What's better than predicting the Bears' record in April? Ranking the games from 1-16 in terms of level of watchability, of course.
Luckily for Bears fans, there are several marquee games on the schedule, with five games under the lights, a Thanksgiving Day game, a trip to Foxborough and some fun reunion matchups, but a schedule wouldn't be complete with a couple games that folks might not be as excited to mark down in the calendar.
Here is my ranking of the Bears' 2014 schedule, from 1-to-16 of which games I'm most looking forward to seeing.
1. Week 2 at 49ers
First Sunday night game for the Bears, first game ever at brand-spanking-new Levi’s Stadium; Niners ‘D’ vs. Trestman’s offense, Harbaugh’s offense vs. Bears’ revamped ‘D’; ultimate litmus test for 2014 Bears.
2. Week 12 vs. Buccaneers
The Lovie Game! Lovie Smith returns to Soldier Field, along with Josh McCown; McCown vs. Cutler, Lovie vs. Bears fans and the Chicago media, Bears vs. a young, talented Buccaneers defense.
3. Week 13 at Lions
Thanksgiving Day football in Detroit, best NFL tradition, divisional game in the second half of the season; did I mention it’s Thanksgiving?
4. Week 10 at Packers
Sunday Night Football at Lambeau, first game in Green Bay since Shea KO’ed Rodgers, final matchup of the season for the game’s best rivalry, serious NFC North implications.
5. Week 1 vs. Bills
Chris Williams and Corey Graham return to Soldier Field, what else do you need? I’m mostly-kidding. Season-opener, improved Bills team with a vaunted defensive line, our first look at the new Bears, optimism will be high.
6. Week 15 vs. Saints
Bears get another chance at Rob Ryan’s defense that befuddled them in Soldier Field, Monday Night Football, third-to-last-week of the season with plenty of playoff meaning, Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham vs. Bears defense, last primetime game of the season.
7. Week 8 at Patriots
Bears vs. Tom Brady for likely the final time, Cutler and Trestman vs. Belichick’s defense, a game in Foxborough against what should be a popular Super Bowl pick. Would be quite the upset if the Bears pull it off.
8. Week 4 vs. Packers
Two Packers games in the top eight games? Well, duh, it’s the Packers. Key home game coming off back-to-back road, primetime games to start the season, and a chance to draw first blood from the Pack.
9. Week 3 at Jets
Rex Ryan, Monday Night Football, Michael Vick equals enough star power to grab your attention. The Jets are always entertaining, and their defense vs. Bears offense will be a good matchup.
10. Week 14 vs. Cowboys
The second part of the back-to-back Thursday games, almost one year to the date when the Bears thrashed Dallas on Monday night, Henry Melton’s return to Soldier Field, Tony Romo in December.
11. Week 6 at Falcons
Bears defense may be licking its chops to see what it can do against Mike Tice’s offensive line, Joe DeCamillis and the special teams have to keep Devin Hester out of the endzone. Hester would love to break the return record against his former team.
12. Week 17 at Vikings
Season finale, Bears could have a chance to make the postseason, Jared Allen’s return to Minnesota, outdoor game in late December at TCF Bank Stadium. And, as Eric Edholm at Yahoo points out, there aren’t many strong matchups in the final week of the season – at least, the way they look in April.
13. Week 5 at Panthers
Three of the last four games between these two have been decided by five points or fewer, Ron Rivera against his former team and an interesting matchup for the Bears’ offense against a Carolina defense that finished second in points allowed last season.
14. Week 16 vs. Lions
Last year, the Lions came into Soldier Field in a crucial game and won by two points in a heartbreaker. One of four late-season divisional games that could help determine the playoff picture.
15. Week 7 vs. Dolphins
Brandon Marshall faces his former club, and he and Alshon Jeffery get the Brent Grimes-Cortland Finnegan combo at corner; Dolphins looking for revenge from 2010 shutout.
16. Week 11 vs. Vikings
[Shrugs]. Not much to say about this one, other than Allen’s first bout against his former club and the Bears get a chance to continue their dominance of the Vikings in Chicago.