The 2015 NFL schedule has been released. Here’s a look at the Bears schedule with capsules detailing what could be on the line for each game.
Week 1Sep 13, Noon – vs. Green Bay Packers
New Bears head coach John Fox faces one of the toughest tests he’ll see right out of the gate. Fox doesn’t strike me as a guy who gives two hoots about “rivalry week” and would rather beat anybody and everybody. But he’ll know the importance of a divisional game and setting an early tone for his new program.
Week 2Sep 20, Noon – vs. Arizona Cardinals
The Bears get a second straight 2014 playoff participant in a very solid Cardinals team. I think every year there are a few teams that make the playoffs that don’t really deserve to and I think that was the Cardinals a year ago. They’ll fall back to earth this year, but still present a tough challenge. In a separate story line, the Bears will face the head coach they passed up on in Bruce Arians.
Week 3Sep 27, 3:25 p.m. – at Seattle Seahawks
How’s this for a tough stretch to open the season? The third-straight game against a playoff team from a year ago, and this one against the should-be two-time defending champion Seahawks — on the road in the loudest stadium in the NFL. It’s too early to ever accurately predict the results of a season, but if ever I was to “pencil in” my predictions, I’d use red ink on this one.
Week 4Oct 4, Noon – vs. Oakland Raiders
The Bears have three of their first four games at the friendly confines of Soldier Field. It’s just unfortunate that this is the only game that appears like a “should” win. New Raiders coach Jack Del Rio comes to town to face his former boss in Denver, John Fox. Motivation can only go so far before talent kicks in, and I don’t think the Raiders have what it takes to knock off the Bears in this one.
Week 5Oct 11, Noon – at Kansas City Chiefs
There’s nothing easy about playing in Kansas City and I could realistically see the Bears dropping to 1-4 at this point. Andy Reid’s Chiefs are tough and always well-prepared. I don’t worry about Alex Smith and the woeful Chiefs passing game — even with the addition of receiver Jeremy Maclin. But the run game and versatility of Jamaal Charles is a handful.
Week 6Oct 18, Noon – at Detroit Lions
Although I’ve never been a big believer in the Lions, they are still a tough opponent to beat on the road. I expect the Bears to split their two meetings with them and so I would lean toward a loss in this one, leaving them at a possible 1-5 at this point. The Lions lost defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and although they filled his place with a very solid Haloti Ngata, I expect the Lions’ defensive front to take a hit.
Week 7Oct 25 – BYE WEEK
The Bears’ bye comes at a good time when they most likely will need to regroup a little after some early season struggles. The back half of their schedule looks a little less formidable so they can make some adjustments and grow in Fox’s new system.
Week 8Nov 1, Noon – vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings are a young team, but not necessarily on the rise. Will Adrian Peterson be on the Vikings by this point in the season? The Vikes didn’t prove to be too noteworthy an opponent last season without him. To me, Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t seem like the answer at quarterback for the Vikings, although he flashed a bit of talent I hadn’t previously known existed.
Week 9Mon, Nov 9, 7:30 p.m. – at San Diego Chargers
This is only one of two prime time games for the Bears this season after woefully underwhelming in last year’s night games. A date with the Chargers is almost always enjoyable when the Jay Cutler-Philip Rivers feud can be strengthened. But Rivers is on the outs in San Diego and it’s hard to say whether he’ll be on the roster by this point. Then again, will Cutler still be taking snaps for the Bears at this point?
Week 10Nov 15, Noon – at St. Louis Rams
The Long brothers will do battle for the second time as pros when Kyle Long’s Bears head to St. Louis to face Chris Long’s Rams. Last time the Longs squared off, the Bears were mostly embarrassed by a mediocre Rams team — which spoke volumes about how poor the Bears were at that point. I feel the same away about this matchup as I did back in November of 2013 when unknown running back Benny Cunningham ran all over the Bears: the Rams, while talented with a good head coach in Jeff Fisher, have no business beating the Bears.
Week 11Nov 22, Noon – vs. Denver Broncos
John Fox will get the opportunity to face his former team, led by legendary quarterback Peyton Manning. The Bears historically have had trouble defending Manning, but this is a much older, much more limited quarterback than in the past, and Fox and Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase — who was coordinator of Manning the past two seasons in Denver — might have a pretty good idea how to limit Manning’s production. This actually seems like a very winnable game.
Week 12Thu, Nov 26, 7:30 p.m. – at Green Bay Packers
In the Bears’ second prime time appearance of the season, they’ll head up to Lambeau Field to take on the Packers on Thanksgiving evening. This is supposedly the night that they retire Brett Favre’s #4 jersey, and what a treat it would be if the Bears could pull off the upset and spoil the night like Favre had done to them for so many years. … Eh, not likely, right? But a man can dream …
Week 13Dec 6, Noon – vs. San Francisco 49ers
Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will face his former team when the 49ers roll into town. These are not your Jim Harbaugh ‘Niners, mind you. Besides the departure of Harbaugh, the 49ers lost running back Frank Gore and linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, among others. I think San Fran is ripe for the pickin’.
Week 14Dec 13, Noon – vs. Washington Redskins
The “fourth quarter” — thank you, Lovie Smith — of the Bears’ schedule this season appears to be very winnable. The Redskins are in a world of hurt with poor quarterback play and mediocre defense. The Bears could be hitting their stride at this point in the season after taking a little time to learn the new schemes and how to play with their new teammates. Hard to imagine they’d drop this one.
Week 15Dec 20, Noon – at Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings will not yet be in their new stadium by this point, which means the Bears will head up north on the frozen tundra of the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium. I think in outdoor weather conditions between two inconsistent teams, anything can happen. And although I expect the Bears to win this game, a loss is not out of the question.
Week 16Dec 27, Noon – at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Speaking of Lovie Smith’s fractional math, I’m sure he’ll be getting his Buccaneers all lathered up for the final one-eighth of a season in a revenge game against his former team. Smith failed to gain a measure of revenge last year in a game in Chicago, but he might have a little more luck after a year under his belt with the organization. Could Jameis Winston be leading this Bucs offense? How about Marcus Mariota? These could be interesting story lines in a game that will most likely have no playoff implications.
Week 17Jan 3, Noon – vs. Detroit Lions
In the season finale, the Bears will host the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. I can’t remember the last time the Bears played in January — and that’s not just a shot at them missing the playoffs so often; regular seasons don’t usually go into January. It should be a challenging game, but one they can win, no less. If healthy by this point, I would pencil the Bears in for a win as they close out the first year of the Fox regime with a win and a positive note.