NFL Network predicts outcome of every Bears game in 2022

NFL Network’s Adam Rank is sharing his early game predictions for the Bears in 2022 – and his final record prediction might surprise you.

The Chicago Bears have a chance to surprise many critics heading into the 2022 season, where expectations are pretty low. So low, in fact, that some even believe Chicago will finish with the worst record in the NFL.

But the Bears do have a favorable schedule — one of the easiest in the league — so there are plenty of opportunities for wins on their 2022 slate. Although that doesn’t guarantee anything.

We shared our way-too-early game-by-game predictions for the Bears schedule back in May. Now, NFL Network’s Adam Rank, a noted Bears fan, is doing the same.

Here’s a look at how Rank sees each game shaking out for the Bears in 2022 — and it just might surprise you.

Every NFL team’s potential breakout player for the 2022 season

Our NFL Wire editors examined one potential breakout player for every team ahead of the 2022 season.

There’s no underestimating the transition from college football to the NFL, where it takes some players time to fully adjust to the size and speed of the pro game.

It’s why rookies rarely thrive and why we see some substantial jumps for young players over the course of a few years.

There are a number of players around the league who are primed to make a leap this season due to their situation and/or opportunity following what’s been a whirlwind of an NFL offseason, which has featured its share of change among NFL rosters.

From second-year quarterbacks to talented, young wideouts, our NFL Wire editors examined one player from every team poised for a breakout year in 2022.

Every NFL team’s potential breakout player for the 2022 season

Our NFL Wire editors examined one potential breakout player for every team ahead of the 2022 season.

There’s no underestimating the transition from college football to the NFL, where it takes some players time to fully adjust to the size and speed of the pro game.

It’s why rookies rarely thrive and why we see some substantial jumps for young players over the course of a few years.

There are a number of players around the league who are primed to make a leap this season due to their situation and/or opportunity following what’s been a whirlwind of an NFL offseason, which has featured its share of change among NFL rosters.

From second-year quarterbacks to talented, young wideouts, our NFL Wire editors examined one player from every team poised for a breakout year in 2022.

D’Andre Swift had the worst rushing average between the tackles of any RB in 2021

Swift is good at a lot of things but running up the middle isn’t one of them

D’Andre Swift is a valuable NFL running back, make no mistake about that. But like all players, the third-year Lions RB has his strengths and weaknesses.

One of Swift’s issues is running between the tackles. He’s not a physical runner despite being a well-built 211 pounds at 5-foot-9, his Lions listings. Swift also needs some space to use his quickness and burst, and that just doesn’t come easily in the middle of the field.

He really struggled to make things happen between the tackles in 2021. In fact, no RB averaged less yards per carry up the middle than Swift did. Among the 33 RBs with at least 53 attempts, Swift’s 3.0 YPC was the worst. He’s over two full yards behind the No. 2 man on the list, Denver’s Melvin Gordon.

The leaderboard and bottom of the ladder, from NFL Inside Edge:

Don’t blame the Lions’ blocking, either. Both Jamaal Williams and Craig Reynolds averaged over 4.1 YPC up the middle for Detroit in 2021.

Finding where Swift wins and succeeds and putting him in more of those situations is another way the Lions can upgrade an offense that finished 25th in scoring and 22nd in yardage.

So where does Swift thrive as a runner? Look to his left…

Chart from NFL Inside Edge

3-and-out: A concept the Lions defense needs to embrace

No defense forced a lower rate of 3-and-outs from the opposing offense in 2021 than the Detroit Lions, and it wasn’t even close

The Detroit Lions defense was one of the most generous to opposing offenses in 2021. Coordinator Aaron Glenn’s unit allowed 476 points, the second-most in the entire NFL. Only the New York Jets (507) gave up more points last season.

Among the many reasons for the struggles and prodigious point total allowed is an inability to get off the field. The Lions really struggled to create 3-and-outs on defense. Between poor pressure on the opposing QB, too many missed tackles and leaky coverage over the middle of the field by the injury-ravaged unit, teams kept on driving against Detroit.

The NFL average for forcing 3-and-outs (three offensive plays followed by a punt or field goal attempt) is just over 20 percent. The 2021 Lions weren’t even close to that mark.

Detroit came in dead last in forcing 3-and-outs in both quantity and percentage of opposing drives. The Lions couldn’t even crack 15 percent at just 14.1%. The next-worst team was Minnesota at 16.8 percent.

Graphic courtesy of NFL Inside Edge

The Lions actually had games where the defense did not force a single 3-and-out. The most they forced in a game was four in the overtime tie with Pittsburgh, albeit in 14 Steelers drives. The defense managed just one 3-and-out drive in the first half of the game in the first six weeks, a definite contributing factor to the winless start.

It got progressively worse in the second half of games, amazingly enough. From NFL Inside Edge,

One of the corollary effects of the defense struggling to get off the field quickly is the rest it allows the opposing defense. Being able to force a quick punt after the offense just went on a long scoring drive is a fantastic way for the Lions offense to keep playing downhill. That needs to happen more in 2022.

Bears are the worst team in the NFL, per ESPN’s FPI rankings

The Bears are the worst team in the NFL, according to ESPN’s FPI rankings. Hello No. 1 overall pick?

While there’s not a lot of confidence in the Chicago Bears heading into the 2022 season, they have a favorable schedule that should at least save them from being the worst team in the league, right? Apparently not.

