The Chicago Bears now know what their path to repeating as NFC North champs looks like.
The preseason acquisition of Khalil Mack powered Chicago to a 12-4 record in 2018, resulting in a division title and snapping a seven-year playoff drought in the process. Unfortunately, the team suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the wild-card round that put a sudden end to the team's season.
With next season's schedule being released Wednesday, the Bears can turn the page and focus on the road ahead as they look to build on last year's success.
Below is a look at Chicago's 2019 schedule, per the team's official website.
Bears' 2019 Schedule
Week 1: vs. Green Bay Packers on Sept. 5 at 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
Week 2: at Denver Broncos on Sept. 15 at 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
Week 3: at Washington Redskins on Sept. 23 at 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Week 4: vs. Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 29 at 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 5: at Oakland Raiders in London on Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: vs. New Orleans Saints on Oct. 20 at 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
Week 8: vs. Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 27 at 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Week 9: at Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 3 at 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Week 10: vs. Detroit Lions on Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 11: at Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 17 at 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
Week 12: vs. New York Giants on Nov. 24 at 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Week 13: at Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28) at 12:30 p.m. ET, Fox
Week 14: vs. Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 5 at 8:20 p.m. ET on Fox/NFL Network/Amazon
Week 15: at Green Bay Packers on Dec. 15 at 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Week 16: vs. Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 22 at 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
Week 17: at Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 29 at 1 p.m. ET, Fox
There is a price that comes with winning a division in the NFL—and that's having to play a first-place schedule the following year.
In other words, if Chicago is going to repeat as NFC North champs, it's going to have to earn it.
According to Vikings.com's Craig Peters, the Bears' 2019 opponents had a combined winning percentage of .520 last year, which is tied for the fifth-highest mark in the entire NFL.
They face six playoff teams from a season ago. In fact, they will play both of last season's NFC Championship Game participants, the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints.
While its overall schedule is tough, Chicago is fortunate that the majority of its toughest contests will be held at Soldier Field. The Bears will host the Saints, the Dallas Cowboys, the Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Considering they went 7-1 at home last season, they figure to enter each of those showdowns with an edge.
They will, however, have to go on the road to face both the Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles.
And of course, they will still have to deal with division rivals like the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings both at home and on the road.
Chicago will have the opportunity to make a statement right from the start.
The NFL announced back in March that it will kick off its centennial season with one of the league's most storied rivalries. With it, two of the top NFC North contenders will go head-to-head in the Windy City.
Last year, the Bears used a 5-1 record within the NFC North to capture the division crown. Their lone loss came to the Packers in the season opener, which saw Aaron Rodgers shake off a leg injury to put up 21 points in the fourth quarter for a 24-23 victory.
Green Bay has been active this offseason after missing out on the playoffs for a second consecutive year. It signed linebacker Preston Smith, linebacker Za'Darius Smith, offensive lineman Billy Turner and former Chicago safety Adrian Amos in free agency. With a healthy Rodgers and an improved defense, the team figures to put up a fight in 2019.
Chicago proved last year that it can overcome a season-opening loss to a division rival. But getting its division title defense off on the right note would be a big boost to a team trying to put a crushing loss firmly behind it.
Speaking of the playoff loss, the Bears will get a chance to exact a little bit of revenge when they travel to Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 3 for a clash with the Philadelphia Eagles.
It was Philadelphia who ended Chicago's season in 2018 with the help of some Nick Foles magic (not to mention a missed field-goal attempt at the end of regulation). Carson Wentz figures to be under center this time around, setting up a battle of NFC powers.
Beating the Eagles in Week 9 won't do anything to change the past, but getting the victory could loom large should both teams find themselves battling for playoff positioning down the stretch.
One could argue that the Bears find themselves in a pivotal matchup 10 times or so throughout the season. However, when it comes to circling dates on the calendar, Chicago fans likely have Green Bay and Philadelphia near the top of their lists.