Embed from Getty Images

When you win 12 games, have the best defense in the league, and show that you’re a team on the rise, you suddenly become a hot commodity.

That’s exactly what the 2019 Chicago Bears have become according to their upcoming schedule.

Following head coach Matt Nagy’s successful inaugural season, the Bears have one of the most inconsistent schedules possible. They have been slated for five prime time games this coming season, a Thanksgiving Day battle with the Lions, back-to-back Thursday contests, one trip to London, and just seven noon games.

There are a lot of intriguing storylines for this upcoming season as the Bears enter 2019 with a great big bull’s-eye on their backs.

Week 1: Packers at Bears — Thursday, September 5, 7:20 p.m. (NBC)

I can’t think of a better way for the Bears to kick off the NFL’s 100th season than playing their long-time rivals from north of the border. Then again, I thought the similar idea last year and we know how that turned out. Nevertheless, the Bears have this one at home and conceivably have learned not to take their foot off the pedal, even against a hobbled Aaron Rodgers.

Week 2: Bears at Broncos — Sunday, September 15, 3:25 p.m. (FOX)

The Bears will travel to Denver in Week 2 to meet and greet former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in his first season as Broncos head coach. Fangio left new Bears coordinator Chuck Pagano with a stellar unit, and Fangio could be feeling just a touch of seller’s remorse depending on how well his Broncos offense performs.

Week 3: Bears at Redskins — Monday, September 23, 7:15 p.m. (ESPN)

I haven’t the slightest clue what the NFL was thinking in scheduling a Bears-Redskins duel on Monday night. What’s the appeal of this matchup? Are the Redskins even going to be any good? Perhaps facing former Vikings foe, Adrian Peterson, is a storyline to watch? But he’ll be splitting the load, presumably, with last year’s rookie running back, Derrius Guice. Does Case Keenum get you juiced up for Monday Night Football? We’ll see.

Week 4: Vikings at Bears — Sunday, September 29, 3:25 p.m. (CBS)

The Bears will get their second NFC North game of the season in the first month with a home date against the Vikings. Minnesota has a chip on its shoulder after failing miserably last year to build off their Minneapolis Miracle from the previous season’s playoffs. The Vikings brought in Kirk Cousins last offseason and finished just 8-7-1 in 2018. All divisional games are important, and the Bears cannot overlook the Vikings.

Week 5: Bears vs. Raiders (in London) — Sunday, October 6, Noon (FOX)

Yuck. The Bears have to make the trip across the pond to take on Khalil Mack’s old team. Fortunately, it’s a scheduled road game for the Bears, thus, they won’t be docked one of their games at Soldier Field. Year 2 under Jon Gruden ought to see some improvement, but I don’t see the Bears losing this game. New wide receiver Antonio Brown will be a tough matchup for the Bears’ secondary, but I have my doubts that he’ll have as much success catching passes from Derek Carr (…or Kyler Murray?) as he did with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. Also of interest in this one is to see the player the Raiders will have drafted with the 24th selection (assuming they don’t move it) in this month’s Draft. The Bears traded it to the Raiders in the deal for Mack last year.

Week 6: BYE WEEK

It’s a good time for the Bears to catch up on their rest after throwing their body clocks out of whack in London. The ideal scenario would be to have the bye week right smack dab in the middle of the season, but the Bears will have to make do with Week 6. I’ll be satisfied if the Bears are at least 3-2 heading into the bye week, but I don’t see why they can’t hit 4-1 or even 5-0.

Week 7: Saints at Bears — Sunday, October 20, 3:25 p.m. (FOX)

What bothered me most about last year’s strong run was the lack of quality opponents on the schedule. Of the Bears’ 12 victories in 2018, only four of them were against teams with winning records. I had to see the Bears beat the Rams before I wanted to proclaim them ready to compete for a Super Bowl. This year, the Bears get to take on the Saints, a team still miffed over the way their season ended in the postseason last year. I’d prefer the Bears to face the Saints in New Orleans for an added challenge, but this will still do. Coming out of the bye, the Bears will have had two weeks of preparation for the Saints and we’ll get a good litmus test for where the Bears are by this point in the season.

