PITTSBURGH--How is this for a 2009 schedule?
The Bears are the only team in the NFL that will play all four teams from the championship games next season.
They will host Arizona, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and travel to Baltimore, ensuring the Bears will face the Super Bowl XLIII champion. Unless Joe Flacco can become the first rookie to win four playoff games, it will be a home game against the defending champions.
But that is about as hard as the Bears' 2009 schedule gets. Get this: Thanks to some math by John Clayton over at ESPN, ESPN.com and every other four-letter media platform that he appears on, we've determined that the Bears have the NFL's easiest schedule for 2009. Although the Bears will have seven games vs. 2008 playoff teams (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Minnesota, counting the Vikings twice) they only have seven games against teams that finished above .500. It's the same seven opponents.
According to Clayton, the combined 2008 record of the Bears' opponents is an underwhelming 105-149-2, a .414 opponent winning percentage. Minnesota has the next easiest schedule in the league at .420 and Green Bay has the third-easiest schedule at .428.
It's a product of not only having the winless Detroit Lions in the division and counting them twice, it's because the NFC North faces the AFC North and NFC West. That means dates with Cleveland (4-12), Cincinnati (4-11-1), St. Louis (2-14) and Seattle (4-12).
*** Caught up with Pittsburgh backup quarterback Byron Leftwich after the Steelers' win over San Diego Sunday night. He said he thought the Bears were going to draft him with the fourth overall pick in 2003 before they dealt that selection to the New York Jets a week before the draft. Leftwich will be a free agent and said the Bears are an interesting team, one that he would consider. Of course, his first choice is to find a situation where he can win a starting job.
"Tell them to look me up,'' Leftwich said.
He would be an intriguing possibility if you believe he can stay healthy. He's looked good in limited time with Pittsburgh this season and has proven that he's over ankle injuries that plagued him the last two years. When you take a look at the list of free-agent quarterbacks, you can do a lot worse. Matt Cassel is going to be franchised and it's fair to assume the Bears will not be in play for Kurt Warner.
We'll be taking a look at other positions in free agency as the week moves along. We've already rolled out the lists of quarterbacks and wide receivers and will stay on the offensive side of the ball for now. But before that, later today we'll have another edition, well a second edition of Four Down Territory.