John Fox’s tenure as Bears head coach began in 2015 with an opening run against the playoff elites of the NFC: Green Bay, Arizona and Seattle. Now, coming off two losing seasons with a franchise that has never retained a head coach after three straight sub-.500 years, the NFL has dealt Fox and the Bears an even more difficult start to the 2017 season.
The Bears have seven games this season against teams with winning 2016 records, and the NFL has put four of those in the first four weeks of a possible make-or-break season for Fox. New quarterback Mike Glennon is part of combined offensive and defensive lineups with as many as nine new starters over the 2016 opening day. They will be attempting to settle in against the Super Bowl runner-up Atlanta Falcons (11-5), Glennon’s former team of Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7), the AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) and the NFC North-winning Green Bay Packers (10-6). Tampa Bay, which missed last postseason by virtue of losing a tiebreaker with the Detroit Lions, and Green Bay are road games.
The Bears went 0-3 against that 2015 three-game Packers-Cardinals-Seahawks array. A win in any of the first four this season will be a significant upset in what will generally be forecast as a winless September.
For Glennon, Week 2 will be a matchup against his former team. It will not be particularly a grudge match – the Bucs made a strong effort to keep Glennon, but only as a backup to Jameis Winston.
“I had an opportunity to play,” Glennon said after he signed with the Bears. “I started 18 games there. Did some good things, and things I could work on as well. Right now, I’m just excited about my opportunity here with Chicago.”
October holds no opponents coming off winning 2016’s and the Bears did beat Minnesota (8-8) in Chicago last season in Jay Cutler’s last winning start as a Bears quarterback. And they prevailed over the Baltimore Ravens (8-8) the last time the teams met (2013), albeit in Chicago, while this time it will be in Baltimore where the Bears have lost by double digits the only two times they have played there.
After that, the Nov. 5 weekend off.
The 3-13 mark for 2016 did not take the Bears completely out of prime-time consideration. Their game at Green Bay is on Thursday night Sept. 28, followed by the Minnesota game in Soldier Field on Mon., Oct. 9.
The release of 2017 schedules included setting exact dates and times for the Bears’ preseason (all times CST): Thurs. Aug. 10 vs. Denver, 7 p.m.; Sat. Aug. 19 at Arizona, 9 p.m.; Sun. Aug. 27 at Tennessee, noon; and Thurs. Aug. 31 vs. Cleveland, 7 p.m.