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Five prime-time games highlight Bears' schedule

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By PFW staff

The Bears will be playing on a big stage frequently in 2012.

The NFL released its regular-season schedule on Tuesday, and the Bears have five of their 16 games scheduled for prime-time television, including three Monday-night games.

"We started our offseason program yesterday and received our schedule today, so our 2012 season is officially under way," head coach Lovie Smith said. "I love starting the season at home in front of our fans. I don’t think there is a better place to kick off the season than playing at Soldier Field on the lakefront.

"Playing five of our first 10 games in prime time also stands out. Each week brings its own challenge, and we are excited to begin our pursuit of a world championship."

Chicago opens the season against the Colts at Soldier Field and will play five of its next nine games in prime time.

There wil be a short turnaround between Week One and Two for the Bears, as they will visit the Packers on "Thursday Night Football" before returning home to host the Rams in Week Three. A road trip for a Monday-night date against the Cowboys in Week Four and a visit to face the Jaguars in Week Five precede a Week Six bye for the Bears.

They play the Lions on Monday night at Soldier Field in Week Seven and will host Cam Newton and the Panthers for the second straight season in Week Eight. After a road trip to Nashville to take on the Titans in Week Nine, the Bears will return home to face the Texans on "Sunday Night Football."

The Bears will conclude back-to-back prime-time games when they head west for their longest trip of the season, battling the 49ers in San Francisco on "Monday Night Football" in Week 11. Home games vs. the Vikings and Seahawks are followed by a road game at Minnesota and a home game vs. Green Bay. The Bears will visit the Cardinals in Week 16 and close out the regular season in Detroit against the Lions.

The way we see it

The Bears have only six games against playoff teams from last season, and their strength of schedule, based off their opponents' 2011 regular-season records, is tied for the 20th-toughest. With parity ruling in the NFL, observers have to guard against dwelling too much on last season's results when trying to predict the future. That said, the 2012 schedule appears to set up favorably for the Bears.

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