The Bears are in a win-or-else season in 2021.
General manager Ryan Pace took a few more chances during the 2021 NFL Draft, including a trade up in the first round that landed Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Fourth-year coach Matt Nagy has yet to finish below .500, but the Bears have finished 8-8 the past two seasons and have not capitalized with one of the league's most talented defenses.
The quarterback question remains the focus heading into 2021. Nick Foles and former first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky are gone. Veteran Andy Dalton and Fields are in. The Bears were good enough to make the NFC playoffs with an inconsistent offense in 2020. Will that change — or will more changes be made after the season?
Here is a complete breakdown of the Bears' 2021 schedule, including dates and start times for all 17 games and our early prediction.
Chicago Bears schedule 2021
The Bears open their 2021 schedule with a Sunday Night Football matchup against the Rams.
The Bears have a tough schedule against the AFC North and NFC West, and that means five playoff teams from last season are on the schedule.
Chicago faces the Rams, Browns, Buccaneers and Steelers on the road before their Week 10 bye.
The Bears beat Tampa Bay 20-19 at Soldier Field last season, but this game will be tougher on the road. The extra game also is on the road at Las Vegas, and that is in Week 5. That is a tough road heading into the back half of November.
Here is a look at the Bears' full schedule for 2021:
|1||Sept. 12||at L.A. Rams||8:20 p.m. ET||NBC|
|2||Sept. 19||vs. Bengals||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
|3||Sept. 26||at Browns||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
|4||Oct. 3||vs. Lions||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
|5||Oct. 10||at Raiders||4:05 p.m. ET||CBS|
|6||Oct. 17||vs. Packers||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
|7||Oct. 24||at Buccaneers||4:25 p.m. ET||CBS|
|8||Oct. 31||vs. 49ers||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
|9||Nov. 8||at Steelers||8:15 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|11||Nov. 21||vs. Ravens||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|12||Nov. 25||at Lions||12:30 p.m. ET||FOX|
|13||Dec. 5||vs. Cardinals||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
|14||Dec. 12||at Packers||8:20 p.m. ET||NBC|
|15||Dec. 20||vs. Vikings||8:15 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|16||Dec. 26||at Seahawks||4:05 p.m. ET||FOX|
|17||Jan. 2||vs. Giants||1 p.m. ET||CBS|
|18||Jan. 9||at Vikings||1 p.m. ET||FOX|
Bears strength of schedule
Chicago's opponents had a .550 winning percentage last season, and that means the Bears have the third most difficult schedule by record. It is the toughest schedule among the NFC North teams, and the only teams with more difficult schedules by record are the Steelers and Ravens.
The Bears play seven playoff teams from last season, and that includes two games against rival Green Bay.
Toughest tests: The road schedule is flat-out brutal with the exception of the Lions, which falls on Thanksgiving. The Vikings and Raiders were both 3-5 at home last season. The other six teams, all playoff teams, had a combined record of 40-11 at home.
Chicago has been a decent road team under Nagy with a 14-10 record the past three seasons, but it's going to be difficult to be better than .500 on the road in 2021. If the Bears can steal a few games on the road, then the rest of the schedule is set up for a possible run back to the NFC playoffs.
Biggest breaks: Soldier Field can be a tough environment for several reasons, including the weather and turf, and several young quarterbacks will be making their first start in that stadium. That includes Arizona's Kyler Murray, Baltimore's Lamar Jackson, Cincinnati's Joe Burrow, New York's Daniel Jones and possibly San Francisco's Trey Lance depending on whether he can take the starting job as a rookie. That is an advantage for the Bears. Murray and Jones have to come to Chicago in December, too.
The AFC North matchups also present a unique opportunity for Chicago given its track record against the other black-and-blue division. The Bears swept the AFC North in 2017 and 2013, and the potential for nasty weather in those games is a wash.
Chicago also has four games against three of the five worst teams in the NFL in the Lions, Giants and Bengals. The Bears need to sweep those games.
Bottom line: Chicago will be watching Aaron Rodgers' future with great interest, because the Packers have dominated the division the last pwo seasons. Rodgers is 21-5 against the Bears as a starter (including playoffs), and Nagy is 1-5 against the Packers.
Chicago is 10-2 against the Vikings and Lions in the same stretch, and those games will define whether the Bears can make a true run in the NFC North. Dalton might be the starter early on, but Chicago did not reach up for Fields to sit him for the entire season.
The Bears still have enough pieces on defense to put up a winning record, but that tough road schedule is going to be the issue. Look for Chicago to stay on the fringe of the NFC playoff discussion as a result, and the division could be tight because everyone has a tough schedule.
Record prediction: 8-9