Week 8: Chargers at Bears — Sunday, October 27, Noon (FOX)

Finally, at last. The Chargers have been getting far too much national love the past year and a half, in my honest opinion. I’m anxious to finally get a good look at what all the fuss is about when they make the trip to Soldier Field in late October. I have concerns about this being the second game of a back-to-back-to-back tough stretch, but assuming health, the Bears can and should win this game. Running back Melvin Gordon presents a tough challenge for the Bears’ run defense. The defense will also have its hands full with Philip Rivers and the plethora of receiving options he has at his disposal. This will be a good test for the Bears.

Week 9: Bears at Eagles — Sunday, November 3, Noon (FOX)

Revenge game? Nagy and Eagles coach Doug Pederson will once again renew their friendly rivalry as the Bears seek to avenge last year’s playoff loss to Philadelphia. One thing will be certain: Cody Parkey will not be there to bop the upright. A healthy Carson Wentz paired with Alshon Jeffery and the re-emergence of DeSean Jackson — who spent five years in Washington and Tampa Bay after his first six years in Philadelphia — should present a challenge for the Bears defense. Zach Ertz might be the best tight end in football — he and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce are 1A and 1B, in my opinion — and he’ll be tough to contain. Lastly, and I might be burying the lede here, the Bears will get their first glimpse at former teammate Jordan Howard, who will don the green and black (or will they be wearing the kelly green jerseys?). The Eagles will once more be a formidable foe in the NFC.

Week 10: Lions at Bears — Sunday, November 10, Noon (CBS)

Last year, the Bears played the Lions twice in three weeks — twice in 11 days, to be exact. This year, they have a similar trajectory, squaring off twice in four weeks, or twice in 18 days. Some NFL pundits want to place the Lions in the “teams to watch” category as they enter Year 2 in the Matt Patricia regime. I, for one, am skeptical of any potential marked improvement. I’m curious to see how explosive running back Kerryon Johnson does in his second season in the league. He’ll be tough to contain. The Lions defense was actually fairly good last year, finishing 10th against the run and 8th against the pass. If they can build upon that success, I can see how they’ll be more competitive. But in the uber-competitive NFC North, I don’t see them making a lot of noise.

Week 11: Bears at Rams — Sunday, November 17, 7:20 p.m. (NBC)

This is the game that I have circled on my calendar. Okay, not really, but go with me here. Yes, the Bears have teams like the Saints, Chargers, and Chiefs on their schedule, but those are all home games. This one here is on the road on Sunday Night Football against last year’s Super Bowl runner-up. And the Bears spanked them last year (in physicality, not points), so you know they have revenge on the mind. I want to see how the Bears fare in this game — much like last year — to know whether they have true Super Bowl aspirations.

Week 12: Giants at Bears — Sunday, November 24, Noon (FOX)

Yet another revenge game appears on the docket when the Bears play host to the visiting New York Giants. Last year, the Giants ended the Bears’ 5-game win streak when backup quarterback Chase Daniel flopped at MetLife Stadium. The Giants, sans Odell Beckham Jr., will have a little bit different look to them. By this point in the season, we could see a rookie quarterback replace Eli Manning in the lineup. Or, we could see the aging vet chugging along. One thing we for sure will see — barring injury, of course — is the explosive running style of Saquon Barkley. The Giants’ featured back finished second in rushing yards in his rookie season last year and is a tough load to handle.

Week 13: Bears at Lions — Thursday, November 28, 11:30 a.m. (FOX)

The Bears will complete their season series against the Lions with another Thanksgiving Day game. Last Thanksgiving, the Bears gutted out a tight, 23-16 victory against the Lions on just three days rest. This year will be no different in terms of rest, and I expect this one to be the tighter of the two matchups as well.

