms more upside than Carr to me....draft someone in round 3 also for more competition for Hanie as well....Really would like to get our hands on Anderson (trade) who can throw the ball down the field and help to spread the field for Forte underneath in the passing game also next season. Now for the schedule, every season it seems like the pronosticators say we play the weakest schedule, what teams did last year doesn't mean anything, its how they are playing this year, we were supposed to have a weak schedule this season, look at who we played, Carolina, Indy, Philly, ATL, Vikes, Titans, all in playoffs....Tampa 9 wins, Saints everyone's pick for playoffs .500, Texans .500, ....do not think we have a weak set-up next year the bottom line is wining football games and getting into the tournament...look the Cards are in the championship game at home no less, each year is different if we have taken care of business it might have been us, I like Clayton, but can care less what he or anyone else says about a schedule, most of these guys hate the BEARS anyway...so who cares what they think....Go BEARS in 09' maybe this year it our time....

It seems our schedule is easy every year since Lovie got here. I remember before that it seemed we had one of the toughest schedules almost every year. Some people say its better to be lucky than good. I'd rather be good. That's something you can be proud of. Being lucky is no accomplishment. It just happens. Some say luck is where preparation meets opportunity. No, being prepared is just smart thing to do. Its something everyone should do. You have to be dumb not to. Most opportunities are outside of your control. If you get one, its luck. A weak schedule is the opportunity now. Will we be prepared to take advantage of it? There's no history to think we will be. But I hope we are. I do believe that sometimes you can make your own luck. I guess Lovie does too. If we would have performed at or near our potential in 2008 I think we'd have a tougher schedule next season. Play like crap in 2008 for an easy 2009 schedule. Brilliant! Thanks Lovie!

Strength of schedule means very little, both for the reasons stated by Mike, and because good teams win regardless of whom they're playing and bad teams lose regardless. Only losers worry about strength of schedule. To the extent they care about it at all, winners welcome a hard schedule because it's more of a challenge.

The day I believe we have an "easy" schedule will be the day I see us schooling team after team after team. Until then, keep your stats to yourself and stop getting our hopes up. I love this team like my redneck dallas friend loves his cowboys (he named his son Tommy Landry)for God sakes. Though not sure if I'd name my son George Halas, but that's another conversation. I will remain a fan until I die, but I would simply love to see all these stats and Nostradamus predictions put away, and just let the teams prove to those that truly matter, (the fans) why they should remain their fans.
On another matter, I would love for this QB carousel to stop, I love Orton, I would love to see him as our permanent QB, but the reality of it is that Angelo won't commit, and that's all that can be done. I greatly fear that the Vikings with the check friendly owner (the Zogby Poll guy) are going to get Cassel, and knowing our luck get Ocho Cinco, Hush, and every other great player because he's like a drunk with his money. Angelo needs to pry open that wallet and get some of those great players who will help us instead of setteling for the table scraps. So here's my 10 cent proposal:

realese: Booker, Peterson, Vasher, R. Davis, Hillenmeyer, and although dreaming big here Babich, and

Sign/resign/trade for: Chad Johnson, or Hush, M. Brown (let the man be born a cub and die a Bear) also maybe David Carr, Haynesworth, and maybe, Sproles.

GO BEARS!!!!

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on January 12, 2009 6:04 AM.

It's official, Bears locked in with 18th pick in first round was the previous entry in this blog.

Four Down Territory, Jan. 12: Where does Hanie fit in? is the next entry in this blog.

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