Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Posted: 5:38 p.m. Updated: 6:39 p.m.
By John Mullin
The NFL does not yet have the security of a collective bargaining agreement between its owners and players. But players are working out on their own as if there will be a season, owners are managing their businesses as if therell be one, and the league has put out its 2011 schedule also based on the assumption that there will be football on time come September.
The Bears did not draw the honor of opening against the defending Super Bowl champions; the distinction of visiting the Green Bay Packers to open the 2011 season has gone to the New Orleans Saints, who preceded the Packers in the confetti shower.
But the Bears do get just their second home opener of the Lovie Smith era, facing the NFC South-winning Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 11. And the season will end with holiday specials against two division opponents: Green Bay on Dec. 25 followed by the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 1, both games away from the lakefront.
We like opening with three of our first four games in front of our fans at Soldier Field, Smith said in a statement. It is also clear that our division is well respected as we face each of our rivals in primetime this season. The NFC North deserves the showcase games and we look forward to those classic match-ups in front of a national audience.
The league also thinks enough of the Bears and the NFC North to have prime-time games with the Bears against each of their division rivals.
This marks the fifth time in eight Lovie Smith seasons that the Bears have finished with two division opponents and it is seventh time in Smiths eight years that the NFL has pitted the Bears against the Packers in one of the last two games of a season.
The schedule has the Bears facing Detroit and Philadelphia in Monday Night Football games, a venue in which Smiths teams are 6-1.
Including the two games against the defending Super Bowl champions, the Bears draw a schedule that lines up with eight teams that finished the 2010 season with winning records, in addition to the 8-8 Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders game falls in a stretch of four games against the AFC West, including a visit by Jay Cutler to Denver where the Broncos may be quarterbacked by Kyle Orton.
DayDateTime Opponent (10 record)
Sun. Sept. 11, noon Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
Comment: Division winners with Matt Ryan. Only the second time Lovie Smith has opened at home.
Sun., Sept. 18, noon @ New Orleans Saints (11-5)
Comment: For all of their successes, Drew Brees and Saints are 0-5 vs. Lovie Smith, including playoffs.
Sun., Sept. 25, 3:15 p.m Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Comment: An early season win was scant consolation after the Packers beat the Bears twice in three games on the way to the Super Bowl. Green Bays arrow clearly pointing up.
Sun., Oct. 2, noon Carolina Panthers (2-14)
Comment: Ron Rivera as head coach, Cam Newton as his starting quarterback? Story lines, anyone?
Mon, Oct. 10, 7:30 p.m. @ Detroit Lions (6-10)
Comment: The one-time doormats nearly beat the Bears twice and won their last four, including a shutdown of the Packers. If Matthew Stafford can stay healthy for a full season.
Sun., Oct. 16, 7:20 p.m. Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
Comment: The end of the Brett Favre Era finally arrives. Leslie Frazier begins the makeover of a team with an identity crisis at quarterback.
Sun., Oct. 23, 7 p.m. @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)
Comment: Currently scheduled for Wembley Stadium in London but owners-players impasse needs to be settled by Aug. 1.
Sun., Oct. 30 Off week
Mon., Nov. 7, 7:30 p.m. @ Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
Comment: Another date with Michael Vick. This makes five straight years facing the Eagles, last four decided by 5 or fewer points.
Sun., Nov. 13, noon Detroit Lions (6-10)
Comment: Last game vs. NFC before a four-game run through the AFC West.
Sun., Nov. 20, 3:15 p.m. San Diego Chargers (9-7)
Comment: One of the NFLs more enigmatic teams. Cutler and Philip Rivers can renew acquaintances.
Sun., Nov. 27, 3:05 p.m. @ Oakland Raiders (8-8)
Comment: The NFLs most hostile environment for visitors but Bears havent lost to Raiduhs since 99.
Sun., Dec., 4, noon Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
Comment: Chiefs were wild-card losers last postseason but have won five straight vs. NFC under one-time Bears asst. Todd Haley.
Sun., Dec. 11, 3:05 p.m. @ Denver Broncos (4-12)
Comment: Orton or Tim Tebow under center for Cutlers homecoming against the team that drafted him.
Sun., Dec. 18, noon Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
Comment: The division winner with the losing record were 1-1 vs. 10 Bears, including playoffs.
Sun., Dec. 25, 7:20 p.m. @ Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Comment: First of two division games to finish the season. Either or both likely to have playoff seeding at stake.
Sun., Jan. 1, noon @ Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
Comment: Vikings should have their quarterback situation sorted out by then.
Sun., Sept. 11
Sun., Sept. 18
Sun., Sept. 25
Sun., Oct. 2
Mon., Oct. 10
Sun., Oct. 16
Sun., Oct. 23
@ Buccaneers (London)
Mon., Nov. 7
Sun., Nov. 13
Sun., Nov. 20
Sun., Nov. 27
Sun., Dec. 4
Sun., Dec. 11
Sun., Dec. 18
Sun., Dec. 25
Sun., Jan. 1
Check back on Comcast SportsNet for more information as it becomes available.