The Chicago Bears' 2019 season didn't exactly go as planned. The team was hoping to use the spirit of its 100th season to propel themselves into a long postseason run. Instead, the Bears finished 8-8, missed out on the playoffs, and had more questions than answers. The Bears have spent this offseason answering some of those questions. They've addressed their needs through the draft, trades, free agency, and undrafted free agency.
The hope is that those moves will help this team get back to the postseason. The NFL unveiled its 2020 schedule last week, and the Bears will need everything in their arsenal to navigate a slate that includes five postseason teams from last year. Despite finishing third in the division, the Bears still have a fairly difficult schedule that ranks 13th in terms of strength of opponents. Combined, their 2020 foes had a 129-125-2 record last season. Still, this season shouldn't be as difficult as last year, when they tied for the fifth-toughest slate. Here are five takeaways from the Bears' 2020 schedule.
1. Can't keep the Bears off of national television
The Bears split their six nationally televised games in 2019, so the networks decided to have them back for four more games in 2020. The Bears will play twice on "Monday Night Football," with a visit to the Los Angeles Rams — and their new stadium — in Week 7 (Oct. 26) and a home game against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10 (Nov. 16). They'll welcome Tom Brady and the new-look Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Solider Field for "Thursday Night Football" to start Week 5 (Oct. 8), and they'll wrap up Thanksgiving weekend (Week 12, Nov. 29) with a "Sunday Night Football" matchup with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. It'll be the seventh prime-time contest between these two since 2014 (Bears are 1-5 in the previous six games).
2. Taking on some former teammates
Week 12 won't be the only chance that Jimmy Graham will have to do some damage against Green Bay, as the Bears will close out the season by hosting the Packers in Week 17 (Jan. 3). Nick Foles could potentially be the starting quarterback when the Bears travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars in Week 16 (Dec. 27), which also is the team that Allen Robinson spent his first four seasons with; and the Bears' Week 7 trip to face the Rams will give Robert Quinn the opportunity to have a strong showing against the team that drafted him. Some of the Bears' most recent additions also fall into this category - Ted Ginn Jr. (New Orleans, Week 8), Tashaun Gipson (Jacksonville and Houston, Week 14), and John Jenkins (Giants, Week 2 and Saints).
3. Taking their talents south
The Bears will be taking on both the NFC and AFC South divisions this season. So in addition to their matchups with Tampa Bay, Houston, and Jacksonville, the Bears will have home games against Philip Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts in Week 4 (Oct. 4), and the Drew Brees-led New Orleans Saints in Week 8 (Nov. 1). They'll also hit the road to play Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3 (Sept. 27), Teddy Bridgewater and the Carolina Panthers in Week 6 (Oct. 18), and Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans in Week 9 (Nov. 8).
This year's game with the Rams will mark the third consecutive season facing them mdash; Bears own a 2-1 series advantage — and the fourth since 2015. The Bears will be looking to avenge last season's embarrassing loss to the Saints in Week 8, and the Bears' Week 2 (Sept. 20) home game against the New York Giants will be their third matchup since 2016 (the Giants outscored the Bears 66-62 during that stretch).
5. Another tough divisional slate
As we all know, the Bears' postseason fate will ultimately be determined by now they perform against their NFC North rivals. The Packers (13-3 last year) are favored to win the division again. The Vikings, who host the Bears in Week 15 (Dec. 20), are reloaded after this year's draft and will be on the Packers' trail. As for the Detroit Lions, the Bears will open the season (Week 1, Sept. 13) against them in the Motor City and finish the season series with them in Week 13 (Dec. 6). Now while I don't expect them to be a playoff team in 2020, the Lions will certainly be improved thanks to their impressive draft haul.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of chicagobears.com)