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Schrock's game-by-game predictions for Bears' 2024 season after NFL schedule release

Can Caleb Williams lead the Bears to the playoffs in his rookie season?

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The long wait finally ended Wednesday when the NFL officially released the entire schedule for the 2024 season, including the path Caleb Williams will have to travel in a highly-anticipated rookie season.

The Bears are projected to face the third-easiest schedule, but the NFL season never goes according to plan. A handful of teams always surprise, and a few expected contenders flop for one reason or another.

Williams and the Bears have cross-division matchups with the AFC South and NFC West. They will also see the New England Patriots, Washington Commanders, and Carolina Panthers, all of whom finished last in their respective divisions in 2023.

We have the opponents and the cadence now, which means it's time for way-too-early predictions for the Bears' 2024 season.

Here are my game-by-game predictions for the Bears' 2024 season after the schedule release. (Editor's note: Author is not liable for predictions made in mid-May.)

Week 1: vs. Tennessee Titans

The Caleb Williams era will get a soft launch as Will Levis, Brian Callahan, and the rebuilding Tennessee Titans visit Soldier Field to open the season.

The Titans signed Calvin Ridley in the offseason and replaced Derrick Henry with Tony Pollard. But they also downgraded at head coach by letting go of Mike Vrabel. Callahan could wind up being a good head coach, but the Bears will get him and a young, unproven quarterback right out of the gates.

Tennessee's defense ranked 17th last season in total defense and 18th in pass defense. But the Titans added cornerbacks L'Jarius Sneed and Chidobie Awuzie, as well as linebacker Kenneth Murray this offseason, so their defense should have more teeth in 2024.

That being said, the Bears need to open the season with a win against a team expected to be among the NFL's worst in 2024.

Williams throws for 290 yards and two touchdowns, and Kyler Gordon picks off Levis in a sweat-free win.

Bears 24, Titans 13

Week 2: at Houston Texans (SNF)

The NFL world at large gets its first view of Williams on the big stage in Week 2 against one of the quarterbacks Chicago could have drafted at No. 1 a year earlier in C.J. Stroud.

Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans is a great defensive mind, and he'll have some different looks for Williams in his first road start.

Will Anderson and Danielle Hunter combine for four sacks while Stroud throws touchdown passes to Stefon Diggs, Nico Collins, and Dalton Schultz in a convincing win for the Texans.

Texans 24, Bears 14

Week 3: at Indianapolis Colts

Williams' second road start goes much better than his first.

The Bears' offense gets going against a Colts defense with some holes in the secondary. Williams throws for 332 yards and three touchdowns (Rome Odunze, Cole Kmet, DJ Moore), and the Bears defense holds Anthony Richardson to 185 yards passing to move to 2-1.

Bears 27, Colts 16

Week 4: vs. Los Angeles Rams

Williams and the Bears get the gift of missing the recently retired Aaron Donald. But unfortunately, an early-season tilt with the Rams likely means a healthy Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua, and Kyren Willaims.

The Rams' offense was a top-five unit in the NFL last season when all four were healthy, and that's bad news for an ascending Bears' defense with some defensive line holes.

Stafford and Williams trade blows all day along the lakefront, but the Rams veteran hits Nacua for a go-ahead touchdown with 1:17 to play in the fourth quarter.

Williams' first game-winning drive attempt flops as his pass on fourth-and-7 from the Bears' 40-yard line falls incomplete. Despite the loss, it's an encouraging day for Williams, as the rookie throws for 297 yards and two scores in the defeat.

Rams 27, Bears 24

Week 5: vs. Carolina Panthers

The Bears defense suffocated the Panthers' hapless offense last season on the lakefront, and this year is no different.

Jaylon Johnson and Tremaine Edmunds both pick off Bryce Young, while DJ Moore racks up 145 yards in a blowout win, causing David Tepper to toss multiple drinks in disgust.

Bears 27, Panthers 10

Week 6: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (in London)

The Bears make their first trip across the pond since 2019, and this one goes about as well as the last one did.

Williams throws two picks, and the Bears struggle to stop Trevor Lawrence (three total TDs, 313 yards passing) in a disappointing trip to London.

Jaguars 30, Bears 21

Week 7: Bye

The plus side of the London game is that the Bears don't have to wait until Week 13 for their bye this season.

Week 8: at Washington Commanders

Williams and the Bears exit the bye week and head to the DMV for a tilt with No. 2 overall pick Jayden Daniels and the new-look Commanders.

Head coach Matt Eberflus' defense suffocates Daniels from the opening kick, including a strip-sack scoop-and-score by T.J. Edwards.

On offense, Williams shows out in his hometown, throwing for three first-half touchdowns and 366 yards to win NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Bears 28, Commanders 13

Week 9: at Arizona Cardinals

The Bears dominated the Cardinals last season, and they pen the sequel in a Week 9 tilt in the desert.

Tyrique Stevenson and T.J. Edwards both pick off Kyler Murray, and D'Andre Swift rushes for 145 yards and two scores in an easy win.

Bears 24, Cardinals 13

Week 10: vs. New England Patriots

The Bears get their first look at No. 3 overall pick Drake Maye in Week 10. It's Maye's second start of the season, and while the North Carolina product has his moments (255 yards, two TDs), he also throws two interceptions.

