The NFL has made the release of their schedule into a real event. No one cares about the release of the MLB, NHL or NBA schedule like they do about the NFL schedule.
Once the schedule gets released, people start planning road trips. They start looking ahead to see which highly-drafted players they might get to see.
While the Bears schedule was interesting before the draft, it got even more interesting afterwards.
They are already scheduled to play in prime-time five times, appearing on Monday Night Football three times. They will also make one appearance each on Sunday and Thursday Night Football.
This season, the Bears will take on the AFC South and the NFC West besides their usual six games against their division rivals. They, of course, will play one team from the other two NFC divisions as well.
So which game have you circled as your road trip? Which games may have playoff ramifications?
Normally the preseason is pretty dull and most people could care less who the Bears play. However, this year is a little different.
August 9 vs. Broncos: The Bears will be the first team that gets to see Peyton Manning on another team's sideline. Will the former Colts quarterback play? Hopefully, he will get a series or two, and if he does, it might make the game worth attending.
August 18 vs. Redskins: First Peyton Manning and then we get to see Robert Griffin III. The Bears will wrap up their home preseason games quickly after hosting the Broncos and Redskins. This should be the first time Griffin gets some major playing time before giving way to backup Rex Grossman. I wonder how the Bears fans will receive Grossman?
August 24 at Giants: Is there a better way to get ready for the season than taking on the defending Super Bowl champion Giants? Traditionally, the third preseason game is when coaches leave their starters in the game well into the third quarter, so this will be a good preview. How will the Jay Cutler-led offense compare to the Eli Manning-led Giants offense?
August 30 at Browns: Seriously, is it just me, or is everyone else tired of the Browns and Bears facing off in the fourth and final preseason game year after year? The Browns look to be restarting the rebuilding process again after drafting Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden in the first round. Did you know that Weeden is eight years older than Richardson?
With the way the calendar falls, September is going to be a pretty light month for the Bears. With that being said, it could be a pretty easy month, but if it isn't, they could be in for some trouble.
September 9 vs. Colts: Isn't it fitting that the Bears get Andrew Luck in his first professional game? They got Peyton Manning and Robert Griffin III in the preseason and now get Luck in Game 1 of the regular season. Best part is, the Bears get to host all three.
September 13 at Packers: Is there a better way to kick off the Thursday night schedule than Bears and Packers? Could this be the first of three matchups this season? Biggest concern will be that this game is only five days after the season opener. This also could be one of the best road trip opportunities of the season. Get off work early on Thursday and drive straight north for the night game and make it a long weekend.
September 23 vs. Rams: It doesn't happen too often where the team that was set to pick No. 2 overall ended up not selecting till the 14th pick in the draft. Well, that is what happened with the Rams, as they traded back in the draft not once, but twice. With Jeff Fischer now running the show in St. Louis, can Sam Bradford get back on track after an injury-plagued sophomore season?
After a weird September, the schedule becomes normal in October with four games. After making one prime-time appearance in the opening month, the Bears will make not one, but two appearances on Monday Night Football this month.
October 1 at Dallas: If you didn't want to head up for Green Bay for a road trip, why not head down to Dallas for MNF? This game will be a good test for the Bears, as the Cowboys QB, Tony Romo, has plenty of weapons in Austin Miles and Dez Bryant. How will Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery compare to those two?
October 7 at Jacksonville: If you aren't up for missing a day of work, then this road trip could be for you. The Bears head to sunny Florida over Columbus Day weekend. It's safe to say there should be plenty of seats available, as the Jaguars have had trouble selling seats the past few years. This will also give the Bears a chance to compare Jeffery to Justin Blackmon, who was the first receiver drafted this year.
Bye Week: The Bears get their week off a little early this season, with it coming in Week 6. It does come at a nice time after two road games.
October 22 vs. Lions: After making two national TV appearances on the road, Soldier Field finally gets to shine with the lights on. When these two teams met last season, both games got chirpy, so you know they will be extra amped up for MNF. A debate I have had with a few Lions fans is, would you rather have Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson or Jay Cutler and Marshall? My answer is this is the year Jay Cutler enters the elite status, let's hope I'm right.
October 28 vs. Panthers: For the second straight season, Ron Rivera brings his Carolina Panthers to town. How has Cam Newton improved after a year in the league? This game will also provide a reminder that the Bears traded Greg Olsen because of Mike Martz. Will Bears fans still be pining for Olsen?
Normally, Lovie Smith would be saying that the Bears are entering the third quarter of the season as they enter November. However, with the funky September and having the bye week in October, he will have to wait a game before he can say that. The Bears will also make their last scheduled appearance in prime-time.
November 4 at Titans: If you still haven't made your road trip, you'd be crazy to pass up on going to Nashville. I have had numerous friends go down there for Blackhawk games, and they have loved it. This also could be a pretty good game featuring two of the best running backs in the league with Matt Forte and Chris Johnson. That is assuming Forte is not holding out?
November 11 vs. Texans: After being on Thursday Night Football and Monday Night Football twice, the Bears finally get on Sunday Night Football taking on the high-powered Houston Texans. This game will also wrap up the Bears' AFC portion of the season. That is, unless they make it to the Super Bowl in New Orleans.
November 19 at 49ers: The Bears finally get a chance to see Jim Harbaugh as a coach in the NFL. This will be the third matchup of the season against former Bears players who are now coaches. Were the 49ers a one-year wonder, or are they here to stay?
November 25 vs. Vikings: Wow, it took this long for the Bears to see their division rival. This will be the first of two meetings the teams will have in just three weeks. Will former Bear Leslie Fraser still be the head coach when the teams meet?
It seems like it has been years since the Bears ended their season in December. The last time the season didn't extend into January was the 2008 season. Interesting enough, that was also the last time they played the AFC South.
December 2 vs. Seahawks: If the Browns are the team that always is on the preseason schedule, the Seahawks are that team in the regular season. This will be the fourth straight season the two teams have met. Over that time, they have actually played five times because they met in the 2010 playoffs. Has Pete Carroll finally found his QB in former Packer Matt Flynn?
December 9 at Vikings: Not much to say about a matchup that we just saw two weeks earlier. If the Vikings are struggling, it will be interesting to see if there is a coaching change between the two games.
December 16 vs. Packers: After playing the Vikings twice in three weeks, the Bears had to wait three months for their second game against Green Bay. Could the division title be on the line?
December 23 at Cardinals: Alshon Jeffery is going to get to play against three of the five receivers that were picked ahead of him in this past draft. This time, it will be Michael Floyd, who many Bears fans were hoping they would draft. Anytime the Bears go to Arizona, it brings back fond memories of the Bears coming back on the Cardinals and Dennis Green losing it after the game.
December 30 at Detroit: The Bears end the season on a two-game road trip, and this game could have the winner going on to the playoffs and the loser going home. If there are playoff ramifications, then I would expect this game might be flexed into prime-time, giving them a prime-time game every month.