7 takeaways from the Bears’ 2023 schedule

The dust has finally settled on the Chicago Bears 2023 schedule release and the upcoming season has finally come into focus. The Bears are set to play in four prime-time games, including two on Thursday Night Football. They also have a late bye week for the second year in a row and bookend the season with the Green Bay Packers, facing them in Week 1 and Week 18.

Fans and analysts are already making predictions on how many games the Bears will win this year, but the schedule goes deeper than that. We can already make assumptions about how it might impact the team when the season begins based on the timing of certain matchups. Here are six takeaways from the Bears’ schedule.

1. The Bears-Packers primetime streak comes to an end

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN – SEPTEMBER 18: Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears reacts after a run during the fourth quarter in the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 18, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

For nearly two decades, the Bears and the Green Bay Packers graced at least one prime-time slot on the NFL schedule in each NFL season. But that streak, at least for the moment, has come to an end. Barring a Week 18 change, the Bears and Packers won’t be meeting on prime time this season for the first time since 2005.

At first glance, it would seem the league isn’t high on either team making any noise in 2023. But the Packers have five prime-time matchups while the Bears have four. The appetite is still there for these historic organizations, but the league decided to look elsewhere this season. Fans will get to see Justin Fields and Jordan Love battle it out right away in Week 1 in the late afternoon spot, though.

Ending the season against Green Bay could mean the playoffs are within reach

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – DECEMBER 04: Equanimeous St. Brown #19 of the Chicago Bears catches a pass against Jaire Alexander #23 of the Green Bay Packers during the second quarter of the game at Soldier Field on December 04, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

While the league isn’t giving the national spotlight to the Bears-Packers matchup, they may be letting everyone know what they think about these two teams by slotting them in the regular season finale. Since 2009, the NFL altered the schedule to ensure a divisional game was played in the final week of the season. But since that rule came into effect, the Bears have played the Packers just three times (2010, 2013, and 2020). Interestingly enough, though, those matchups all had playoff implications.

In 2010, the Bears needed to beat Green Bay to keep them out of the postseason after they had already clinched the division. In 2013, the two teams played for the NFC North crown. And in 2020, the Bears were pushing for a wild card spot. Perhaps this means another postseason possibility is at play and it would all come down to a matchup with the Packers.

3. Bears get their most difficult stretch in the middle of the season

Jan 10, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) runs the ball against Chicago Bears cornerback Kindle Vildor (22) and linebacker Manti Te’o (57) during the second half in the NFC Wild Card game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears don’t exactly have a grueling start to the 2023 season. On paper, there are some favorable stretches even with tough opponents here and there. But once late October hits, they’ll be in for a difficult series of games.

Beginning in Week 8, the Bears have back-to-back road games against the Los Angeles Chargers and New Orleans Saints before playing on a short week. The Chargers have star power on both sides of the ball and will be motivated to put on a show in prime time. It will be difficult for the Bears to keep up.

The Saints, meanwhile, aren’t what they used to be, but seem to have the Bears’ number going back 15 years. Chicago has lost seven games in a row to New Orleans, including the postseason. Couple that with the fact the Bears haven’t won a game in the Superdome since 1991 and the prospects don’t look great for a victory.

They then have a short week against the Carolina Panthers at home before getting a chance to catch their breath. It will be a tough stretch for the team that could make or break any postseason hopes later on in the year.

4. The NFL wants everyone to see Justin Fields vs. Bryce Young

Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; Alabama quarterback Bryce Young with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after he was drafted first overall by the Carolina Panthers in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears and Panthers dominated a portion of the offseason with their blockbuster trade for the No. 1 overall pick and the NFL wants everyone to see how that is panning out. This matchup seemed destined for a prime-time slot and the league agreed, putting it on Thursday Night Football. But it’s the timing that makes it even more interesting.

These two teams are set to meet in Week 10, meaning Panthers rookie quarterback Bryce Young should already have taken over as the starter. Putting Fields and Young against one another creates plenty of juicy storylines. Will Young show the Bears he was worth taking with the top spot? Will Fields prove to be the better player and validate the team’s belief in him? How will D.J. Moore respond against his former team? It makes for compelling theater and that’s what the NFL wants.

5. Facing Kirk Cousins on Monday Night Football isn't a cakewalk for the Bears

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – OCTOBER 09: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings is hit by Trevis Gipson #99 of the Chicago Bears during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

It’s no secret that the Minnesota Vikings struggle on Monday Night Football with Kirk Cousins as their quarterback. Cousins has been disastrous on Mondays, compiling a 2-10 record and posting a quarterback rating under 90 in seven of those 12 contests. But it just so happens those two victories have come against the Bears and they’re set for another matchup on Monday Night Football in Week 12.

Cousins defeated the Bears in 2020 and 2021, combining to throw four touchdowns and two interceptions. He wasn’t particularly effective in the latter of those two wins, throwing for just 87 yards against a depleted Bears defense. But he was able to get the job done and somehow can rise above his prime-time woes when facing Chicago. Who knows what will happen this year, but think twice when dialing up a victory against Cousins on Monday nights.

6. The Bears

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – JANUARY 01: Head coach Matt Eberflus of the Chicago Bears looks on during the second half in the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on January 01, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

One of the unique quirks of the 2023 schedule is teams are now eligible to play in two Thursday Night Football games. That’s what happened to the Bears and it seems a bit jarring considering the lack of rest they’ll get in two separate weeks going into those games. But look a little deeper and it may be a blessing in disguise.

During head coach Matt Eberflus’ first season, the Bears showed a penchant for taking advantage of longer periods of rest in between games. They won their Week 1 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, demolished the New England Patriots coming off a Thursday Night game with a mini bye, and played the future conference-champion Philadelphia Eagles tougher than most coming off their bye week.

This year, the Bears will have six different games with more than a week’s rest. It’s one of the more restful schedules in recent memory, according to ESPN’s Brian Burke. The Bears have nearly two weeks more rest than their opponents in 2023, tied for the most in over 20 years. If Eberflus and his staff continue to take advantage of those breaks like they did last year, this could be the key to a successful season.

7. 'Bear Weather' will be put to the test this season

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – DECEMBER 24: Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears warms up prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field on December 24, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

When the weather in Chicago turns cold for the winter, “Bear Weather” gets fans fired up for a potential home-field advantage. If it has any merit whatsoever, it’s going to be tested this season.

Following the Bears’ bye in Week 13, the team doesn’t play in a warm-weather city or climate-controlled stadium for the rest of the season. They have five matchups beginning December 10, all of which taking place in potential cold weather. It’s the first time in recent memory the Bears have had five games to end the season in outdoor stadiums in cold-weather cities. It could put the team (and the fans) to the test.

Story originally appeared on Bears Wire