The Bears start off with what looks like a cupcake schedule early on, but it gets a lot tougher later in the season. Form here, though, it still looks like Lovie Smith's crew will mak it back to the postseason for the second time in six seasons with a 10-6 record.
WEEK 1 -- COLTS Sept. 9: noon, CBS
Coach Lovie Smith couldn't ask for a better opponent to get the season off to a good start. The Colts are coming off a 2-14 season that resulted in a major house-cleaning and a rookie quarterback. Even though Andrew Luck is considered a can't-miss prospect, he's still a rookie quarterback.
Result: Bears win; record 1-0.
WEEK 2 -- At Packers Sept. 12: 7:20 p.m., NFL
If the Green Bay offense is as potent as last season and the Bears' offense is as good as advertised, it might take 40 points to win this nationally televised Thursday night clash. This early in the season the Packers are probably better prepared to put on an offensive display.
Result: Bears lose; record 1-1.
WEEK 3 -- RAMS Sept. 23: noon, FOX
A second 2-14 team in three weeks? At home? Thank-you schedule maker. The Rams have an aging but still effective Steven Jackson at running back and a stud defensive end in Chris Long. Other than that, not much to provide hope for improvement.
Result: Bears win; record 2-1.
WEEK 4 -- At Cowboys Oct. 1: 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Second prime-time showcase for each team in the first four weeks. The Pokes have some household names and superstar players in QB Tony Romo, LB DeMarcus Ware and WR Dez Bryant. But they're similar to the Bears in that they have big-time skill-position players but a really shaky O-line supporting them.
Result: Bears lose; record 2-2.
WEEK 5 -- At Jacksonville Oct. 7: 3:05 p.m., FOX
It's tough to win on the road in the NFL -- unless you're playing the Jaguars, who have won 25 games in the past four seasons. QB Blaine Gabbert was a disappointment as a rookie last year. He'll probably be better this year but not by much, although new WRs Laurent Robinson and rookie Justin Blackmon will help.
Result: Bears win; record 3-2.
WEEK 6 -- Bye week
WEEK 7 -- LIONS Oct. 22: 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Bears get national, night-time exposure for the third time in six games, this time on Monday night. Another potentially high-scoring slugfest featuring big-time, big-play, big-body WRs Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall. Bears will be coming off their bye, while Lions will be trying to bounce back from tough road game in Philly.
Result: Bears win; record 4-2.
WEEK 8 -- PANTHERS Oct. 28: noon, FOX
Former Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera brings his up-and-coming team headlined by sensational QB Cam Newton to town. Young Panthers came on strong last season winning 4 of last 6 to finish 6-10; a huge improvement over 2010's 2-14. Taking another quantum leap will be much more difficult.
Result: Bears win; record 5-2.
WEEK 9 -- At Titans Nov. 4: noon, FOX
Will second-year QB Jake Locker play well enough to keep the job from veteran Matt Hasselbeck? Will electric RB Chris Johnson return to CJ2K form after a disappointing 2011? Will talented WR Kenny Britt avoid incarceration? This team could challenge Texans for supremacy in the AFC South or fall back to the pack.
Result: Bears lose; record 5-3.
WEEK 10 -- TEXANS Nov. 11: 7:20 p.m., NBC
One of the popular AFC picks for the Super Bowl, the Texans appear ready to join the NFL's elite. QB Matt Schaub, WR Andre Johnson and RB Arian Foster are one of the best trios in the league. But how much will the losses of team leaders DE Mario Williams and LB DeMeco Ryans hurt the defense?
Result: Bears lose; record 5-4.
WEEK 11 -- At 49ers No. 19: 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Going from 6 wins in 2010 to 13 wins in 2011 under rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh might prove to be easier than winning 13 games again. But this team is excellent in all three phases and plays in the weak NFC West, which they should win by default. But is QB Alex Smith really as good as he was last season (90.7 passer rating, just 5 interceptions)?
Result: Bears lose; record 5-5.
WEEK 12 -- VIKINGS Nov. 25: noon, FOX
Bears have won 10 of the last 11 at home against the Vikings, a slam-dunk pick to finish in the NFC North cellar. Coach Leslie Frazier, the former Bears CB, still has work to do in resurrecting a team that plummeted to 3 wins last season. If Adrian Peterson comes back 100 percent they can compete.
Result: Bears win; record 6-5.
WEEK 13 -- SEAHAWKS Dec. 2: noon, FOX
It'll be interesting to see if sub-5-foot-11 rookie QB Russell Wilson is still running the show because he's an entertaining athlete. But is he an NFL quarterback? The Bears are unlikely to forget the 38-14 butt-kicking the Seahawks threw them at Soldier Field last December, although that was without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte.
Result: Bears win; record 7-5.
WEEK 14 -- At Vikings Dec. 9: noon, FOX
This one won't be as easy as two weeks earlier at home, but the Bears shouldn't have much trouble winning at the Metrodome, as long as they don't get caught looking ahead to their next game. The Bears have won their last two in Minnesota, but they lost three straight before that.
Result: Bears win; record 8-5.
WEEK 15 -- PACKERS Dec. 16: noon, FOX
With three months between matchups, mush could change for both teams, but there's a good chance the NFC North title will still be at stake. Packers have won 3 of the last 4 meetings at Soldier Field, including the 2010 NFC championship.
Result: Bears win; record 9-5.
WEEK 16 -- At Arizona Dec. 23: 3:25 p.m., FOX
Who knows whether it will be John Skelton or Kevin Kolb at QB by this point? Maybe rookie Ryan Lindley. Despite the uncertainty at the most important position, the Cardinals still went 7-2 down the stretch last season, and they still have WR Larry Fitzgerald and an underrated defense.
Result: Bears win; record 10-5.
WEEK 17 -- At Detroit Dec. 30: noon, FOX
A playoff berth could be at stake. Bears have won 7 of the last 8 meetings vs. Lions, but they lost 24-13 last season at Ford Field, when they allowed Jahvid Best to rush for 163 yards on just 12 carries and Calvin Johnson to pick up 130 yards on just 5 catches.
Result: Bears lose; record 10-6.