The NFC North figures to be one of the toughest divisions in the NFL in 2013. As long as the Green Bay Packers have Aaron Rodgers, they will at least be formidable. The Minnesota Vikings are set up to be improved with the addition of Greg Jennings, and you never know what to expect from the Detroit Lions.
Perhaps the most intriguing team in the division, however, is the Bears.
This will be the first year under new head coach and offensive guru Marc Trestman, and the question on everyone's mind is whether or not the Bears can finally field a dangerous offense.
The player that has symbolized the team for over a decade is no longer a member of the organization. The Bears couldn't come to terms with future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, and now they must hope that his replacement, D.J. Williams, along with others can maintain the defense's high level of play.
Because of the strong division, the overall schedule is no cakewalk. The non-division games aren't exactly child's play either as the Bears take on the AFC North and NFC East this season.
Here's a look at the entire schedule.
|2013 Chicago Bears Schedule|
|1||Sept. 8 ||vs. Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m.||CBS|
|2||Sept. 15 ||vs. Minnesota Vikings||1 p.m.||FOX|
|3||Sept. 22 ||at Pittsburgh Steelers||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|4||Sept. 29||at Detroit Lions||1 p.m||FOX|
|5||Oct. 6||vs. New Orleans Saints||1 p.m||FOX|
|6||Oct. 10||New York Giants||8:20 p.m.||NFL Network|
|7||Oct. 20||at Washington Redskins||1 p.m.||FOX|
|8||Oct. 27||BYE WEEK|
|9||Nov. 4||at Green Bay Packers||8:40 p.m.||ESPN|
|10||No. 10||vs. Detroit Lions||1 p.m.||FOX|
|11||Nov. 17||vs. Baltimore Ravens||1 p.m.||CBS|
|12||Nov. 24||at St. Louis Rams||1 p.m.||FOX|
|13||Dec. 1||at Minnesota Vikings||1 p.m.||FOX|
|14||Dec. 9||vs. Dallas Cowboys||8:40||ESPN|
|15||Dec. 15||at Cleveland Browns||1 p.m.||FOX|
|16||Dec. 22 ||at Philadelphia Eagles||1 p.m.||FOX|
|17||Dec. 29 ||vs. Green Bay Packers||1 p.m.||FOX|
Note: For a complete look at Chicago's 2013 schedule, check out NFL.com.
It was always fun watching Urlacher duel with opposing quarterbacks, yelling adjustments to his teammates to get the unit into the proper position.
Now Williams will be in that role, and he'll go head-to-head with some of the game's best signal-callers.
Obviously he'll see Rodgers twice, but aside from the Packers' star, the Bears will also have to contend with Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Robert Griffin III, Drew Brees and Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco.
Unless there are a rash of injuries to their opposing passers, this defense will certainly be tested throughout the year.
Fans, coaches and the media will also be watching Jay Cutler's performance in these games against the best players at his position. This is the final year of his contract, and that will be a constant theme of conversation through the year.
The Bears are hoping he can do what Flacco did in his contract year of 2012. With Trestman running the offense and with additions to the offensive line like Jermon Bushrod, this is the year Cutler needs to prove he's an elite quarterback.
Most Pivotal Matchups
You can pretty much circle the two games with the Packers every year as pivotal matchups for the Bears, but I also think both games with the Vikings will be huge. This season could actually see a legitimate three-team race for the division crown.
In terms of non-division games, the matchup with RGIII and the Washington Redskins could also have huge postseason implications. Both teams figure to be contenders in competitive divisions, and this game could actually be very important for a tiebreaker at the end of the season.
Winning at FedEx Field is no simple task. The Skins won five of their last six games at home to end the 2012 regular season. This could be a measuring-stick game for both teams.