Week 14: Cowboys at Bears — Thursday, December 5, 7:20 p.m. (FOX)

The Bears’ fourth of their five prime time games will take place against the Cowboys, exactly one week after Thanksgiving, marking back-to-back Thursday appearances. Last year, the Cowboys were a surprise playoff team and I expect them to be competitive yet again. This one being a home game should certainly help the Bears slow down what could be a dangerous offense. Wide receiver Amari Cooper and the recently un-retired Jason Witten will have a full offseason with the team, as will last year’s rookie receiver Michael Gallup. All three should factor heavily into the offense along with running back Ezekiel Elliott — last year’s rushing champion.

Week 15: Bears at Packers — Sunday, December 15, Noon (FOX)

Because the Bears play on Thursday night in Week 14, they’ll have 10 days of rest before taking on the Packers at Lambeau Field. The Bears have some unfinished business to take care of following their Week 1 collapse in Green Bay in 2018. While that may seem like a stretch — considering the Bears will have had two more games against the Packers since that outing — winning on the road against divisional opponents is vital to success. By this point in the season, this game could very well help determine the NFC North champions and/or playoff seeding.

Week 16: Chiefs at Bears — Sunday, December 22, 7:20 p.m. (NBC)

When the Bears meet the Chiefs at Soldier Field in Week 16, they will have faced all three of the highest-scoring teams from 2018 (the Rams and Saints were the other two). Needless to say, their No. 1 defense will face stiff competition this coming season. I’m always one of the last people to jump on a team’s — or player’s — bandwagon because I don’t like to hop from one to another so quickly. I prefer to get a bigger sample size before I give my opinion — better to get it right than first. With that said, I’m just not sure how much of “the real deal” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is. Mahomes took the league by storm last year, throwing for an astounding 5,097 yards, 50 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions on his way to winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award. That’s one season’s worth of work — an incredible season, no less. But let’s see how close he can come to replicating that season. And if he does, the Bears have their hands full in this one as they — hopefully — barrel down on a playoff seed.

Week 17: Bears at Vikings — Sunday, December 29, Noon (FOX)

Do I smell a tradition here? This coming season will mark the fourth-straight year that the Bears and Vikings will conclude the regular season against one another. The Vikings have a 2-1 edge on the Bears in the previous three outings, with the Bears winning the most recent of them. The Vikings ought to be competitive again this year — I can’t imagine they flop again — so this game could decide the division and/or a playoff spot. The health of the players is obviously the first criteria in determining the competitiveness of this late-season game. But assuming all systems are a go, I wouldn’t be surprised if this game is flexed into a Sunday night affair.

2019 Chicago Bears projected record

A blind monkey could fling his crap against a wall with 16 numbers on it and have as good a chance at predicting the Bears’ final record as I could. But, what the hell? — here’s my crack at being Nostradamus.

I predict the Bears will finish 10-6 in 2019.

Here’s my rationale:

In the first five games of the season, prior to their bye week, I predict the Bears will go 4-1. I think of those five games, the Packers or Broncos pose the greatest obstacle to the Bears.

The Bears face arguably their toughest three-game stretch of the season against the Saints, Chargers and Eagles. I predict they will go 1-2 in that stretch, probably beating the Chargers. That doesn’t mean I don’t think they can beat the Saints or Eagles. It just means those are tough matchups.

So, after the first half of the season, I predict the Bears will be 5-3.

In the next “quarter” of the season, I feel the Bears will sprint ahead in the race for the division crown and go 3-1, beating the Lions twice and the Giants once, while losing on the road to the Rams.

At this point, they’ll be 8-4 and in position to make the playoffs so long as they split the next four games.

Given how difficult the last four games of the season are — vs. Cowboys, at Packers, vs. Chiefs, at Vikings — winning two of those four would be quite the accomplishment. I predict that’s exactly what they’ll do, thus finishing 10-6.