This could be the start of something truly special on the lakefront. Coming off their first playoff appearance since 2010 and a 12-4 record, the Chicago Bears are poised to defend their NFC North Division championship. What's ahead for the beloved?
Improving upon last season's 12-4 mark surely won't be an easy task. The Bears will be on every team's radar this season and they are also tasked with playing the "first place" schedule. The Bears will match up with six playoff teams from last season: Cowboys, Chiefs, Chargers, Saints, Eagles, and the Rams.
The Bears will be featured in five primetime games this season, with two on Thursday Night Football, two on Sunday Night Football and one Monday Night Football tilt. America wants to see the Bears.
This schedule is loaded with tough matchups and intriguing story lines. Tickets will be at a premium, but you may have to apologize to your wallet and just pull the trigger. The Bears are the hottest team in town. Let's preview the top games.
Green Bay Packers - Week 1 (Opening Night)
This is a statement game. The opening game of the NFL season is being played in Chicago. Traditionally, the defending champs play on opening night, but for the NFL's 100th season, the NFL wants Bears-Packers. Soldier Field should be rocking. One of the greatest rivalries in sports currently has the Packers leading the all-time match up: (97-95-6).
Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers, so the Bears will need to be on top of their game to avoid the letdown week one offered last season. Green Bay added former Bear Adrian Amos and pass rushers Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith. New head coach Matt LeFleur will be poised to bring Green Bay back to the playoffs, so this should be a good one.
Fangio vs Nagy: Denver Broncos - Week 2
The Bears will be going up against the man who led their team to the league's top defense last season in week two. Denver not only has a new head coach, but also has a new man under center, former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco. Fangio brought former Bear Bryce Callahan with him to Denver as well.
This game will be played in Denver and Mile-High always proves challenging for opponents. In fact, since opening their new stadium in 2001, the Broncos are 21-1 in home games played during the first two weeks of the season. This will be an under the radar challenge for the Bears.
London, Baby ft. Return of the Mack - Week 5 vs. Oakland
Khalil Mack vs Jon Gruden. The Bears will be taking a trip across the Atlantic Ocean to match up with the Oakland Raiders in week five of the season. The Raiders stink but this one is intriguing for two reasons: Mack and London. Oh, and Oakland added mega-star and mega-diva, Antonio Brown.
The Bears and Raiders will play the first ever game at London's brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday, October 6th. This will be the Bears' second game ever in London, with the first being a 24-18 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011.
Rematch: Philadelphia Eagles - Week 9
Redemption time for the Bears, as they will be traveling to Philadelphia to take on the team who broke their hearts in the playoffs last year. To add fuel to the fire, the Bears will be facing former running back Jordan Howard after trading to him to Philly for a sixth round pick.
This game will be the tail-end of the Bears facing three consecutive playoff teams: the Saints, Chargers and then Philadelphia. This stretch may prove critical for the Bears during their challenging schedule.
Thanksgiving in Detroit... Again - Week 13 vs. Lions
The Bears on Thanksgiving: You either love it or hate it. Personally, I absolutely love it. Nothing will make you jump out of bed from a Black Wednesday hangover quite like watching the Bears curb-stomp Detroit. Watching said game with your family and in-laws: Likely not ideal, but it's only once a year.
Preview for the game: The Lions suck and the Bears do not. They'll likely be doing the Mo-Town one more time whenever Matt Stafford inevitably throws a costly pick.
Student Meets Teacher - Week 16 vs. Kansas City
Selfishly, I wish this game was being played in Kansas City. I have always wanted to go to a game at Arrowhead. Nonetheless, Matt Nagy will take on his mentor, Andy Reid, for the first time on December 22nd for Sunday Night Football.
This has the potential to be the game of the year on the Bears schedule. Kansas City features an offense unlike any other. They were one possession away from the Super Bowl last year. They have the reigning MVP, Patrick Mahomes, who will be putting the vaunted Bears defense to the test.
Other Games of Note
Week 3 - Monday Night Football @ Washington
Week 6 - BYE
Week 7 - Fox "Game of the Week" vs. New Orleans
Week 11 - Sunday Night Football @ Los Angeles (Rams)
Week 14 - Thursday Night Football vs. Dallas
Also worth noting, the Bears will play three games in 11 days from weeks 11-13 when they square off with Rams, Giants and Lions. The Bears faced this same challenge last season and went 3-0 during that stretch.
Get excited, Bears fans. This could definitely be the beginning of something truly special in Chicago. The Bears are beyond back. This one will be challenging, but the Monsters of the Midway seem to be up to any challenge under Matt Nagy. The march to Super Bowl 54 starts now. BEAR DOWN.
Featured Photo: ChicagoBears/Twitter