Now that the Chicago Bears 2019 schedule has been made official, and we’ve all had some time to dissect the path the Bears will need to travel to repeat as NFC North champs, I wanted to share my top 10 takeaways. I won’t give a season record prediction yet, a few of us at WCG will break the schedule down in four quarters in the near future, but these are just some of my general thoughts on how it all lays out.
1) With this being the 100th anniversary of both the NFL and the Bears, the Thursday night season opener is going to have a playoff atmosphere. Last year the Bears nearly spoiled the 100th anniversary of the Green Bay Packers, but the moment seemed to be too big for that Bears team, and they allowed 21 fourth quarter points and lost 24-23.
That experience, plus the narrow playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, will give the Bears the edge they need to ensure they can match the moment on September 5th, 2019. Last year we saw a Bears team that was prepared for the emotional rush they’d get by being the visiting team on such a momentous occasion, so this year they’ll be able to replicate that, but be able to maintain it throughout 60 minutes for the win.
2) Playing in Denver early in the season is usually a recipe for disaster.
But with the Bears playing the Thursday prior, that might give them the extra prep time they need to game-plan against Vic Fangio. Also, I think it would be wise for them to head out to Denver a few days early to help the team get acclimated to the altitude. This will be a good early season test for Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears’ offense.
3) The Bears have 5 Prime Time games, plus two more for now (Week 4 and Thanksgiving) that will be considered national games, as well as the London trip, so the Bears won’t play at their usual noon time until week 8 against the Chargers. In fact, only six of their games will be at noon, but that’s what happens to good teams. If we expect the Bears to have sustained success, then we should get used to their schedule being all over the place.
4) Speaking of that London game, even though the Raiders are the designated home team, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will feel like a home game for Chicago. The Bears have been a popular team in the UK ever since they played in London’s Wembley Stadium in 1986, which came just three years after they started to air NFL games on British TV. The Bears were one of the best teams in the NFL in the mid-80s, and they gained plenty of fans at that time.
5) Weeks 7-9 is one of the toughest stretches of football that any team will face in the NFL this season. Saints, Chargers, then the Eagles are three Super Bowl contenders and we’ll learn a lot about the Bears in this stretch.
6) The week 11 Sunday Nighter in L.A. against the Rams comes at a time in the schedule where the contenders start to separate from the pretenders. A big win on the road by the Bears could boost their national exposure even more and really ramp up Super Bowl talk.
7) As a fan, I don’t like the Bears taking on the Chiefs so late in the season (week 16). There’s a good chance one, if not both, of these teams will have a postseason spot locked up, so they could be resting or coasting. A mid-year match-up could have been electric.
8) The double Thursday dip vs. the Lions (Thanksgiving in Detroit) followed up with the Cowboys in Chicago is an interesting scheduling quirk that will get the Bears some extra prep time for the Packers (week 15).
9) I’m so sick of hearing about the Bears playing a “first place schedule.” Every division plays 14 similar games, with only 2 games being determined by the previous season’s standings. Plus with the way teams fluctuate on a year to year basis, who’s to say that the 2 first place games the Bears are playing this year (Saints and Rams) won’t have a down year in 2019? At some point the 40-year old Drew Brees will slow down, and the Rams could be in for the classic Super Bowl hangover.
10) On a related topic, can people stop giving a shit about strength of schedule? It’s meaningless. The Bears’ strength of schedule before the 2018 season was .520, and before the 2019 season it’s an identical .520. The Bears went 12-4 vs. that tough .520 schedule a year ago, but before the season plenty of fans were concerned.
I think more time should be spent looking at travel miles and rest differential. Travel miles is how often teams spend travelling to away games, and rest differential is explained by ESPN’s Brian Burke in this Twitter thread. International games will skew the travel miles for teams playing those games, but the immediate bye week is meant to help alleviate some of that jet-lag.
The Bears only have one short week and that comes before Thanksgiving, but the Lions are also playing on a short week.