Breaking down each quarter of the Bears’ 2021 schedule

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The Chicago Bears’ schedule has been released – and with them being the third toughest strength of schedule – it’ll be important for them to capitalize on some of their easier games of the season.

Coming off of a second straight 8-8 season, and getting the final wildcard spot, the Bears will play four prime-time games, opening up the season on the road against the Rams in prime time.

The beautiful thing about each season is how every team looks different. This schedule may look tough, but the Bears might upset a few teams and take a playoff spot. If Aaron Rodgers leaves Green Bay, they might even win the division.

We’re breaking down each quarter — with the additional 17th game included — of the Bears’ 2021 schedule:

First Quarter

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  • Week 1 - at Rams

  • Week 2 - vs. Bengals

  • Week 3 - at Cleveland

  • Week 4 - vs. Lions

The Bears' first four games are against the Rams, Bengals, Browns, and Lions. This is a tough start for Chicago, with their easiest matchup being the Lions. Though they've found great success against Detroit in the Matt Nagy era, no "win" is guaranteed. The last time these two teams played, the Bears were upset in a 34-30 loss. The first three games of the season look challenging. The Rams always play the Bears tough. The Bengals are a team on the rise with future franchise quarterback Joe Burrow going into Year 2 as a starter. The Browns played well enough last year to earn a playoff spot, and they're only going to get better. The key matchup here is Week 2 against the Bengals. It's potentially going to be Andy Dalton going up against his old team. It should be a competitive matchup, hopefully, a game that Dalton proves he can help the Bears become a playoff team this season – letting Justin Fields develop while Dalton finds success.

Second Quarter

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  • Week 5 - at Raiders

  • Week 6 - vs. Packers

  • Week 7 - at Buccaneers

  • Week 8 - vs. 49ers

  • Week 9 - at Steelers

These next five games are going to be interesting before the Bears get to their bye week (Week 10). The Raiders play well early on in the season and are a fringe playoff team. The last time these two teams matched up, the Raiders upset Chicago in London. This time around, it's in Las Vegas. The Packers – with Aaron Rodgers or not – will likely be the Bears' toughest game of the season. In both of their matchups last season, Green Bay dominated, blowing out Chicago and looking more dominant than ever. Coming off of two straight NFC Championship appearances, this team is no joke. The Bears are lucky if they can split with Green Bay every year, let alone sweep the season series. Whether Justin Fields is the starter at this point, or it's still Dalton – this is the toughest and most important game of the season. The Buccaneers are an interesting matchup. The Bears – with Nick Foles – upset them in Chicago on Thursday Night Football last season. They were one of Tampa's five losses that year. Even after falling down 13-0, the Bears showed they weren't messing around, coming back and handing Tom Brady his first loss to Chicago in his career. The Bears were 5-1 after the Tampa Bay game – later falling to 5-7 before former quarterback Mitchell Trubisky went on a tear, winning 3 of the last 4 games to take Chicago to the playoffs. The 49ers will be an interesting team this season. Whether it's Trey Lance or Jimmy Garappolo under center, a healthy San Francisco is a good team. This is one of those mid-season tests for the Bears. A Lance vs. Fields matchup would be exciting, but it's more likely that Garoppolo will be the starter – barring any injuries – for this game. Finishing off this quarter of the season for the Bears will be a game on Monday Night Football against the Steelers. Pittsburgh is coming off of a season where they started off 11-0, before falling off and finishing 12-4. This is likely the last season of the Big Ben era, but this game favors the Bears, in my opinion. The Steelers slowed down last season towards the end, and I don't see them picking up momentum going into this season. I see them having a bad season, almost like Brett Favre's last year in Minnesota. *includes the extra 17th regular-season game leading into the bye week

Third Quarter

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  • Week 11 - vs. Ravens

  • Week 12 - at Lions

  • Week 13 - vs. Cardinals

  • Week 14 - at Packers

Coming off the bye, the Bears will play two playoff teams from 2020 in the third quarter of the season. The Ravens are only getting better as Lamar Jackson goes into Year 4. Their defense is one of the best in the league, making this a challenging game for Chicago. The Lions with Jared Goff is going to be an interesting team. They're a big question mark on offense. We'll have a decent idea of what this game will look like after their first matchup in Chicago. The Cardinals will come to Chicago with a stunning offense, with star quarterback Kyler Murray going into his third season as the team's starter. This is another test game for the Bears, who became a playoff team at 8-8 due to Arizona's mid-season collapse, with both teams finishing 8-8. It's another tough game, with two teams that have major question marks. This could be a game that gives the Bears or Cardinals a wildcard spot, as the winner will have the tiebreaker. The Bears finish the third quarter of the season against the Packers. Just like the Lions game, we'll have an idea of who will win this game from their first match-up. It's hard for Chicago to sweep Green Bay, I expect a Packers win in this game.

Fourth Quarter

AP Photo/Jim Mone

  • Week 15 - vs. Vikings

  • Week 16 - at Seahawks

  • Week 17 - vs. Giants

  • Week 18 - at Vikings

The Bears will finish the season with two matchups against the Vikings, a team they split with last season. These two match-ups could decide who makes the playoffs and who doesn't. Last year, the Bears knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs en route to finishing 3-1 in the last quarter of the 2020 season. They'll likely need a push like that this time around if they want to be a playoff team. The Seahawks will be their toughest test. The last time these two teams played, Russell Wilson struggled, throwing a game-sealing pick-six. If the Bears can slow him down again, it's a winnable game. Finally, we get to the Giants. New York is the reason why the Bears have Fields. Why not return the favor by beating them late in the season with Fields at the helm? These two teams have played each of the last two seasons, with the Bears winning both match-ups. No matter who Chicago's quarterback is, this gave favors to them. It'll be close, but it will be a late win in the season that potentially puts the Bears into the playoffs.

Final Thoughts

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn't matter who the quarterback is for the Bears down the stretch of the season, this isn't going to be an easy road. They likely start the season off 2-2 but could drop 3 of their first 4 games. The second quarter of the season doesn't get any easier. It can easily push the Bears to a losing record, as they potentially could go 1-4 or 2-3. It depends on how well they push during the first four games. If they have momentum going into this tough stretch, they can come out with a winning record. If they go in struggling, this could be a long year – setting them behind for their toughest quarter of the season, the third quarter. The Lions, Packers, Cardinals and Ravens coming off the bye week will be tough. Chicago could very well drop all four games. This isn't an easy four games. It's against two playoff teams, a team that just missed by half of a game and a team in the Lions who beat the Bears last year. The last quarter is the easiest if the Bears can continue to dominate the Vikings as they have under Matt Nagy. Still, it's no easy road – even if it is their "easiest" quarter of the season. They can easily finish the season 3-1, or find a way to finish 1-3. It's all about how well the Vikings play, and if the Bears are any good on offense. https://twitter.com/LarryMayer/status/1392632472609955844 I think the Bears finish the season with a losing record. They've downgraded at quarterback – unless Justin Fields ends up on the field – and their offense has stalled under Matt Nagy the past two seasons. We saw Chicago's defense regress towards the middle of the season and not fully come back. It's up to the defense to turn this team around. Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace have bought themselves another year due to drafting Fields. They're both on the hot seat, but I believe they'll see through 2021 if they don't fall apart early in the year. If Chicago is competitive, both guys will return in 2022. If they start slow and continue to lose, Nagy and Pace will be gone before Thanksgiving.

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