The NFL makes it hard for sports fans to miss it entirely during the offseason, maintaining its year-long relevance with stunts equally organic and all-the-way manufactured.
Revealing each upcoming season’s full schedule is one of those perfect pursuits that straddle these lines — who doesn’t want to know just when and where (who is typically revealed just after the end of each regular season) they’re favorite NFL team will play in the upcoming fall, even in the midst of spring?
In years past you simply got this info in press releases and at the end of your local sports news broadcast, today it is available in a night-long special broadcast on the NFL Network — the League is nothing if not expert programmers.
To that end, they’ve set up one of their charter franchises, the Chicago Bears, with a mid-level schedule by way of toughness (ranking 15th in the League) but with six nationally scheduled performances, including a return to Thanksgiving Day at Detroit.
The big wrinkle in this upcoming schedule is the expanding of flex scheduling, previously used just to juice up the back end of the schedule, this year it comes into effect in the first week of October and with games against Carolina and New England that month, it wouldn’t be out of hand to possibly see half the Bears’ games this season on a national platform.
Otherwise, the schedule will feature several reunions with former Bears in places like Atlanta and Tampa Bay and a couple sequels from this past season that could make fans smile. Take a look at the entire ’14 slate with some added takes on select games.
(All times CT)
Aug. 8 vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 7 PM (Fox 32)
Aug. 14 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 7 PM (ESPN)
Aug. 21-24 at Seattle Seahawks, 9 PM (Fox 32)
Aug. 28 at Cleveland Browns, 7 PM (Fox 32)
Regular season schedule
Sept. 7 vs. Buffalo Bills, Noon (Fox)
— An interesting opener insofar as it features an opponent with neither any immediate ties to the Bears, such as a division rival, or a prospective contender, such as last year’s opener with Cincinnati. The Bears do get to look at their scheduled AFC division right away again and seeing Buffalo on the schedule makes me root for the Donald to acquire the team just so we can see his hair helmet battle the late summer breeze off the lake.
Sept. 14 at San Francisco 49ers, 7:30 PM (NBC)
— The Bears are helping open the new Levi’s Stadium in primetime and I think its a set up. Judging by the way the Bears played its last game in Candlestick Park, you could see them being set to play the nut roll here. This is a definite early statement game.
Sept. 22 at New York Jets (Mon), 7:30 PM (ESPN)
Sept. 28 Green Bay Packers, Noon (Fox)
— Welcome back Julius Peppers and, more importantly, Aaron Rodgers. The good thing about this early scheduling is that he can’t ruin the Bears’ season at this point. Can he?
Oct. 5 at Carolina Panthers, Noon* (Fox)
Oct. 12 at Atlanta Falcons, Noon* (Fox)
— Devin Hester plays his first game against the Bears on the fast track of the Georgia Dome. Of any ex-Bear to face the squad this season, I think Devin is the one best set up to make Chicago regret letting him go.
Oct. 19 Miami Dolphins, Noon* (CBS)
Oct. 26 at New England Patriots, Noon* (Fox)
Nov. 2 BYE
Nov. 9 at Green Bay Packers, 7:30 PM* (NBC)
Nov. 16 Minnesota Vikings, Noon* (Fox)
Nov. 23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Noon* (Fox)
— By far the most fascinating game on the Bears’ schedule and one of the most fascinating on the NFL schedule as a whole. Lovie Smith rides back into the Chi, likely with Josh McCown under center. This will have to be the most in-demand ticket in the city this fall.
Nov. 27 at Detroit Lions (Thu), 11:30 AM (CBS)
— CBS broadcasting this game fascinates me, as it is home to the AFC, and typically when it shows a Thanksgiving game it features an AFC team be it in Detroit or Dallas. This game will have to be the first time the Bears faced an NFC team on CBS since that network loss the rights to the NFC in 1994. Plus, these two teams freakin’ hate each other. Will be a holiday treat.
Dec. 4 Dallas Cowboys (Thu), 7:25 PM (NFLN)
— Dallas has to be pretty salty about this: playing the Bears again in Chicago in December. Last year when this happened it resulted in arguably the most satisfying four quarters for Chicago in 2013. I may have missed something but it doesn’t look like the ‘Boys completely restructured themselves this off-season, they may be bound for another embarrassing national TV loss.
Dec. 15 New Orleans Saints (Mon), 7:30 PM (ESPN)
— The NFL has done the Bears right by scheduling the Dallas game exactly a week after the Thanksgiving game and with this Monday game they get a whole 11 days to rest up for the Saints and they may need all that. Its a little hard to get a full read on this team coming out of the free-agent period but you figure NO still has its high-powered offense and they’ve spent good money on the defense, this should be a definite highlight of the season.
Dec. 21 Detroit Lions, Noon* (Fox)
Dec. 28 at Minnesota Vikings, Noon* (Fox)
*Subject to flex scheduling
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