The Bears 2012 schedule is laid out, but how will a player be looking at it?
The standard bromide is of course we look at them all the same, one game at a time." Thats not exactly true. Take it from one former player.
Matt Bowen had a solid NFL career thats now moving into a solid media phase, with work for a number of outlets including CSNChicago and also the National Football Post. He listed for NFP some of the filters through which he viewed schedules so lets apply those to the new Bears schedule and evaluate:
Opening day opponent
Thats where the offseason focus will be, right on through training camp and preseason. Its Indianapolis, same as in 2008, the last time through the AFC South for the Bears, but this time, no Peyton. Somebody at Halas Hall is probably already working on cut-ups of Stanford game film.
No NFL game can ever be considered truly easy. But a home game against a team coming off a 2-14 season presumably with a rookie starting his first NFL game is one you dont lose if you want to be taken seriously for the rest of the year.
The first quarter
Coaches including Lovie Smith talk of the season in terms of four-game units. All 16 do count the same in the final total, but getting off to a bad start puts added pressure to recover on the rest of the season.
But a good start also insures absolutely nothing. The Lovie Smith Bears have opened 2-2 or better in five of his eight years. In 2005 they recovered from a 1-3 start to earn a playoff bye. Their 3-1 start in 09 made the slide to 7-9 the more painful.
The Bears open with Indianapolis at home. The Packers draw San Francisco at home in week one and the Bears four days later. The Bears will have prime-time games at Green Bay and Dallas in the first quarter, plus St. Louis. This is a winnable first quarter.
Monday Night games
Most players love the solo time on center stage, but Matt points out that the catch becomes the following week, particularly if you have a road game. And if the MNF contest was away, youre not getting off a plane until very early Tuesday a.m.
Throw in a Thursday game which the Bears have in Week 2, at Green Bay and you have a squirrely start. At least the trips is a short one.
The NFL thought the Bears were worth five prime time games three on Mondays, one Sunday and one Thursday. This means a lot of choppy practice weeks.
Warm and cold conditions
Lets cut to the chase: When do you play at Green Bay? And for the Bears, when do they go to the Valley of the Sun?
This breaks well for the Bears. They play at Green Bay in September, at night. They play at Arizona in December. Theyre at Jacksonville in October. Those are good weather venues.
No at Buffalo or at New England to worry about for cold. You can bet that the Texans and anybody else with an indoor home has already IDd exactly when they have to come to Soldier Field.
The Bears have the geographic good fortune of being centrally located. But they do have road games in Arizona and San Francisco, the latter involving leaving on Friday for some teams.
Among the five prime-time games are ones at Green Bay, Dallas and San Francisco. Decent frequent-flyer miles but.
When the break falls is important in terms of rest. Its ideally near mid-season. If its early, the year is long after it, with more games and no off week for recovery (and its an off week, not a bye).
The Bears are off in week six after playing at Dallas and at Jacksonville. They come out of the off week hosting Detroit. Youd like the rest a couple weeks later perhaps but this is pretty good placement for a recovery week.