Bears

How the Bears' schedule stacks up against the rest of the NFC North

How the Bears' schedule stacks up against the rest of the NFC North

We’ve known who the Bears will play in the 2019 regular season since New Year's Eve 2018, and have known where they'll play those opponents for even longer. That always makes the NFL’s schedule reveal sort of an odd phenomenon, especially because most of it gets leaked long before primetime shows air on NFL Network and ESPN. 

Additionally: Do we really know how good anyone is going to be in 2019, the Bears included? 

So yes, the Bears have the most difficult schedule of any team in the NFC North by virtue of playing fellow 2018 division winners New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. But a side-by-side comparison to the rest of the NFC North reveals the Bears’ schedule has both its drawbacks and advantages compared to the rest of the division: 

Different opponents

Bears: @ Rams, Saints (division winners)
Vikings: @ Seahawks, Falcons
Packers: @ 49ers, Panthers
Lions: @ Cardinals, Buccaneers

The Bears, undoubtedly, have the toughest pairing of NFC opponents here. But the Vikings having to go to Seattle — where they lost a year ago — isn’t easy against the 12th man, and the Falcons still have a powerful offense and could rebound to contention with an improved defense. 

As for the Packers, San Francisco should be much improved with Jimmy Garoppolo returning from a season-ending injury along with adding Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander, Tevin Coleman and whoever they pick second overall in next week. A healthy Cam Newton could do wonders for the Panthers, too. 

The Lions have two of the likely worst teams in the NFL, though questions remain if the Lions are any good anyways. 

The verdict: The Bears have the toughest pairing, but the Vikings and Packers don’t necessarily have easy ones, either. 

Different locations

Bears: @ Broncos, @ Raiders (London), @ Washington, @ Eagles, Chiefs, Chargers, Giants, Cowboys
Vikings: @ Kansas City, @ Chargers, @ Cowboys, @ Giants, Broncos, Raiders, Washington, Eagles
Packers: @ Kansas City, @ Chargers, @ Cowboys, @ Giants, Broncos, Raiders, Washington, Eagles
Lions: @Broncos, @ Raiders, @ Washington, @ Eagles, Chiefs, Chargers, Giants, Cowboys

The Bears and Lions, theoretically, got the easier draw in the AFC West with the Chiefs and Chargers — two of the AFC’s best teams in 2018 — at home, with the Broncos and Raiders at home. But this is worth noting given the timing of the Broncos’ game in Week 2:

Worth noting, too: The Chargers, who for one more year will play in a soccer stadium that’s usually full of opposing teams’ fans, had a 6-2 record on a road in 2018. 

But missing the Chiefs on the road is a good thing for the Bears — outside of fans losing out on a trip to Joe’s Kansas City. The game being in Week 16 could be fascinating, especially if both the teacher (Andy Reid) and protege (Matt Nagy) have something for which to play. Of course, there are eight months separating now and that game, so plenty could happen. 

Drawing Washington and New York on the road would’ve been the most ideal, but that didn’t happen with any team in the division, so right now it looks like a wash between how the NFC East opponents line up. 

The verdict: The Bears probably have the most favorable-looking schedule of any team here given they get the Raiders in, effectively, a neutral-site game (that likely will be heavily attended by Bears fans at Tottenham’s stadium). Whether or not Denver's uncanny success at home early in the season continues in the Vic Fangio regime remains to be seen. 

Time off

Opponents following an off week: Saints (Bears), at Seahawks (Vikings), at 49ers (Packers), at Packers (Lions)

Opponents following a Thursday night game: At Broncos, at Packers (Bears), at Chiefs (Vikings), Vikings, at Cowboys (Packers), at Vikings (Lions). 

The verdict: This isn’t a huge deal — the Bears had the quickest turnaround in NFL history from their Sunday night game against the Vikings to their Thanksgiving afternoon game against the Lions and wound up fine last year. 

Bears vs. Redskins: Case Keenum confident Washington will 'move the ball and score touchdowns'

Bears vs. Redskins: Case Keenum confident Washington will 'move the ball and score touchdowns'

The Chicago Bears are entering Week 3's Monday night game against the Washington Redskins with a defense that, to no one's surprise, is ranked among the NFL's elite once again.

New defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano hasn't missed a beat in 2019. The Bears are ranked fourth in total yards allowed per game and are sixth against the run. They've been getting to the quarterback, too, ranking sixth in total sacks through two games.

So, yeah, the Redskins offense has their work cut out for them. Washington's starting QB Case Keenum knows how good the Bears defense is, but remains confident.

"Well they do a lot of stuff well, they’re ranked pretty high in a lot of categories," Keenum said of Chicago's defense Wednesday. "Up-front, obviously, with the guy they got last year in that trade, it makes them, it brings them to a whole other level, up-front I think we got our work cut out for us.

"They’ve got a lot of depth, a lot of experience on the back end, some guys who’ve played together a long time. I know they got a new defensive coordinator, but they got a lot of experience playing together, so their communication skills, as far as making the right checks and stuff, they do a good job of disguising a lot of stuff, so recognizing coverages, recognizing fronts, and then knowing our plan to attack those is gonna be key."

The Redskins played better than expected over the last two weeks against opponents who also feature strong defenses. Despite sitting at 0-2, Washington played both the Eagles and Cowboys tough.

"I don’t know if there’s anything we take away from them being great defenses," Keenum said of the Redskins' early-season opponents. "We’re confident, whoever we play, we’re gonna line up and move the ball and go score touchdowns. Everybody in this league is really good, and we got our work cut out for us again, I wouldn’t have it any other way."

Keenum is off to a hot start in 2019 and will challenge the Bears' secondary, maybe even more than most fans are expecting right now. He's completed 69 percent of his passes for 601 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions so far this year, numbers that look more like what Chicago was hoping for from Mitch Trubisky than what was projected for a journeyman like Keenum.

As defending NFC North champs, the Bears are embracing all that comes with the national spotlight

As defending NFC North champs, the Bears are embracing all that comes with the national spotlight

When the Bears head to D.C. next Monday, it'll be their second nationally-televised game in three weeks. It's not dissimilar from 2018's start, when they started with back-to-back Sunday nights: first in Green Bay (remember?!) and then the home opener vs. Seattle. 

Last year, that Seahawks game would be the last nationally-viewed Bears game until they played in Detroit on Thanksgiving almost two months later. Flexed Sunday night games against the Rams and in Minnesota made it 4 on the season. 

Things are a bit different this season. As it stands today, the Bears are scheduled to be on national broadcasts five more times this year, and seven times on the season.  Two weeks after D.C. they'll be in London against the Raiders, and then have Sunday night games against the Rams, Cowboys, and Chiefs. Throw in another noon Thanksgiving kickoff in Detroit and that's a whole lot of exposure. 

"Bring the prime time, bring the prime time," linebacker Danny Trevathan said. "That’s what we strive for, that’s what we wanted. Coach talked about being 100… that’s prime time." 

There have been a lot of night games in the Matt Nagy era, a testament to how quickly he brought the franchise back into the national conversation. It's not without it's cons, but that many late kickoffs means you're doing something well. 

"There’s a little bit more attitude when you’re playing on Thursday night, Sunday night, Monday night," said Allen Robinson. "You know the whole world is watching – there’s only one game on at that time." 

"Everybody’s watching," Trevathan added. "And it’s a chance for us to go ahead and play our type of ball, come away with a dub, and put it on for the whole world to see."