In the race for the year’s attention, the NFL has only one last win left: June.
Because so far, that’s the only month without an unofficial league holiday. Of course, April was the NFL draft, and it came a little over a month after the free agency frenzy in March, which occurred after the Super Bowl LVI in February, interrupting the exciting playoffs that began in January.
That playoff party came on a wild regular season that took us from after Labor Day to New Year’s Eve. Preseason football had a somewhat glorious comeback in August, and it came back to life after the team opened training camp with much fanfare in July.
This week we usher in the NFL’s new May celebration: Schedule Release Day, which was once locked in April but has now set a squat in mid-May, creating a new wave of energy with 272 regular-season games in focus.
The full 18-week picture will appear Thursday at 7pm. But a glimpse is sure to leak out sooner.
For Chicago Bears fans, it means a first look at the roadmap awaiting new coach Matt Eberflux, second-year quarterback Justin Fields and a revamped roster. The Bears won the Super Bowl 100-1, and the odds of them playing after Week 18 are slim.
Like all NFC teams this season, the Bears will play nine games at home and eight games on the road. In addition to the six NFC North games, the Bears will take on the Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Commanders at Soldier Field while heading to face Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, New York Giants and New York Jets.
At this point, the league has locked down most, if not all, of the schedule. But that shouldn’t stop us from making some last-minute requests, right?
Here are six wishes we wish the Bears’ 2022 itinerary would come true.
1. Take Lovie Smith to Soldier Field for the season opener.
Save the date: Sunday, September 11. In that wonderful football theater near Lake Michigan, the Bears-Texans. You would like to, right?
Of course, Smith has been coaching the Bears for almost a decade, and the 2014 and 2015 reunion tours already have nostalgic dates. As the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Smith lost his initial return to Soldier’s Field in 2014 with a 21-13 score, then suffered a 26-2000 victory the following year at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. 21 Lost to the Bears. But bringing Smith back to Chicago in the season opener as he begins a new chapter with the Houston Texans will be a clear symmetry.
Smith coached the Bears for nine seasons, going 81-63 in the regular season, securing three playoff berths and reaching Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season. The Bears have played nine seasons since Smith left three coaches. The trio of Mark Treistman, John Fox and Matt Nagy put together a 61-84 regular-season record — and no playoff victory.
So why not add some energy to Week 1? Plus, Chicago could benefit from some feel-good vibes to kick off the Eberflus era. The Texans are widely considered the worst team in the league heading into 2022.
2. Get Aaron Rodgers off at least mid-October.
Either way, it probably won’t have much of an impact. Maybe the Bears would be better off taking a swing at Rodgers in September while he’s adjusting to life without Davante Adams and still getting to know rookie receiver Christian Watson and free-agent Sammy Watkins.
Still, it’s only fair that Eberflus has a chance at the twice-annual Rodgers torture chamber to get his busy, takeaway-hungry defense running. Do you remember last year?Rodgers, in two more wins over the Bears, including a Week 6 win at Soldier Field, shouted to Bears fans: “I own you! All my (crying) life! I owe you! I owe it to you! still have you! “Ouch. Again.
With the Packers quarterback failing this winter, last year could mark his last visit to Chicago, with big hopes. So now Eberflus and new defensive coordinator Alan Williams will try to turn things around.
Notably, both Nagy and Fox were forced to face Rodgers in their first regular-season games as Bears coaches. Both sides lost. In fact, Nagy has lost seven of his eight games against Rodgers, who beat five Bears coaches, six Bears defensive coordinators and eight Bears starting quarterbacks. Including the January 2011 NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field, Rodgers went 23-5 as a starter against the Bears.
3. Keep the bears away from Thanksgiving.
Admittedly, it was a selfish request from a sports writer who was once reluctant to run his Thanksgiving morning 5K on a treadmill in a desolate fitness center at a hotel near the Detroit airport. Listen, Ford Field knows how to do Thanksgiving well. A 4,000-calorie newsbox dinner before 11 a.m. Chicago time is always hearty. (Have to save the pumpkin pie for halftime.)
But the Bears have played four games against the Lions on Thanksgiving in five of the past eight seasons. Will the rest of the U.S. really get excited for this game to kick off the holidays? Don’t other teams want to try it out? Shouldn’t football fans in Chicago be allowed to keep Tums in the medicine cabinet until after dinner?
Aside from the Lions and Cowboys, which play their traditional game on Thanksgiving each year, no NFL team has played more during the holiday season than the Bears, who have played 37 games. Last year, Andy Dalton ended a five-game losing streak with a 16-14 riveting victory. (Full disclosure: Every Bears beat writer is expected to be sent to Dallas for Thanksgiving this year. Just a hunch.)
4. Schedule the New York Bears for weeks on end.
The scheduling star has already played two games for the Bears this season at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ — against the Giants and Jets. The last time this happened was during the 2006 Super Bowl season, when the Bears beat the Giants 38-20 in Week 10 and the Jets 10-0 the following Sunday.
So maybe the schedulers can cobble together another back-to-back just for fun—perhaps to lure Eberflus into a week-long East Coast teamwork experience. Mix in some field trips to change the week. Think outside the strict box of standard NFL preparation.
Okay, we know the last part will never happen. But back-to-back games with the Giants and Jets would at least open up a world of possibilities for the most devoted Bears fans.
5. Give us Justin Fields’ season-ending game against Mike Jones.
Of the four other quarterbacks selected in the 2021 first-rounder, Fields could face three of them this season: Zach Wilson of the Jets, Trey Lance of the 49ers and the Patriots. Jones. But let’s save the Fields-Jones game for the second half of the schedule, when both quarterbacks have time to build momentum.
Led by former general manager Ryan Pace, the Bears engineered an aggressive trade to draft their future quarterback last year, giving up their 2022 first- and fourth-round picks and 2021 third-round picks. A fifth-round pick, jumping from No. 20 to No. 20. number 11. They could have picked Jones there, but they always had their sights on Fields. The Patriots took Jones with four draft picks without trading anything.
Inevitably, every quarterback in the 21st grade will be compared to other quarterbacks for years to come. But Fields-Jones’ assessment is particularly notable in Chicago, where the Bears can choose between the two.
Notably, Fields may head to Gillette Stadium with a vengeance. Jones and Alabama defeated Fields and Ohio State 52-24 in the January 2021 national championship game. Jones also had an even more impressive rookie season, helping the Patriots reach the playoffs while throwing for 3,801 yards and 22 touchdowns.
6. Send the bears to Minneapolis before Halloween.
Someone at the league office needs help with this. The Bears and Vikings play twice a year, but somehow the Minneapolis game always comes at the end of the season. late late.
The Bears have made seven finals on the road against the Vikings since the NFL started the division-only game in the final week of the 2010 regular season. Additionally, the last 15 Bears trips to Minneapolis were in December or early January. Without fact-checking, we’re pretty sure the average outdoor wind chill at the start of these races was around minus 64.
Yes, yes, we know the Bears are indoors for most games. Still, in 2010 there was an ice skating competition, held at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus a week after the Metrodome roof collapsed. The Vikings also played home games at TCF Bank Stadium in 2014 and 2015.