Unfortunately for the Bears, Williams is also loose with the football in a sloppy effort on the lakefront.

Williams is picked off by Christian Gonzalez and stripped by Matthew Judon as the two teams enter the fourth quarter tied at 14.

But Maye's second interception of the day is costly, as Jaquan Brisker picks off the rookie and returns the ball inside the Patriots' 20-yard line.

D'Andre Swift cashes it in three plays later with an 11-yard run, and the Bears escape with a needed win.

Bears 21, Patriots 14

Week 11: vs. Green Bay Packers

The first battle of the Caleb Williams-Jordan Love era of the Bears-Packers rivalry lives up to the hype at Soldier Field.

Love and the Packers take a 17-14 lead into halftime after Love hits Dontayvion Wicks for a 29-yard touchdown right before the break.

But Williams responds out the half by engineering a 10-play, 72-yard drive, capped off by a 13-yard strike to Keenan Allen to put the Bears back in front.

Another Love touchdown pass, this time to Jayden Reed, gives the Packers a 24-20 lead entering the fourth.

The two teams trade punts to open the final stanza before Williams marches the Bears 78 yards in the final 6:12, hitting Kmet for a 7-yard score with 1:11 remaining to take the lead.

But Love has enough time left to march the Packers into field goal range, and Anders Carlson drills a 46-yarder to send the game into overtime.

The Bears get the ball first in overtime, but the drive stalls out, and Tory Taylor pins the Packers deep in their own territory. But the Bears' defense can't make the big play to get Williams the ball back, as Love hits Luke Musgrave for a big gain into Bears territory to set up a game-winning field goal from Carlson.

Packers 30, Bears 27 (OT)

Week 12: vs. Minnesota Vikings

The Bears don't let the Packers beat them twice as they quickly bounce back against a Vikings team breaking in rookie quarterback J.J. McCarthy.

Eberflus' defense holds McCarthy to 157 yards passing, and Williams does just enough against Brian Flores' blitz-happy scheme to get the win.

Bears 17, Vikings 6

Week 13: at Detriot Lions (Thanksgiving)

The Lions are the class of the NFC North, but the Bears have played them well over the past two seasons and match up well with their division rival.

Detroit invested heavily in its secondary this offseason, but rookie cornerback Terrion Arnold has a tough day against Moore, Allen, and Odunze as Williams throws for 312 yards and two touchdowns.

But Ben Johnson and the Lions' offense have just a little bit too much for the Bears' defense to handle this time around. Jared Goff throws three touchdown passes while Chicago's defensive line fails to register a sack in the loss.

Lions 24, Bears 20

Week 14: at San Francisco 49ers

A late-season measuring-stick game arrives in Week 14 as the Bears travel to Santa Clara to face the NFC champion 49ers.

Williams acquits himself well against San Francisco's physical defense, but Kyle Shanahan and Brock Purdy toy with the Bears' defense and roar out to an early 14-point lead.

Williams brings the Bears all the way back in the second half, tying the game with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Gerald Everett with 2:28 remaining.

But that's too much time for Purdy, who hits Brandon Aiyuk for a 27-yard gain to get into field goal range. Jake Moody drills the 41-yard game-winner, but the Bears leave San Francisco believing they are on the right track.

49ers 31, Bears 28

Week 15: at Minnesota Vikings (Monday Night Football)

The Bears and Vikings play another ugly game on Monday night football. But Minnesota gets the better of this muck fest.

Flores' defense forces two turnovers while Aaron Jones racks up 154 yards and two scores on the ground to lead Minnesota to a narrow win.

Vikings 20, Bears 17

Week 16: vs. Detroit Lions

Riding a three-game losing streak, the Bears face a gut-check game in mid-December against the Lions.

Eberflus' defense suffocates the Lions' offense and Williams authors one of his best games of the season, throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns in a win that stabilizes the Bears' playoff hopes.

Bears 24, Lions 13

Week 17: vs. Seattle Seahawks (Thursday Night Football)

The Shane Waldron Bowl arrives a day after Christmas, but the day belongs to defense in a snowy affair at Soldier Field.

Eberflus and Mike Macdonald's units stymy Williams and Geno Smith for most of the afternoon, but a fourth-quarter strip sack by Montez Sweat sets the Bears up with a short field, and Swift plows in from 8 yards out to give the Bears a hard-fought win that keeps their playoff hopes alive.

Bears 17, Seahawks 13

Week 18: at Green Bay Packers

The Bears arrive at Lambeau Fields at 9-7, likely needing a win to secure a wild-card spot. Perhaps the Packers will already have the division locked up and have nothing to play.

But it's never that easy.

Williams throws three touchdown passes, and the Bears lead 21-20 midway through the fourth quarter.

The Bears need one stop to potentially ice the game, but Love mounts a surgical drive that takes 6:45 off the clock and ends with a 12-yard pass to Tucker Kraft with 1:26 remaining. The Packers get the two-point conversion to make it a seven-point game.

Williams connects with Allen and Moore on back-to-back plays to open the drive, getting the Bears into Green Bay territory. Another 13-yard pass to Cole Kmet gets the Bears down to the 31-yard line with 19 seconds remaining.

Williams has three shots at the end zone, but none connect, as Jaire Alexander breaks up the final attempt ticketed for Moore, ending the Bears' season with another Lambeau loss.

Packers 28, Bears 21

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