Predicting the Bears’ prime-time matchups in 2023
The annual NFL schedule extravaganza is finally upon us and soon, fans of every team will learn when and where they will play their opponents during the 2023 season. That announcement also includes the prime-time schedule, where specific matchups will be picked to be featured nationally on Thursday nights, Sunday nights, Monday nights, some Saturday nights, and special holidays.
For the Chicago Bears, national interest may appear to be lower than in previous years. They were the worst team in 2022, coming off a 3-14 record, and weren’t particularly competitive to close out the year. But with a young nucleus led by quarterback Justin Fields and a team that looks revamped following a busy spring, the Bears could be in more for more prime-time slots than we think. Chicago has had three or more games featured in prime time every season dating back to 2016 and there’s no reason to think that changes this year.
Here are our predictions for the Bears’ 2023 prime-time matchups.
1. Bears vs. Panthers
Oct 18, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet (85) with the ball as Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead (52) and outside linebacker Jeremy Chinn (21) defend in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
A couple of major trades rocked the NFL this offseason, one of them being between the Bears and the Carolina Panthers. The Bears traded the No. 1 overall pick to the Panthers for multiple future picks as well as wide receiver D.J. Moore. The Panthers selected quarterback Bryce Young with the selection while the Bears fortified their team around Justin Fields. It’s a deal that will define both franchises for years to come while also making for an intriguing storyline.
Moore will get the chance to play against his former team for the first time and the Panthers would get the opportunity to show the Bears what they could have had in Young. And if he’s still on the bench by the time the matchup rolls around, then Andy Dalton would get to play against his former team. There won’t be any shortage of intrigue and it makes for an obvious prime-time showcase, even if expectations aren’t high for either team.
2. Bears at Chargers
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – OCTOBER 27: Khalil Mack #52 of the Chicago Bears pressures Philip Rivers #17 of the Los Angeles Chargers during the second half of a game at Soldier Field on October 27, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
For the last couple of months, speculation has run rampant that the Bears will play the Kansas City Chiefs in Germany this upcoming season. Those conversations have become muddier in recent days and while it still could come to fruition, there’s another AFC West team that could make sense as a prime-time opponent back in the states.
The Bears are set to visit the Los Angeles Chargers, a playoff team from a year ago who should once again be competitive in 2023. Boasting star power on both sides of the ball, the Chargers have been a popular prime-time pick in recent years and seeing as matchups with the Bears are rare, it makes sense for the two teams to meet in the national spotlight.
The last time the Bears played the Chargers on the road was on Monday Night Football in 2015 when they were still in San Diego. And keep in mind this will be the first time Khalil Mack will the Bears since he was traded in 2022. That’s a storyline that could be juicy enough for a national audience.
3. Bears at Lions
DETROIT, MICHIGAN – JANUARY 01: Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears scrambles during the first quarter in the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on January 01, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
A Lions game in primetime is rare enough, but add the Bears into the equation and it gets even rarer. Despite playing each other twice a year, these two teams have had just two games in prime time in the last decade. But with the Lions seemingly turning a corner in 2022, they should see an uptick in prime-time games this season.
These teams are seeing rivalries form not only between fans, but with the players themselves thanks to their family ties. Equanimeous and Amon-Ra St. Brown are brothers playing for the Bears and Lions, respectively. They co-host a podcast together and have been partaking in trash talk over the last year. Another set of brothers, Noah and Penei Sewell are now part of the rivalry as well after Noah was drafted by the Bears in the 2023 NFL Draft while Penei has been with the Lions since 2021.
On the surface, Bears and Lions doesn’t feel like the sexiest matchup. But with the Lions taking a big step in 2022 and the Bears looking to do the same this year, the NFL will look to feature this matchup more prominently than in previous years.
4. Bears vs. Packers
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)
You probably know the story by now. The Bears and Packers have played in prime time at least once every season dating back to 2006. You also probably know that 11 of the last 12 matchups have taken place at Lambeau Field. That stretch began right after Aaron Rodgers won his first Super Bowl and ascended to becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Now he’s no longer on the team and balance can be restored.
Even with both teams now relying on young and relatively unproven quarterbacks, Bears and Packers isn’t going away from prime time. It’s the oldest and most historic rivalry in the NFL by far. The difference, however, will be this game taking place at Soldier Field again. With Rodgers gone, the pendulum will finally swing the other way. Hopefully that includes a win for the Bears as well.