The buildup of expectations for the 2014 Bears began the moment Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb danced into the south end zone of Soldier Field in December.
Bears fans had only heard rumors of this thing called a "powerful offense," and in coach Marc Trestman's first year the Bears scored the second-most points in a season in franchise history. Super Bowl, here we come! But they also gave up the most points in franchise history, and a playoff berth slipped out of Chicago's grasp like so many ball carriers eluded safety Chris Conte's hands. (All of the berths and ball carriers.)
They say offense wins in the new NFL, right? And with the league's new emphasis on calling defensive holding and illegal contact penalties, the Bears offense should only get more potent, right? Super Bowl, here we come! But in the two quarters of preseason action that featured starters vs. starters, the Bears were pasted 31-0 by defending champion Seattle. Expectations evaporated. Hopes fell. Russell Wilson killed a guy with a trident.
There are 16 chances for redemption this fall, and if the Bears can win 10 or so games, they could make the postseason for only the second time in eight years. (The other NFL teams that have made the playoffs one or zero times in the past seven seasons: Buffalo, Cleveland, Oakland, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Miami, Detroit. Yep, those moribund franchises are Chicago's postseason peers.)
How's it going to be, Bears fans? Week by week, peer into the football future and the 1985 Bears hype level roller coaster Chicago will be riding:
Sunday vs. Buffalo
Thankfully the opener is against this mess of a team. Other than touted rookie Sammy Watkins, the Bills have exactly zero players who belong on your fantasy team and probably a dozen who don't belong in the NFL.
Hype level and '85 Bears jersey number (out of 100): Jimbo Covert (74).
Sept. 14 at San Francisco
New stadium for the Niners. "Sunday Night Football." Even with three starters on that fearsome defense already out, it's the running attack that will bowl over the Bears linebackers.
Hype level: Down to Wilber Marshall (58).
Sept. 22 at N.Y. Jets
The Jets on "Monday Night Football" should provide an opportunity for the Bears to bounce back. Unfortunately, running back Chris Johnson will earn back his "CJ2K" nickname before the broadcast is over. Bad loss.
Hype level: Matt Suhey (26) and falling.
Sept. 28 vs. Green Bay
Aaron Rodgers returns to the scene of the crime referenced at the top of this column. Facing a possible 1-3 hole, Jay Cutler delivers the best game of his Bears career. After a 42-41 shootout win, no one cares how bad the defense looks!
Hype level: Willie Gault (83)!
Three tough, ugly road losses in Carolina, Atlanta and New England with a gimme win hosting Miami. Heading into the bye week, 3-5 ain't pretty.
Hype level: Mike Tomczak (18).
Nov. 9 at Green Bay
On national TV and in front of 77,000 foam cheese hats, the Packers avenge Week 4 in a big, embarrassing, throw-something-at-the-TV way. At 3-6, all seems lost.
Hype level: Kevin Butler (6).
Rest of November
After drubbing woeful Minnesota and sticking it to Lovie Smith's Tampa Bay team, the Bears make you choke on your turkey with glee as Cutler destroys Detroit's secondary. Extra mashed potatoes for the whole family as the Bears climb back to .500.
Hype level: Jay Hilgenberg (63).
Through a scheduling quirk, the Bears come home after Thanksgiving and don't have to leave again until after Christmas. They take advantage by blowing up a bad Dallas defense, beating New Orleans in a snowstorm (you'll hear the phrase "BEAR WEATHER" on sports radio 400 times) and holding off Detroit in yet another shootout to go to 9-6.
Hype level: Dan Hampton (99)! SUPER BEARS SUPER BOWL!
Dec. 28 at Minnesota
And then the defense reaches a new level of suck. Adrian Peterson breaks the all-time single-season and single-game rushing records. Charles Tillman retires at halftime. Shea McClellin unfortunately does not. Newly installed starting Minnesota QB Teddy Bridgewater doesn't even have to attempt a pass in the second half as Purple Jesus simply cannot be stopped. For the seventh time in eight tries, the Bears miss the postseason.
Hype level: An entire bottle of Jeppson's Malort.
RedEye special contributor Alex Quigley can be heard on "Quigs & Finfer" from noon-3 p.m. weekdays on 87.7 FM The Game.
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