The strength of the teams on the schedule is always hard to predict. But if the teams are as good — or close to as good — as most expect, the placement of three home games could ultimately be important for the Bears.
While “Bear weather” is kind of a silly term, there is truth to the fact that a lot of warm weather teams just don’t handle the cold and windy weather that tends to hit Chicago late in the season. At least part of the reason the Bears were able to thoroughly handle the Rams last year is because they didn’t want to be there. And who could forget the Josh McCown game against the Cowboys in 2013 or Michael Vick desperate to be ANYWHERE else in mid-aughts?
This year, three of the Bears five non-division home games are against warm weather teams: the LA Chargers, New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys. The last two could significantly impact playoff seeding.
Drew Brees’ struggles in cold weather have been well-chronicled and there’s no real reason to think that won’t continue as he ages. Shoulder issues early in his career impacted his arm strength and sometimes he struggles in just a brisk wind. That game won’t even have to be in prime time to impact Brees, as long as it isn’t in September. The splits will tell you that Phil Rivers and Dak Prescott actually play well in cold weather, but those don’t define cold adequately. Prescott has thrown nine touchdowns and zero interceptions in sub-40 degree weather over the last two years while Rivers has a career record of 8-4.
But who in Chicago considers 40 degrees to be cold? That would be a wonderful November or December night in this part of the country. Take warm weather players — not just quarterbacks — and put them in wind chills below zero and they’re going to struggle just to breath, much less play football.
In the case of the Cowboys and Saints, two division winners a year ago, that could prove crucial for playoff seeding. The Cowboys have always been in contention when they’ve had Prescott and Zeke Elliott together and the Saints have been serious Super Bowl contenders the last two years. If the schedule breaks right for the Bears, they can get one or both of them in Chicago in December and then again in January.
For any of this to matter, of course, the Bears have to be good. Both the Cowboys and the Saints won their last December games in Chicago, but that was during the 2014 season, which we all promised to never speak of again.
If the schedule makers want to be more difficult on the Bears, they’ll schedule the Saints, Cowboys and Chargers for earlier in the season. The Bears will still have home field advantage in those games, but it won’t be nearly what it could be.