The order, dates and times of Bears games were revealed on Wednesday, with a few surprises but nothing really new – opponents and home/away are known by the end of play on the final day of the season, if not earlier.
But the lineup of games does come with some talking points:
* The Bears get all four of their AFC games played in the first half of the schedule, something that hasn’t happened in 30 years. They won all four AFC meetings in what was a down year for the AFC North. Only New England from the AFC East made the 2012 playoffs but the New York Jets added running back Chris Johnson, who blistered the Bears for 141 rush yards and a TD in the Bears’ walkover of Tennessee in 2012.
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* Five of the six games against NFC North opponents fall after the off-week at midseason. That starts with a trip to Green Bay Nov. 9, which because of the extra week to prepare, sets up as well as any trip to Lambeau Field can.
* Barring a debacle through the first eight games, which include four of the six games against 2013 playoff teams (San Francisco, Green Bay, Carolina, New England), the Bears will hold their division fate in their own hands. No excuses.
* Dome/warm-weather teams Dallas (Dec. 4) and New Orleans (Dec. 15) come to Soldier Field in December, both for night games. Since these are night games, we’ll use the average low temps: for Dec. 4 it is 25 degrees; for the 15th it is 20.
* The Bears have all five of their games against teams with new head coaches in the second half of the season: Detroit (Jim Caldwell), Minnesota (Mike Zimmer) and Tampa Bay (Lovie Smith). That bodes better for the new guys, whose teams will have no fewer than nine games to settle in before they face the Bears. The Bears split their games against new coaches last year, winning at Cleveland and losing at Philadelphia.
Then again, the Bears were one of those teams with a new coach – Marc Trestman. Looking strictly at the offense for purposes of comparison, the Bears averaged 31.8 points in their first four games last season and 30.5 in the final four (with that 11-point disaster in Philadelphia), suggesting that the “new coach” timing factor shouldn’t necessarily count too heavily.