Chicago Bears schedule analysis

Breakdown: Teams discuss the need to start off quickly so often it's become almost cliché. But in Chicago's case, it holds true with the club playing two of the first three games on the road against quality opponents. The Bears open Sept. 7 at home against the Buffalo Bills, before hitting the road for the opening of the new Levi's Stadium against the San Francisco 49ers in a prime-time clash. In Week 3, the Bears go back on the road for a Sept. 22 game against the New York Jets on "Monday Night Football." So Chicago's revamped defense, which finished 32nd last season against the run, will be tested early on in the schedule against Frank Gore (1,128 yards last season) and new Jets addition Chris Johnson (1,000-plus yards in six consecutive seasons). Maybe both backs are truly washed up. Maybe they're not. Either way, the Bears get a chance to find out while they're fresh. After the outings against the 49ers and Jets, the Bears host the Green Bay Packers. So what's expected to be a revamped Bears defense better be prepared.

Starting with the matchup at San Francisco, the Bears play four of their first six games on the road: at Carolina on Oct. 5, at Atlanta on Oct. 12 and at New England on Oct. 26 just before what will likely be a much-needed Week 9 bye. What's good for the Bears is they play five of their final eight games at Soldier Field, which could make for a tremendous advantage as the weather begins to turn downright frigid in Chicago.

Complaint department: Why not start the schedule at Soldier Field against former coach Lovie Smith and former backup quarterback-turned-starter Josh McCown? That would make for an intriguing, potentially drama-filled matchup to kick off the season. Instead, that matchup won't come until four days before Thanksgiving.

Furthermore, the Bears play the Lions on Thanksgiving, and then host them in Week 16 before concluding the regular season on the road Dec. 28 against Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium. Prior to the Thanksgiving clash with Detroit, the Bears host the Vikings Nov. 16. That means the Bears face the Lions and Vikings for a combined four games over the last seven weeks of the season. That could be either boring, which might be complaint-worthy, or full of drama and playoff implications if the teams are in the thick of the hunt in the NFC North. So we're not sure whether to complain or applaud here.

Thanksgiving turkeys: That's typically what the Bears have been on this holiday in recent history, but perhaps that changes this year with the schedule featuring a Thanksgiving matchup on the road against the Detroit Lions. Interestingly, Chicago and the Lions have squared off on Thanksgiving on 15 occasions, with the Bears holding an 8-7 record. But the Bears own a 1-4 mark in their past five outings on Thanksgiving, with their last win coming courtesy of the Lions on Nov. 25, 1993. The Bears haven't played a Thanksgiving game since Nov. 25, 2004, when they lost 21-7 at Dallas during former coach Lovie Smith's first season at the helm. That season, the Bears finished with a record of 5-11.

Strength of schedule: 15th, .496 | Vegas over/under: 8

Bears Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7, Buffalo, 1 p.m.

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, at San Francisco, 8:30 p.m.

Week 3: Monday, Sept. 22, at N.Y. Jets, 8:30 p.m.

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28, Green Bay, 1 p.m.

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, at Carolina, 1 p.m.

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, at Atlanta, 1 p.m.

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, Miami, 1 p.m.

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, at New England, 1 p.m.

Week 9: BYE

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9, at Green Bay, 8:30 p.m.

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16, Minnesota, 1 p.m.

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

Week 13: Thursday, Nov. 27, at Detroit, 12:30 p.m.

Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 4, Dallas, 8:25 p.m.

Week 15: Monday, Dec. 15, New Orleans, 8:30 p.m.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21, Detroit, 1 p.m.

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at Minnesota, 1 p.m.