2017 Chicago Bears game-by-game predictions

Coach John Fox is on the hot seat after back-to-back last-place finishes in the NFC North. In fact, the Bears have occupied the division cellar since Marc Trestman's final season in 2014. The schedule makers did the Bears no favors with four quality opponents right out of the gate. Chicago must avoid a slow start -- which appears likely to happen -- otherwise the franchise could miss the postseason for the seventh straight year and 10 out of the past 11 seasons.

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 10 vs. Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. ET

The Falcons undoubtedly take a step back in 2017, but their high-powered offense is scary. The Bears seem a little better on defense but probably not enough to slow down Matt Ryan & Co. -- especially in warmer weather. Record: 0-1

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m. ET

Last November, Tampa Bay blew out the Bears 36-10 at Raymond James Stadium thanks to a boatload of Jay Cutler turnovers. Of course, Cutler is gone, and Mike Glennon is expected to start against his former team, but Tampa Bay has serious playoff aspirations. It should be a much closer game, but the Bucs right now have the superior roster. Record: 0-2

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 24 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m. ET

Pittsburgh is a machine. Since 2001, the Steelers have made the playoffs 11 times and won two Super Bowls. The Bears have reached the postseason four times over the same span. The Steelers, who advanced to the AFC Championship Game last year, are the easy pick if Ben Roethlisberger is healthy. Record: 0-3

Week 4: Thursday, Sept. 28 at Green Bay Packers, 8:25 p.m. ET

The Bears have played tough at Lambeau Field in recent years -- even winning on Thanksgiving night in Fox's first season. But Green Bay remains the team to beat in the NFC North. That won't change until that Aaron Rodgers guy retires. Although the short week could make the outcome closer than expected. Record: 0-4

Week 5: Monday, Oct. 9 vs. Minnesota Vikings, 8:30 p.m. ET

Minnesota was a huge disappointment in 2016. Until the Vikings solve their quarterback question -- the Teddy Bridegwater injury was unfortunate -- the Bears should split the season series and maybe even sweep it. Look for Chicago's first victory to occur in front of ESPN's Monday night audience. Record: 1-4

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 15 at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. ET

The Ravens haven't reached the postseason since 2014, but went 6-2 at home last year. The smart money is on John Harbaugh's team making the playoffs after the two-year drought. That does not bode well for the Bears. Record: 1-5

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 22 vs. Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. ET

Don't expect the Panthers' Super Bowl runner-up hangover to last another year. Carolina predictably struggled in 2016 after their championship game loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, but as long as Cam Newton is healthy, the Panthers are positioned to bounce back. Record: 1-6

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 29 at New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m. ET

The Superdome is tough on visitors. Even when the Bears were pretty good in 2011, the Saints won easily when they squared off in New Orleans. It's difficult to pick against Drew Brees when he's at home. Record: 1-7

Week 9: Bye

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12 vs. Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. ET

These games in Chicago have been competitive. However, Rodgers has a new weapon in tight end Martellus Bennett making an already dangerous offense even more difficult for the Bears to contain. But, the Bears should be in good shape with extra time to prepare. Record: 2-7

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 19 vs. Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. ET

The Bears won at Soldier Field last season, and there's no reason to think that can't happen again. On paper, Detroit made several positive moves in free agency. But the Lions are still the Lions. The Bears are good for a split -- no matter how glum the outlook is for 2017. Record: 3-7

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 26 at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET

It is safe to assume Alshon Jeffery has this one circled on the calendar. The Eagles clobbered the Bears at Soldier Field last year, and quarterback Carson Wentz is only expected to get better in season two. Jeffery (if healthy) will be looking for payback after Chicago made almost no effort to re-sign him in free agency. Record: 3-8

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 3 vs. San Francisco 49ers, 1 p.m. ET

The Niners have become the Cleveland Browns of the West Coast. The Bears crushed the 49ers 26-6 in sloppy conditions at Soldier Field in 2016. Chicago won't need a scouting report on new San Francisco quarterback Brian Hoyer, since he just played for the Bears. Record: 4-8

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 10 at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. ET

The Bears figure to win at least one road game. And Cincinnati looks kind of vulnerable after it slipped to 6-9-1 last season. Don't be surprised if Mike Glennon outduels Andy Dalton and leads the Bears to victory. Record: 5-8

Week 15: Saturday, Dec. 16 at Detroit Lions, 4:30 p.m. ET

The Bears consistently find ways to lose at Ford Field. There's something weird about that place. The Bears have dropped five of their past six in Detroit. This doesn't feel like the year Chicago reverses the trend. Record: 5-9

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 24 vs. Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET

There is no way Fox's team comes up short at home in back-to-back years to Jacksonville and Cleveland. Right? The playoffs are probably a pipe dream at this point, but the Bears still have to play for pride. You can't lose to the Browns. Record: 6-9

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31 at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET

This one can go either way. The Vikings still have a good defense, and coupled with being at home, gives them a slight edge over the Bears. The loss benefits the Bears in the long run in terms of draft position in 2018. Record: 6-10