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Chicago Bears: 5 Takeaways From 2022 Schedule

Matt Eberflus, Chicago Bears

The Bears are entering their first season under new head coach Matt Eberflus

The draft has come and gone, minicamps and OTAs are about to get underway, and now we know what the 2022 NFL season schedule looks like. This year will be the first season for the Chicago Bears under new general manager Ryan Poles and new head coach Matt Eberflus. And while Bears fans are hoping for a return to the postseason, the reality is that the new administration is evaluating talent in order to build an eventual playoff team.

Related: Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 NFL Schedule and Analysis

Thankfully, the Bears' schedule this year isn't as difficult as 2021, but it will have its challenges along the way. Here are five takeaways from the Bears' schedule for the upcoming 2022 campaign.

1. Matchups with 2021 playoff teams

The Bears will open the year with a home game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 11.  A wild-card team, the 49ers pulled off not one but two road upsets and had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game against the Rams in their building before falling 20-17 to the eventual Super Bowl champs.

This will be the second straight season San Francisco and Chicago meet in Soldier Field with the 49ers winning 33-22 in Week 8 last year behind Elijah Mitchell's 137 rushing yards and Jimmy Garoppolo's 322 passing yards (and two touchdown runs).

The Bears also will travel to Dallas for a Week 8 encounter with the defending NFC East champs, which is proceeded by a "Monday Night Football" matchup on the road against New England, a perennial playoff team under Bill Belichick. Then after the Week 14 bye, Chicago has back-to-back home games against Philadelphia, a wild-card team last year, and Buffalo, the reigning AFC East champs and a team many think can win the Super Bowl this season. And don't forget about the Bears' two games against the archrival Packers (more on that shortly).

Related: Chicago Bears' 2022 NFL Draft Class Grades

2. For the first time in a while

The trip to face Dallas in October will be Chicago's first game against the Cowboys since the 2019 season, a 31-24 win for the Bears. This will be the team's first game in AT&T Stadium since 2016, a game Dallas won easily, 31-17. Chicago will be taking on New England for the first time since 2018, which may not be the worst thing since the Bears have lost five straight to Bill Belichick's Patriots. 

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Chicago's Week 3 home game against Houston will mark the first meeting with the AFC South team since 2020 (36-7 victory for the Bears), and it will be former head coach Lovie Smith's first game back at Soldier Field since he led Tampa Bay to a win back in 2014. 

In Week 6, Chicago will be looking for its first winning streak against Washington since the early 2000s. The Bears also are facing the Dolphins (Week 9 at home) for the first time an overtime loss during the 2018 season. And elsewhere on the schedule, games against Philadelphia and Buffalo offer an opportunity to renew other dormant series.

The Bears last played the Eagles in 2019, a win at Lincoln Financial Field, which extended their winning streak to five over the NFC East representative. As for the Bills, the last time these teams played was in 2018. Chicago demolished the Bills 41-9 up in Buffalo, but plenty has changed since then, mainly the fact that Josh Allen is now the quarterback. And in Week 11, the Bears will return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to face the Falcons. The last time the team played in that stadium was in Week 3 of the 2020 season when Nick Foles threw three touchdown passes in the final 6:20 of the fourth quarter to fuel a furious comeback from a 16-point deficit to leave with a 30-26 victory.

3. The chance to shine on national TV

Although the Bears have had their struggles in recent seasons, they're still an attractive national television draw. This season, Chicago has three scheduled prime-time appearances. The first is in Week 2 for "Sunday Night Football" on the road against Green Bay, as the NFL's oldest rivalry is always must-see TV. The Bears also will be part of Amazon Prime Video's "Thursday Night Football" debut season, hosting Washington to kick off Week 6. And the very next week, Chicago will head to Foxboro to take on New England on "Monday Night Football," the Bears' 19th appearance in that coveted time slot since 2006.

4. The rough and tumble NFC North

Of course the true test the Bears will have this season will be their six divisional contests. Green Bay, Minnesota and Detroit went a combined 24-26-1 last season, with the Packers claiming a third straight NFC North crown. Chicago went 2-4 against its divisional peers in 2021, with both victories coming against the Lions. It was the third time in the last four seasons (2018, '19) that the Bears had swept the team from the Motor City.

Wins against Detroit are important but the Bears need to find a way to beat the Packers and the Vikings if they want to be any sort of a factor in the first year of the Poles/Eberflus regime. Even if it doesn't lead to a division title, better success against NFC North teams will only increase Chicago's playoff chances.

5. New York, New York

For the first time since 2018, the Bears will suit up against both the Jets and Giants in the same season. That season Chicago soundly defeated the Jets at home but fell to the Giants on the road five weeks later. The wrinkle with this season's pairing of games is that both will be played in MetLife Stadium. The last time that happened was in 2006 when the Bears stayed in the New York area for a few weeks because these games were back-to-back on the schedule. That's not the case this year, with the Giants on the docket for Week 4 and the return trip to face the Jets not until Week 12.

For what it's worth, the 2006 season was a memorable one for the Bears. They won both of the games, which were played in mid-November in the since-demolished Giants Stadium, by a combined score of 48-20, en route to an NFC championship and Super Bowl XLI appearance with the aforementioned Smith as the head coach.

Chicago has enjoyed plenty of success against both the Giants and Jets in recent encounters, winning three in a row against the G-Men and five in a row vs. the J-E-T-S. It would certainly be a positive development for the Poles/Eberflus blueprint if both streaks were to continue in 2022.

— Written by Gabe Salgado, who 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 can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.