Scheduling alignment is more important than a strong schedule for the Chicago Bears in 2024

The 2024 NFL Draft is one week away for the Chicago Bears as it is expected to be a franchise-altering weekend with the team having two top ten selections in the first round. Earlier this week, it was revealed that the Bears are projected to have the third-easiest schedule among NFL teams in 2024. While the strength of the schedule is an important factor, the format of the schedule and when Chicago will play their opponents is more important to how the team will perform.

The schedule format will be interesting for the Bears 2024 season

The 2024 schedule will be released sometime in mid-May and will take place almost three weeks after the NFL Draft. The Bears already know which opponents they will host at home at Soldier Field and who they will face on the road, while a home game will also be played in Great Britain. Chicago will host teams including their division rivals, the Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Carolina Panthers, while on the road they play the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Washington Commanders, Indianapolis Colts, and Houston Texans.

Despite having to play multiple playoff teams from last season, including the reigning NFC champions and runners-up 49ers and Lions, the Bears still have a favorable schedule. While some of Chicago’s opponents may seem tough, it all depends on the dates and times the specific games will be played. For example, it could be extremely helpful if the Bears play the Indianapolis Colts in the first few weeks of the season because Indianapolis has their starting quarterback Anthony Richardson returning from a season-ending shoulder injury and could be rusty in his first few games back. .

Another important element in why games take place against certain teams is how a team can improve or regress from season to season but only find out about it halfway through the season. Two franchises that were expected to be terrible heading into the 2023 season were the Bears and Texans, as both teams started the year with two losses. Despite each team’s poor start, Chicago and Houston played extremely well by the end of the year, as one team made the playoffs and the other missed the postseason with only a few losses.

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While injuries are not predictable, opponents losing players to injuries proves to be a happy omen depending on when two teams are scheduled to play each other. In 2020, the Bears started the year winning four of their first five games, with wins over the New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers. In those four wins, several of those teams were without their best offensive player, including Saquan Barkley, Julio Jones and Christian McCaffrey.

When the Bears have their bye week, along with when and how many nationally televised primetime games they have, will be a major factor in how friendly their 2024 schedule is. Chicago finished the 2023 season as one of the best defensive units in the league, with the most interceptions with 22. Coupled with the team likely to draft Caleb Williams first overall, the Bears will likely have several games play on Sunday evening, Monday evening and Thursday evening. , and possibly Thanksgiving. The potential of ten days off compared to four days to prepare for certain opponents could contribute to a potential win or loss.

Planning matters for the quarterback the Bears select first overall in the draft

Now that the Bears hold the first overall pick, whoever they select will be the team’s starting signal caller at the start of the 2024 season. If the Bears select Williams first in the draft, there’s a good chance the team will get the max number of primetime games. Additionally, it could be beneficial if Chicago didn’t play certain teams at the start of the season in September.

Playing his first few games against playoff teams or division rivals, especially the Green Bay Packers, may not be the best choice for Williams. The pressure and criticism that the first overall pick would face if the Bears open their 2024 season against the Packers could be too much for a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start. Additionally, a debut against the San Francisco 49ers or Houston Texans would be a difficult time for a prospect like Williams from a media perspective.

Former Bears starting quarterback Justin Fields faced some unfortunate scheduling during his rookie season in 2021. Fields played against three future Hall of Fame quarterbacks over a four-week period, with two games being nationally televised. Chicago’s rookie signal caller faced Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Ben Rothlisberger, as the rookie’s play came under significant scrutiny while playing against generational talents at the position. Fields and the Bears lost all three games, with the freshman quarterback playing well in only one game.

The 2024 NFL Draft and who the Bears select will impact the alignment of their schedule when it is announced several weeks later. If Williams is Chicago’s starting quarterback in Week 1, there will be several big matchups against prominent opponents in primetime. Who and when they play certain teams will matter most, regardless of whether a potentially strong schedule is in their favor at the moment.