The Chicago Bears have dropped their 2021 regular season schedule, the team announced on Wednesday evening. With one of the toughest schedules ahead for the Bears, Chicago will face an uphill battle to make the playoffs in 2021. The upcoming season will be more about the development of quarterback Justin Fields, the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Now that the Bears 2021 schedule is officially related, what are some takeaways?
1) Four non-divsional games should be labeled as must-win games
Besides the six divisional games that the Bears will play in 2021, there are four games, specifically against NFC teams that could have an impact on the Bears’ playoff hopes. Chicago is set to play the Los Angeles Rams (week one), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (week 7), San Francisco 49ers (week 8), and Arizona Cardinals (week 13). Besides Arizona, each of these teams has been in the playoffs at least once over the last two seasons. Both Los Angeles and San Francisco could compete for the NFC West division title, while the Cardinals added veterans in wide receiver A.J. Green and pass rusher J.J. Watt, two players once considered the best at their respective positions.
Chicago needs to win at least three of these games to have a shot at playing a playoff game at home but also in order to keep pace with what is expected to be a loaded NFC.
2) The NFL loves the Bears in primetimeÂ
The Bears are not only the third biggest market in the NFL, they’re also one of the most historic franchises. The NFL has its origins in Chicago and the league wants to capitalize on money and tv ratings. As a result, the Bears’ five games in primetime, two against division opponents in the Minnesota Vikings (week 15) and Green Bay Packers (week 14) hold tremendous value.
The Bears other three primetime games are against the Detriot Lions (Thanksgiving Day on week 12), Pittsburgh Steelers (week 9 on MNF), and Los Angeles Rams (week one, SNF) A significant takeaway about four of the Bears five primetime games is that four are during the second half of the season or after week eight. This means even the NFL could be anticipating that rookie quarterback Justin Fields could be the Bears starter before week nine.
3) The last three NFC Champions are on the Bears rosterÂ
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers, and Los Angeles Rams are all on the Bears schedule during the first half of the season. These are also the last three teams to represent in the NFC in the Super Bowl, making them noteworthy matchups. Every team also got better this offseason. Tampa Bay, led by quarterback Tom Brady retained every starter on both offense and defense. Los Angeles upgraded the most important position in sports, trading two first-round picks for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Despite drafting quarterback Trey Lance with the third overall pick, San Francisco retained most of its core on defense, one of the NFL’s most injured groups in 2020. The outcome against these three teams will have an impact on Chicago’s playoff aspirations, especially when it comes to tiebreakers at the end of the year.
4) Seven straight NFC opponents to close out the seasonÂ
The Bears’ path to the playoffs is harder than it looks. But the final seven weeks of the season will see Chicago playing NFC teams, a stretch that includes the Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings (twice), Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, and Seattle Seahawks.
Chicago will need to need win at least five of these games in order to ensure clinching a playoff spot. Matchups against the Packers (week 14), Vikings (weeks 15 and 18) could also determine who wins the NFC North division crown. With uncertainty regarding the future of quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, the NFC North could be wide open, with the division race likely coming down to Chicago and Minnesota. The only question remains: Can Chicago navigate this tough seven game stretch?