Early Test for Bears

September will tell a lot about the Bears chances of repeating as NFC North champions. Chicago will face the Packers, Lions and Vikings before the month is out.

The season opener will see the Bears travel to Green Bay (Sept. 10), then host Detroit (Sept. 17) and finish the month at Minnesota (Sept. 24).

"We like having the opportunity to compete against our division rivals the first three weeks of the season," said coach Lovie Smith. "We'll know a lot about our football team and our division immediately."

The turn of the calendar brings the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks (Oct. 1) to Chicago in a Sunday night game on NBC. After hosting the Bills (Oct. 8) the Bears will go to Arizona (Oct. 16) for a Monday night matchup on ESPN with the Cardinals.

Coming out of the bye (Oct 22), the Bears will host the San Francisco 49ers (Oct. 29) and the Miami Dolphins (Nov. 5).

The Bears then go on the road for three straight games for the first time since 1999. The Bears are one of five teams with three consecutive roads games. The three-trip sees back-to-back games in New York against the Giants (Nov. 12) and the Jets (Nov. 19) and concludes at New England (Nov. 26).

December brings five straight games against NFC opponents. The Bears host the Vikings (Dec. 3) then go to St. Louis (Dec. 11) for a Monday Night game against the Rams. After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to Chicago (Dec. 17), the Bears finish the season within the NFC North. The Bears are at Detroit (Dec. 24) and host the Packers (Dec. 31) in the season finale.

The Bears have the easiest schedule in the NFL based on opponent winning percentage (.445). However, the true test could be the number of playoff teams on the schedule, four.

"Our schedule will test us each week," Smith said, "but we expect to build on our success in 2005 and work towards bringing a championship back to Chicago."

Based on the NFL's new flexible scheduling, the Bears could play more than their three prime-time games. The plan will allow the league to move one contest from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night in Weeks 10-15 and 17 to ensure that the best match-ups are on national TV.

Chicago Bears 2006 Schedule

August 10-14 at San Francisco 49ers - 7:00 pm NBC5
Friday, August 18 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS - 7:00 pm CBS
August 24-27 ARIZONA CARDINALS - 7:00 pm NBC5
Aug. 31 – Sept. 3 at Cleveland Browns - 7:00 pm NBC5

Regular Season
Sunday Sept. 10 at Green Bay Packers - 3:15 p.m. FOX
Sunday Sept. 17 DETROIT LIONS – Noon FOX
Sunday, Sept. 24 at Minnesota Vikings – Noon FOX
Sunday, Oct. 1 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS - 7:15 p.m. NBC
Sunday, Oct. 8 BUFFALO BILLS – Noon CBS
Monday, Oct. 16 at Arizona Cardinals - 7:30 p.m. ESPN
Sunday, Oct. 22 Bye Week
Sunday, Oct. 29 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS - Noon FOX
Sunday, Nov. 5 MIAMI DOLPHINS - Noon CBS
Sunday, Nov. 12 at New York Giants - Noon FOX
Sunday, Nov. 19 at New York Jets - Noon FOX
Sunday, Nov. 26 at New England Patriots – Noon FOX
Monday, Dec. 11 at St. Louis Rams - 7:30 p.m. ESPN
Sunday, Dec. 24 at Detroit Lions - Noon FOX
Sunday, Dec. 31 GREEN BAY PACKERS – Noon FOX

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