According to ESPN’s Football Power Index rankings, the Bears are the worst team in the NFL heading into 2022. When breaking things down, Chicago’s offense ranks 31st — better than only the Atlanta Falcons — while the defense is 30th in the league.

The Bears have a 14% chance to land the No. 1 overall pick, according to ESPN’s FPI rankings. That’s tied for the highest odds with the New York Jets with the Houston Texans (11%), Jacksonville Jaguars (9%) and Falcons (9%) behind them.

Given the concerns on offense, it’s not surprising to see the Bears rated among the worst in the NFL. Especially with questions about how Justin Fields will be impacted in all of this. But considering the moves made on defense this offseason — including the additions of rookies Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker — it’s surprising to find Chicago ranked 30th, even if they did lose Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks.

Here’s what ESPN had to say:

ESPN’s FPI is down on Justin Fields after a pretty brutal rookie season in which he finished with the worst QBR among qualifying quarterbacks in the league. Edge rusher Khalil Mack and receiver Allen Robinson II are both gone, and while there are still a few good players remaining in the defensive front — including edge rusher Robert Quinn and linebacker Roquan Smith — there isn’t a whole lot other strengths on the Bears’ roster.

When looking at Chicago’s 2022 schedule, it’s safe to say the Bears won’t finish with the worst record in the league. Even with questions on offense and defense. They’ll face the likes of the Detroit Lions (twice), New York Giants,  Texans, Jets and Falcons, which are all more than winnable games.

Then again, with Chicago ranked the worst team in the NFL, there’s nowhere to go but up.

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The Lions’ league-worst tackling must improve in 2022

If the Detroit Lions defense wants to improve in 2022 it must tackle better than its league-worst tackling in 2021

Among the many reasons the Detroit Lions finished 3-13-1 in 2021, the tackling by the defense is one of the big ones. At all three levels of the Detroit defense, the Lions struggled to terminate plays more than any other team.

The Lions were runaway leaders in allowing broken tackles last season, according to NFL Inside Edge’s data mining. Detroit allowed 75 broken tackles, six more than the next-worst tackling team, the Atlanta Falcons.

The data from Pro Football Focus reinforces the tackling issue. Detroit scored a 32.7 grade from PFF in the tackling department, ranking 32nd out of 32. PFF charted 172 missed tackles, which encompasses broken tackles as well as missed tackling opportunities.

It wasn’t one particular player or position group that bore full responsibility. While linebacker Alex Anzalone posted a team-high 21 misses per PFF (15 of those came in the first eight games), he actually had a better tackling percentage than EDGEs Romeo Okwara and Austin Bryant. Rookie CB AJ Parker, NT John Penisini, CB Amani Oruwariye and LBs Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Jamie Collins all posted missed tackle rates that are far too high.

Reeves-Maybin and Collins are now gone, but the others all return. A switch to a 4-man front should help in the run game, where the linebackers have less responsibility to both take on blocks and finish plays at the same time. The Lions added sure tacklers in the draft in DE Aidan Hutchinson, DL Josh Paschal and LB Malcolm Rodriguez, too. But the coaching staff needs to coax better tackling out of the defense if the Lions are to rise up in the standings, no question about it.

Breaking down each quarter of the Bears’ 2022 schedule

The Bears have released their 2022 schedule, and we’re breaking it down by each quarter, where new challenges await.

It’s a clean slate for the Chicago Bears and new head coach Matt Eberflus as we inch closer to the 2022 NFL season.

Following the NFL schedule release, the path is laid out for Chicago to try and improve on their 6-11 record from a season ago. It certainly helps that they have one of the easiest schedules in the league in 2022.

As we break down the season into different sections, each mini-season will feature new challenges for the Bears and their young roster. Here is what will be in store in 2022:

Ranking the Bears’ best prime-time games in 2022

The Bears will play three prime-time games in 2022. We rank the best matchups here:

The Chicago Bears have finally released their 2022 schedule, and we now know when they’ll be facing their opponents. Chicago will open the season at home against the San Francisco 49ers. But all eyes are on the three prime-time games the Bears earned this season.

Prime time hasn’t been kind to the Bears over the last three years, where they’ve compiled a 3-10 record. Last season, Chicago went 0-4 on the prime-time stage with losses to the Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings.

Despite the Bears’ struggles, they remain a popular pick for prime time given quarterback Justin Fields and the Chicago media market. But will it be more of the same with this year’s prime-time slate?

Let’s rank the Bears’ best prime-time games of 2022:

Bears open as home underdogs vs. 49ers in Week 1

The Bears will open the season at home against the 49ers. But even home field isn’t enough to inspire faith in Chicago among oddsmakers.

The NFL unveiled its 2022 schedule last week, and the Chicago Bears will be opening the season at home for the first time in the last three years. Their opponent will be a familiar one in the San Francisco 49ers, who bested Chicago 33-22 last season.

The Bears and 49ers matchup will feature two young, first-round quarterbacks in Chicago’s Justin Fields and San Francisco’s Trey Lance, which certainly explains the season-opener appeal.

While the Bears will kick off the season at home, that’s not enough to convince oddsmakers that Chicago has a great chance to win this game. The Bears have opened as early 6.5-point underdogs against the 49ers in Week 1, according to Tipico Sportsbook.

Last season, Chicago had a strong first half against San Francisco before the defense succumbed to the 49ers offense in the second half. Fields recorded his first 100-yard rushing game, including an improbable 22-yard touchdown scramble to bring the Bears to within one point in the fourth quarter.

San Francisco is the first of six playoff teams from last year that Chicago will face in the 2022 season.

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