The 2012 NFL schedule was released on Tuesday, and the NFL obviously loves Da Bears. Chicago plays the NFL's maximum of five prime-time games this season. In fact, the Bears play five of their first 10 games on national television.
On the surface, the Bears schedule appears to be very reasonable, considering that their opponents combined for a record of 126-130 (.492) in 2011, including just four playoff teams. However, looks can be deceiving.
The prime-time games offer a unique challenge, and the sequencing of the games may make things a bit rougher. Plus, the opposing teams' final roster construction is not complete, with some free agency and the draft still unresolved, so having a "soft" schedule can be taken with a grain of salt.
For example, the Bears play their first two games in a span of only four days!
However, if recent history is any guide, it could be a good omen that the Bears will appear on Monday Night Football three times this season. They have won seven of their last nine appearances on MNF.
But they have not been so fortunate on Sunday Night Football, where they are 1-6 in their last seven appearances. Week 10, the Bears host the Texans on SNF.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bears will travel 14,256 air miles this season. While this is less than last year (mainly due to the London trip in 2011), it is the fifth-most for Chicago since 1998.
So, let's dive into the schedule and see what we can uncover.
Oh Andrew, your "Luck" has run out.
This will be the third consecutive season that the Bears open up at home.
But a rookie QB against a hungry Bears defense spells trouble for Indy, who struggled mightily last season.
Prediction: Bears 21, Colts 10
The Bears will visit the Packers for a Thursday night game on Sept. 13 that will be aired on the NFL Network.
While the Bears' home opponents combined for a winning percentage of .430 in 2011, which qualifies as the league's easiest home schedule, their road schedule is a challenge. Their road opponents had a .555 winning percentage in 2011, good for the league's fourth-most difficult road schedule.
Playing the Packers is always tough anyway, as it is such a bitter rivalry. Yet I am really looking forward to it, even though it's at Green Bay. It will be good to see how the Bears stack up to their main competition this early.
Bouyed by the confidence of an opening day win, I predict the Bears will go into Green Bay and steal a victory.
Prediction: Bears 34, Packers 28
If he can stay healthy, Sam Bradford could be a handful for the Bears. On defense, Fisher will probably be more active than he intended with Gregg Williams in exile over bounty-gate.
Last year, the Rams were 2-14, so even with improvements, I expect a win for the Bears.
Prediction: Bears 17, Rams 6
Monday Night Football for Jerry Jones and the 'Boys is always an event. The stadium will be rocking, and even though the Bears have been good lately on MNF, this could be where they stumble for the first time in 2012.
Dallas has a bye week after this game, and it will need a win since the Cowboys begin a six-week stretch in which they will have just one home game after the bye.
Prediction: Cowboys 35, Bears 20
Heading into the bye week, the Bears lay it on the line and come off a disappointing loss to Dallas with a resounding win in Florida.
Prediction: Bears 23, Jags 14
The Bears have had the good fortune to have their bye week occur near the middle of the season in recent years. In fact, in three of the last four years, the Bears’ off week came in Week 8, while in 2007, it was in Week 9.
This year, the bye comes a bit earlier. While that means they need to play another 11 games following their week off, it does help that they are home for their first game after the bye.
Meanwhile, let's hope the Bears don't have to use the bye week to reformulate their offense, as they've been forced to do in the past. Under Mike Tice, the offensive play-calling should be more balanced and the protection schemes more tight from the start.
The Bears host the Lions coming off a bye week and dominate Megatron and Co.
Prediction: Bears 27, Lions 14
Bears at home again? No problem; another win.
Prediction: Bears 20, Panthers 13
The Bears are better than the Titans, pure and simple, even if they have cheerleaders and the Bears don't.
Prediction: Bears 28, Titans 19
I like the Texans. Then again, they have been almost everyone's under-the-radar pick for a few years now. With a strong defense and a stable QB for once, they can beat us. I hope they don't.
Prediction: Houston 21, Bears 10
The Bears at home + Vikings stink = Bears win.
Prediction: Bears 33, Vikings 13
This will be the fourth consecutive year and the eighth time since 2006 that the Bears have faced the Seahawks. This total is including the playoff games in 2006 and 2010.
And the Bears are home once again, which shouldn't be a surprise, as all but two of the games have been played at Soldier Field.
Prediction: Bears 35, Seahawks 20
The Vikes are bad, but hopefully, the Bears don't get caught looking ahead to the Packers. Then again, the Vikings went a paltry 1-7 in Minneapolis last year.
Prediction: Bears 24, Vikings 17.
Sorry, Bears fans, but we probably won't beat the Packers twice.
Prediction: Packers 23, Bears 21
Arizona, which rallied to 8-8 last season after a 1-6 start, is a tricky game in the sense that the Bears are the better team and should win, but this could be a trap, especially on the road following an emotional game against the Packers.
Prediction: Bears 19, Arizona 16
This is another year where the Bears will close out the regular season with a game against a division rival that could have serious ramifications for both teams. We all remember two seasons ago when the Bears played that "meaningless" game vs the Packers. They won, making the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl.
Well, this season-ender could be another important contest for the Bears. The Lions are a good team and could be in a three-team NFC North battle for a division title and/or wild card spot.
In five of the previous eight seasons, the Bears’ final regular-season game was vs. Green Bay or Minnesota, so at least Detroit is a bit more of a refreshing match-up in that sense.
The NFL loves pitting division rivals against each other in the closing weeks. In fact, over the final three weeks of the previous eight years, the Bears have played 15 NFC North games out of a potential 24.
Prediction: With a Wild Card berth on the line, the Bears beat the Lions, 24-17, to make the playoffs.