We've digested it. We've look at it from the top, bottom and side and now we're ready to share some tidbits on the schedule. Surely we have missed some, probably some noteworthy ones, but this is what we have come up with.
*** With five prime-time games scheduled, the Bears are eligible to appear in one more night game due to flex scheduling that occurs between Weeks 11-17. No team is permitted to appear in more than six prime-time games and they cannot reach that number unless one is on NFL Network. The Bears meet that criteria as they play at San Francisco on Thursday, Nov. 12, on NFL Network. Of course, if things are not going well or if the Philadelphia Eagles struggle, the league could opt to move the Bears out of their Week 11 prime-time game on NBC. There are complex rules involved with shifting games during the flex portion of the schedule and the networks can block games from being moved. Without knowing all of the fine details, the Week 12 meeting at Minnesota ad the 15 game at Baltimore could be potential candidates to be shifted.
*** This marks the fourth consecutive season the Bears are scheduled to have five prime-time games.
*** The bye week comes at a good time for the Bears in Week 5. That gives them extra time to prepare for their Oct. 18 game at Atlanta.
*** On the flip side, bye weeks work out for the Bears. They don't have a single opponent on the schedule that will get an extra week to prepare for them. Every Bears' opponent has a game the week before the Bears face them.
*** Some consider Minnesota to be the Bears' chief competition this season. They meet in Weeks 12 and 16. That is the latest in the season the Bears and Vikings have ever played for the first time in a season since the league expanded to 16-game seasons in 1978.
*** Speaking of the end of the Vikings' schedule, it's no picnic.
Week 12 Bears at Vikings
Week 13 Vikings at Cardinals
Week 14 Bengals at Vikings
Week 15 Vikings at Panthers
Week 16 Vikings at Bears
Week 17 Giants at Vikings
*** The Bears had a two-game road trip to open the 2008 season and then endured a three-game road trip in November. Their schedule is more balanced this time around. There is just one two-week stretch away from Soldier Field--at Atlanta and then at Cincinnati.
*** Go ahead and crank up the hype machine for the Nov. 12 date at San Francisco. The Bears will head in to face the 49ers, coached by Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary.
*** Here is an interesting stat courtesy of ESPN.com blogger Mike Sando. He reports that the Arizona Cardinals are 1-15 in road games that begin at 10 a.m. Pacific time when they're not playing at the St. Louis Rams. The Bears host the Cardinals on Nov. 8. That game is scheduled to kick at noon or 10 PT.
*** This is the fifth straight year and the eighth time in 10 years the Bears have opened the season away from home.
*** The Bears are 3-1 in season openers played in prime time, including their victory at Indianapolis last season.
*** Pittsburgh comes to Soldier Field on Sept. 20 and it will be the Steelers' first visit since Nov. 5, 1995. That is the longest stretch for any team in the league. The next closest is Cleveland, who comes in Week 8, and the Browns were last at Soldier Field for a memorable overtime game Nov. 4, 2001.
Here are some quick thoughts on the 16 games.
Sept. 13 at Green Bay: We'll see if Lovie Smith can rekindle his winning ways at Lambeau Field. It was pretty there last season and the Jay Cutler-Aaron Rodgers buildup should be fun.
Sept. 20 PITTSBURGH: If the Bears are not daunted by the Packers' new 3-4 defense, they will be by Pittsburgh's version of the defense.
Sept. 27 at Seattle: General manager Jerry Angelo said T.J. Housmandzadeh was not worth the price. Let's see what Cutler has to say about that by Week 3.
Oct. 4 DETROIT: Don't look now, but the Lions could arrive at Soldier Field on a 20-game losing streak. Just guessing Rod Marinelli will not be interested in any questions about that.
Oct. 11 BYE: This is the earliest bye since Week 4 in 2005.
Oct. 18 at Atlanta: The Bears' defense did a number on Falcons' running back Michael Turner in the meeting last season, but that performance really highlighted the problems of the defense for the entire season. Coordinator Bob Babich robbed from the pass defense to stop the run and consequently the Bears' secondary was torched. How else do you explain for a rookie quarterback throwing for 301 yards, including a pass that never should have been completed to set up a game-winning field goal?
Oct. 25 at Cincinnati: Chad Ocho Cinco is usually a slam dunk choice for the conference call during the week. ``Hello, Cedric, it's Chicago calling.''
Nov. 1 CLEVELAND: Any chance Cutler will address his desire not to land with the Browns and coach Eric Mangini? Guessing ... no.
Nov. 8 ARIZONA: The Bears could have had Kurt Warner twice but they finally found a quarterback.
Nov. 12 at San Francisco: Mike Singletary has dropped his britches at halftime and talked about how the opponent was giving it to the Niners. He's muzzled his assistants after a never-ending search for an offensive coordinator. What's next?
Nov. 22 PHILADELPHIA: Bears might need more than a fourth-down stand this time if running back Brian Westbrook can play.
Nov. 29 at Minnesota: Pretty sure Charles Tillman covering two players on one entire side of the field (anybody see Bernard Berrian going deep) was another part of Babich's scheme to stop the run. Granted, the Vikings were on their one-yard line.
Dec. 6 ST. LOUIS: Is it just me or does it seem like the Bears play the Rams every season?
Dec. 13 GREEN BAY: Any odds on whether or not Ted Thompson signs a free agent for his 3-4 defense by the middle of the holiday shopping season?
Dec. 20 at Baltimore: Ray Lewis is always fun to watch, but seeing Ed Reed is a treat.
Dec. 28 MINNESOTA: The joke going around was that the person most upset about John St. Clair's departure was Jared Allen.
Jan. 3 at Detroit: Could the Lions come in riding a 32-game losing streak? Stop it.