Chicago Bears: 5 Most Important Games in 2017

Dec 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) reacts with Chicago Bears tight end Daniel Brown after rushing for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) reacts with Chicago Bears tight end Daniel Brown after rushing for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

The NFL released the entire schedule for the 2017 regular season earlier this week, and for the Chicago Bears, it looks as if they’ll be lucky to finish with an 8-8 record. If this schedule were given to an actual Super Bowl contending team, then it may be looked upon as a walk in the park. However, we’re talking about the Bears, a team that has had a losing record over the past three years, and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010.

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The Bears’ entire schedule consists of opponents with a combined winning percentage of .479 from last season, which gives Chicago the 19th toughest schedule in the league. Of the 16 games, six of them are against teams that made the playoffs in 2016, including two each against the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions. And to make matters even more difficult, three of these teams (Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Packers) made it to the conference championship last season.

The good news for the Bears is that their bye week is smack-dab in the middle of the season at Week 8, giving the team the perfect time to take a break and recuperate. But other than that, the first four weeks of the season could cause a downward spiral that could be nearly impossible to recover from.

One could make a compelling argument by selecting any five games on the Bears’ schedule, saying that they will be the most important contests of the year. There’s the Week 2 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which will feature quarterback Mike Glennon facing his former team. Then there’s the Week 12 game on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles, where the Bears will go up against former teammate Alshon Jeffery. And if by some miracle Chicago is in playoff contention when the final week of the regular season rolls around, the divisional contest against the Minnesota Vikings could be vital.

After looking over the Bears’ 2017 schedule, here’s what I feel are their most important games of the year.

Week 1 vs. Atlanta Falcons

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

What better way can you measure where you are as a team than to start the season off by facing the defending NFC champs. The Atlanta Falcons are arguably the toughest opponent on the Bears’ schedule this year. The Falcons’ offense was ranked in the top five in overall offense, pass offense, and run offense in 2016, and will be a great test for Chicago’s defense.

The Bears haven’t won a season-opening game since 2013, and have a home record of 6-18 over the last three years. A win over the Dirty Birds could be the confidence booster Chicago needs to turn things around in 2017.

Week 4 at Green Bay Packers (Thursday Night)

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

The Week 3 matchup against the Steelers, a game many predict Chicago will lose, could’ve easily made my list. But the fact that the Bears will have a short week to prepare for their Thursday night battle against the Packers at Lambeau Field will make an already tough matchup even tougher. And more importantly, this will be their first divisional game of the year. However, winning under these conditions against the Packers isn’t impossible. Let’s not forget that Chicago did shock everyone in 2015 on a short week to beat Green Bay on Thanksgiving night. Could it happen again? We’ll have to wait and see.

Week 5 vs. Minnesota Vikings (Monday Night)

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

This will be the Bears’ second consecutive nationally televised game, and their second consecutive NFC North opponent. After what could be a potential loss to the Packers, Chicago couldn’t afford to find themselves in a 0-2 hole in the division

Week 8 at New Orleans Saints

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports /

Similar to the Falcons, the New Orleans Saints and their offense could pose as a major threat to Chicago’s defense. Many may not think of this game as an important one, but the Saints did have both the top-ranked overall offense (426.0 yards per game) and the top-ranked passing offense in 2016 (317.1). If that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to label this game as one of the most important for the Bears, then take into consideration that this will be Chicago’s last game right before their bye week. The result of this contest could be a confidence booster, or a confidence killer going into the midway point of the season.

Week 10 vs. Green Bay Packers

Dan Powers/The Post-Crescent via USA TODAY Sports
Dan Powers/The Post-Crescent via USA TODAY Sports /

This will be Chicago’s first game after their bye week, and could set tone for the second half of their season, which is much easier than first half of their schedule. Battling the Packers at any point of the season will always be important. When facing the team that’s owned the NFC North five out of the last six seasons, and that has beaten the Bears 11 out of the last 14 times in regular season since 2010, nothing can be more significant.