If the Chicago Bears are near, or above, .500 after the first half of the 2014 NFL season, fans can probably plan on purchasing their playoff tickets right then and there. Six of the Bears first nine games are on the road, and the ninth is a Sunday Night Football donnybrook with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau field.
Schedules for all 32 teams were announced on Wednesday, and the Bears will be starting their new season at home against the Buffalo Bills on September 7 at noon CT. Things get very interesting after that, as the Bears travel to San Francisco for a Sunday night game which will be the first of two straight nationally televised road contests. The second is the first of two Monday Night Football games for the team this year, as they fly to New York to take on the Jets.
If there is a silver-lining to the Chicago Bears’ tough first half of the 2014 NFL Season, it is the fact that the team will not play more than two consecutive games away from Soldier Field. The good news for the Bears is that they come back home on Sept. 28 after two straight prime-time games. The bad news is that they will have the Packers waiting for them on a short week.
The Bears then hit the road for two more weeks with consecutive games against the NFC South. They will be at Carolina on Oct. 5, and then at the Georgia Dome Oct. 12 to take on the Atlanta Falcons. The theme changes to the AFC East as the Bears return home to take on the Miami Dolphins, followed by a date with the New England Patriots at Foxboro, MA.
Week nine will be the Bears’ off-week and it will undoubtedly be put to good use, as it leads up to a Sunday Night Football prime-time game at Green Bay. The Packer game will be the lead-off to the second half of the season which will include five games at Soldier Field—three of them consecutive–and five NFC North divisional games.
After a Nov. 16 home game against the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago fans will get a chance to welcome Lovie Smith back to the Windy City. The former Bears head coach will bring his Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Soldier Field for a Sunday afternoon game on Nov. 23.
The ensuing two games for the Bears will be a rarity in NFL scheduling, as Chicago will play two straight Thursday games. In a traditional Thanksgiving game they will get their first look at the 2014 Detroit Lions on Nov. 27. The Bears will come home the following Thursday, Dec. 4, for an NFL Network prime-time game against the Dallas Cowboys. Both teams will have the same amount of rest for the game, as the Cowboys also play their yearly Thanksgiving game in Dallas against the Eagles.
The Thursday night game means the Bears will have 11 days to rest up for the next game on Dec. 15, at Soldier Field against the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. This game will be the last of six national games on the Bears schedule for 2014. Chicago will host the Lions on Dec. 21 and then finish out the regular season in Minnesota. If either of those games has serious playoff considerations, there is a possibility NBC could use their “flex” option to include the Bears on another Sunday Night Football telecast.
Patience will be the catch-word for Chicago Bears fans in 2014, as even a 4-4 record through a tough first half of the NFL season would give the team a decent shot at winning the NFC North. Five divisional battles and five home games in the final eight games of the season set the stage for good things on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky