2012 NFL Schedule: Chicago Bears Are Prime-Time Players

Derek CrouseContributor IIIApril 18, 2012

If Cutler isn't sidelined, the Bears will be a primetime favorite.
If Cutler isn't sidelined, the Bears will be a primetime favorite.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The 2012 NFL schedule was released Tuesday. For many fans, this is the beginning of planning their trips to games and parties for big rivalry matchups. Chicago Bears fans have to be excited about the schedule this year. Let’s take a look and see just how entertaining the 2012 Chicago Bears could be. They are in the night lights five times this year.

The Bears are looking to improve from a disastrous 2011 season mostly due to injuries and offensive line issues.

The NFC North has improved since last season. The Green Bay Packers took their foot off the gas pedal and faltered in in the playoffs. For them it will be back to the grind surely trying to capture the magic they had in 2010-11.

The Detroit Lions were one of the most entertaining franchises from a viewing standpoint. From their dominant defensive line to the aerial assault led by Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, you have great football on both sides of the ball. The Minnesota Vikings are in limbo currently. Their stadium deal isn’t done yet. Minnesota only has Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin as viable weapons.

The NFC North will face off against the new look AFC South as well as the lowly but upgraded NFC West.

The NFC North is one of the most popular divisions in the NFL. Based on Nielsen’s Media Exposure Rankings, the Bears, Packers and Vikings are tied for fourth. The Chicago Bears are ranked third in website, behind only the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Prime time usually shows a team that will fare well during the season excluding major injuries like Chicago had in 2011. This season, Chicago will be on the national map early and often.

Two of the games will be division rivals while the other games will be against teams out west.

Thursday Night Football is still in its infancy. Some fans don’t have the NFL Network, but that hasn’t stopped them from hyping up these games. In years past, the Thursday games didn’t start until Thanksgiving. Now they are moving it up to Week 2 (September 13th) and Chicago will be facing the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

It’s probably best that a team gets the Thursday game in early so they get that routine killing week out of the way because veterans heal slower than younger players.

ESPN will be hosting the Bears in three Monday Night Football games which is more than any other franchise. Week 4 (October 1st), the Bears will be in Dallas facing the Cowboys at the house that Jerry Jones built. In between MNF games, they have Week 6 as their bye. Week 7 (October 22nd), the Detroit Lions will come into Soldier Field for most likely a shootout. Week 11 (November 19th), we get to see the Bears face the vastly improved San Francisco 49ers in California.

Unlike in past years, the Sunday Night game on NBC will only host Chicago one time at home against the AFC Super Bowl favorite Houston Texans during Week 10 (November 11th)

With the recent addition of Brandon Marshall, the firing of Mike Martz, and the current issues with Matt Forte, the Bears will have plenty of storylines for the prime-time crews to cover in their long and grueling pre-game shows.