Breakdown: When I look at Chicago's schedule, I see an early storm followed by some calm seas. Oh yes, I am full of maritime references -- and many other things -- tonight.
The Bears play three of their first five games on the road, including tough matchups at Dallas, the New York Giants and Carolina. NFC North teams provide the opponent for their two home games in that stretch. So let's not rule out a 2-3 or even a 1-4 start for this team. (I know someone will throw that back in my face when the Bears soar to a 5-0 start, but what the heck.)
But if the Bears can weather that initial grouping of games, they have an opportunity to start their playoff run in mid-October. They have home games against Seattle and Washington, followed by their bye, a trip to Toronto to play Buffalo and a home matchup against Minnesota.
If the Bears are a playoff team, they're going at least 3-1 in that stretch and will be in contention for the final seven games of the season.
Complaint department: The Bears will have to travel to all three NFC North locales over the final five weeks of the season. Winning at a Black and Blue stadium is tough enough. Doing it in December (or January), with a possible playoff spot on the line, will be a particularly tough task.
Prime time: The Bears won't play on Thanksgiving as originally rumored. But they do have four prime-time games, including "Monday Night Football" matchups against Green Bay and at Minnesota. I know where I'll be those weeks.
Bears Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, at Dallas, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Monday, Sep. 27, Green Bay, 8:30 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, at NY Giants, 8:20 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, Seattle, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 14, Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Thursday, Nov. 18, at Miami, 8:20 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, Philadelphia, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, at Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, New England, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Monday, Dec. 20, at Minnesota, 8:30 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, at Green Bay, 1:00 PM