Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of email questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.
In terms of strength of schedule, how do the Bears opponents next season compare to the teams they played this season?
On paper, the Bears will face a much easier schedule in 2016 than they had in 2015. Of course, I have to add the reminder that things change dramatically from one season to the next and an opponent that looks weak could actually be strong in 12 months, so take this entire response with a grain of salt. But here are some numbers: The 16 teams the Bears played in 2015 combined to post a 140-116 (.547) record this season; the opponents the Bears will face in 2016 went a combined 118-138 (.461). The Bears faced five of the eight teams currently left in the playoffs this season; they will play only one of the eight next season. They faced four teams outside their division that finished with at least 10 wins in 2015; they won't play any in 2016. They will also play five teams that will select in the top 10 of the draft in 2016 after facing only three of those clubs in 2015.
I know that Marc Mariani didn't have a lot of catches this season, but when he did they almost always seemed to be for first downs. What percentage of his catches were for first downs?
Marc Mariani produced first downs on 19 of his 22 receptions this season, an 86.4 percentage. All 11 of his catches on third down resulted in first downs, including catches of 25 yards on third-and-12 against the Buccaneers, 21 yards on third-and-10 versus the Packers, 19 yards on third-and-eight against the Vikings and 10 yards on third-and-eight versus the Chargers. Mariani's first 12 and 15 of his first 16 catches produced first downs this season.
How many Bears players started all 16 games this season?