The Bears' full 2019 slate was officially announced Wednesday evening, and it's clear that the NFL wants to capitalize on the team's breakthrough 2018 campaign.
Matt Nagy's NFC North champions will play six nationally televised games — including five in primetime — which is tied for the most in the NFL. They'll also battle the Raiders in London in the new Tottenham Larkspur Stadium's first-ever NFL game, and play only seven games in the noon CT window.
With that let's take a quick look at every game. For Hub Arkush's initial analysis of a Bears slate that looks very much like murderer's row, click here.
Week 1 vs. Packers (TNF) — After the Packers welcomed Matt Nagy, the eventual 2019 Coach of the Year, to the NFL in Week 1 last year with a comeback for the ages, the Bears get to return the favor by welcoming Matt LaFleur to the NFL in a game for the ages: the 199th regular-season renewing of the NFL's oldest rivals, marking the kickoff of the Bears' and NFL's centennial season.
Remember, last season when Nagy whipped Bears nation into a frenzy with that dazzling scripted opening TD drive at Lambeau that began with the T-formation, the Bears were going against a brand-new Packers defense. But when LaFleur designs his "first 15" as an NFL head coach, he'll do so knowing it's attempting to attack the NFL's No. 1 scoring 'D' a year ago that returns 10 starters and virtually all of its top reserves.
Week 2 at Broncos: The Bears won't wait long to reunite with old pals Vic Fangio and Bryce Callahan, who welcome Chicago on its first 2019 road trip. Will new Broncos QB Joe Flacco be cozy in Rich Scangarello's offense, the kind of boot-action attack that gave Chicago fits early in Fangio's Bears tenure? And will Fangio have a largely rebuilt Broncos pass 'D' firing on all cylinders as Nagy and Trubisky look to drop bombs in the altitude?
Week 3 at Washington (MNF): The last time Chicago visited our nation's capital, Josh McCown replaced an injured Jay Cutler in a 45-41 shootout defeat with Matt Forte scoring a trio of touchdowns but Roy Helu doing the same, including the game-winner in the final minute. We assume this will be Trubisky vs. Case Keenum, in which case it's a QB rematch from Trubisky's NFL starting debut.
Week 4 vs. Vikings — Fresh off their first season sweep of Minnesota since 2011, the Bears should learn quickly whether perhaps their biggest division challenger has fixed its O-line issues. The Bears 'D' dominated Kirk Cousins and Co. last season, sacking him six times, generating three takeaways and limiting the Vikings offense to a paltry 4.5 yards per play.
Week 5 at Raiders (London) — Speaking of reunions, this one, between Khalil Mack and Jon Gruden, is well over a year in the making. Though it's unclear whether the All-Pro edge rusher will be hunting incumbent starter Derek Carr or perhaps his replacement, we already know Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara will be tasked with covering the mercurial Antonio Brown, who caught 12 passes for 88 yards in his only previous London outing, a 34-27 loss to the Vikings in 2013. It'll obviously mark Fuller's first NFL London appearance, but Amukamara and new nickel Buster Skrine have each played — and won — in their only respective game.
Week 6 Bye — It's one week later than last season, which was preceded by back-to-back Week 9 open dates. That's probably closer to ideal, but the Bears made it clear they wouldn't go the route of the 2018 Indianapolis Colts by eschewing the optional bye the week after London calls.
Week 7 vs. Saints — Emerging from the bye for an NFC title game preview, anyone? Indeed, so much has changed since the previous battle between these two clubs, a somber 2017 day we again found ourselves recalling Tuesday, when the inspiring Zach Miller officially announced his retirement nearly 18 months after his horrific knee injury at the Superdome. Miller won't be a factor on the field in this one, but his position certainly will: New Saints TE Jared Cook was one of the more snug free-agent fits of the offseason and, if healthy, figures to be a nightmare matchup down the seam for Roquan Smith and the Alabama S tandem of Eddie Jackson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Week 8 vs. Chargers —Heck, the Bears feasibly could play previews of the conference championship and Super Bowl LIV in back to back weeks. We think that highly of both rosters. But, if nothing else, Bears GM Ryan Pace and Chargers GM Tom Telesco will have a chance to talk kickers.
Week 9 at Eagles — If only there were a few compelling story lines in this one. Hmm...
Week 10 vs. Lions — Promising feature back Kerryon Johnson returns after scoring his first receiving touchdown but also losing his first career fumble and suffering a knee injury at Soldier Field in his debut in this rivalry, ultimately ending his season. It also won't be our first glimpse of the Lions big-ticket vet signees, Trey Flowers, Justin Coleman and Danny Amendola, all of whom played — and played well — against Matt Nagy's club last season. Coleman could cover Anthony Miller, who scored his first NFL touchdown vs. Coleman's former team, Seattle, last season; Amendola will be the responsibility of new Bears nickel Buster Skrine, a familiar matchup for the former longtime AFC East foes.
Week 11 at Rams (SNF) — Sean McVay got absolutely schooled by Vic Fangio under the bright Soldier Field lights last year. We'll see what tweaks Chuck Pagano can make to that masterful game plan to stay one step ahead of a Rams offense that never fully recovered from its Chicago beatdown.
Week 12 vs. Giants — The one back who made the Bears' top-rated run 'D' appear mortal last season, Saquon Barkley's Giants hit Soldier Field sans OBJ and Olivier Vernon but probably with two first-round rookies, and, who knows, possibly (gasp) an Eli Manning successor. Weird scheduling quirk here (at least to us): The Bears played the Lions and Giants back to back in Weeks 11-12 last year. Now they'll ...
Week 13 at Lions (Thanksgiving) — Hopefully, Mitch Trubisky's first NFL game on Thanksgiving, after we saw Chase Daniel emerge from the pen and lead the Bears to victory in the starter's injury absence last season.
Week 14 vs. Cowboys (TNF) — Fans of LB play would be wise to tune in. Who knows, we might even get another frigid affair a la December of 2013, when the Bears, in sub-zero temps, throttled the visitors who clearly wanted to be anywhere but Chicago in December. We wonder whether Mack and Amari Cooper will share in some Gruden grinding before the game.
Week 15 at Packers — Green Bay reportedly will host five of its first seven games in 2019, which could make for a fast start but also daunting finish to the season. It would also make this one something of a respite in returning to Lambeau. Well, maybe the Bears of yesteryear under John Fox or Lovie Smith, anyway.
Week 16 vs. Chiefs (SNF) — One of the most improved players in the NFL, Mitch Trubisky, battles the very best, reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes, whom the Chiefs selected 10 spots behind the Bears young quarterback. Reigning Coach of the Year Matt Nagy squares off for the first time against his top mentor and one of the game's best head coaches in Andy Reid. The NFL's No. 1 scoring 'D' vs. the NFL's top-scoring offense. Are you not entertained?
Week 17 at Vikings — Closing the season against Minnesota for the fourth year in a row, the Bears would obviously love nothing more than to again face a "good problem" like deciding whether to rest their starters. Of course with the benefit of the hindsight, many will argue Nagy should have rested them last year. Regardless, the guess here is this game could loom even larger this season.