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Scheduling Alignment Is More Important Than Strength of Schedule For The Chicago Bears In 2024

matt eberflus

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 expected to have the third easiest schedule among NFL teams in 2024. Although the strength of schedule is a significant factor, the layout of the schedule and when Chicago will play their opponents is more vital to how the team will perform.

Scheduling Layout 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 go on the road to face, while also having a home game designated to be played in the United Kingdom. Chicago will host teams including their divisional rivals, the Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Carolina Panthers, while playing on the road against 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 the runner up in the 49ers and Lions, the Bears still have a favorable schedule. Although some of Chicago’s opponents appear tough, it all depends on what dates and times the specific games are scheduled to be played. For example, it may be extremely beneficial if the Bears play the Indianapolis Colts in the first few weeks of the season due to Indianapolis having their starting quarterback Anthony Richardson returning from a season-ending shoulder injury and could be rusty in his first few games back.

Another key element to why games against certain teams take place is how one team can either improve or regress from one season to the next, but won’t figure it out until midway 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 off with two losses. Despite the poor start for each team, Chicago and Houston played extremely well towards the end of the year, as one team made the playoffs and another missed the post season by just a few losses.

Although injuries are not predictable, opponents losing players to injuries prove to be a lucky omen depending on when two teams will play one another on the schedule. In 2020, the Bears started the year winning four of their first five games, featuring 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 which included 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 significant factor in how friendly their 2024 schedule is. Chicago finished the 2023 season as one of the best defensive units in the league, recording the most interceptions with 22. Paired with the team likely taking Caleb Williams first overall, the Bears will probably have several games on Sunday Night, Monday Night, Thursday Night, and potentially Thanksgiving. The potential of having ten days off compared to four days to prepare for certain opponents could contribute to a potential win or loss.

Scheduling Matters For the Quarterback The Bears Select First Overall In The Draft

With the Bears holding the first overall selection, whoever they select will be the team’s starting signal-caller at the start of the 2024 season. If the Bears select Williams with the first pick in the draft, it is likely that the team will have the maximum amount of primetime games. Additionally, it might be beneficial if Chicago didn’t play certain teams at the beginning of the season in September.

It may not be best for Williams to play his first few games against playoff teams or divisional rivals, especially the Green Bay Packers. The pressure and scrutiny the first overall selection would be facing if the Bears opened their 2024 season against the Packers could be too much for a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start. Additionally, making a debut against the San Francisco 49ers or Houston Texans would be a difficult time from a media standpoint for a prospect like Williams.

Former Bears’ starting quarterback Justin Fields dealt with an unfortunate scheduling alignment during his rookie season in 2021. Fields played against three future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in a four-week span, with two games being nationally televised. Chicago’s rookie signal-caller faced Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Ben Rothlisberger, as the rookie’s play was scrutinized significantly while playing against generational talents at the position. Fields and the Bears lost all three games, with the first-year quarterback only playing well in one contest.

The 2024 NFL Draft and who the Bears select will have an influence on 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 marquee games in primetime against prominent opponents. The who and when they play certain teams will matter the most, regardless of whether a potential strength of schedule is in their favor at the moment.

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