Bears top five matchups in 2019

Jacob VanZuiden, Courier Staff

The wait is finally over. At exactly 7:00 p.m. Wednesday night, the Chicago Bears, via Twitter, released their full regular-season schedule for 2019. Coming off their best year since the team’s Super Bowl run in 2006 with a 12-4 record, the Monsters of the Midway will look to take another step forward in year-two under head coach Matt Nagy. With that being said, this year’s schedule is loaded several marquee matchups you’ll want to make sure to tune in for on a schedule that, on the surface, appears to be much more challenging than years past.

My number five matchup to watch is during week 1 on Sep. 5 against the Green Bay Packers.

Indeed, Chicago will once again kick off the season against the Packers, this time on their own turf. The teams split the series last year, both coming out victorious on their home field. However, the Bears likely would’ve swept their divisional foe had it not been for one man: Aaron Rodgers. A player who has long been a thorn in the Bears’ side, the seven-time Pro Bowler threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns (most of which came in the second half) as the Packers managed to erase a 17-0 halftime deficit, winning 24-23 on opening night. With a tough schedule ahead, it’ll be imperative for the Bears to come out of the gates hot in a “revenge” scenario against Green Bay. What better way to start the season than one of the best divisional rivalries in football?

My number four matchup to watch is on Dec. 5, Week 14 against the Dallas Cowboys.

The unstoppable force meets the immovable object. Dallas, a team particularly known for its strong running-game led by Ezekiel Elliott, will go head-to-head with Chicago’s elite front-seven in one of the Bears’ three Thursday night games in 2019. While the Cowboys’ o-line may not be what it once was, Dallas still finished 2018 amongst the top-10 in both rushing yards and rush attempts per game. Something will have to give, as the Bears allowed a miniscule 77.8 rushing yards per game last season, fewest in the league. This should be a hard-fought battle in the trenches as Dallas does their best to suppress Chicago’s offensive attack with their steadily-improving defense.

My third favorite matchup is on December 22, Week 16 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The high-flying Chiefs offense with reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes II at the helm will take their first trip to Soldier Field since 2011. After falling just short of a Super Bowl berth last season, Kansas City will again be a force to be reckoned with this fall. On paper, it appears to be a matchup that presents a steep obstacle to overcome for the Windy City. But then again, the same was said about last year’s game against the Los Angeles Rams, a game the Bears dominated from start to finish in route to a 15-6 victory. They’ll face arguably their toughest opponent of 2019 at Soldier Field, a place that has quickly turned into one of the hardest venues for any opposing team to play. If Chicago can limit the damage done by Mahomes and take advantage of Kansas City’s 32nd-ranked defense, we could see them come out on top in what’s likely to be an offensive slugfest.

My second most intriguing matchup for me is on October 6, Week 5 against the Oakland Raiders (London).

Get your popcorn ready folks. For the first time in franchise history, the Bears will travel to the heart of England to face-off against John Gruden’s Raiders right before their Week 6 bye. More importantly, we finally get to witness the “Khalil Mack revenge game.” This already has the looks of being one for the ages, as Mack will set out to terrorize his former team that refused to give him the payday he deserved. Already one of, if not the best defensive players in the NFL, Mack with a little added motivation is scary thought for any opponent. In addition, we also get to see how the Bears’ D can hold up against a new-look Raiders offense that traded for superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown this offseason, one of many notable additions. Gruden finally has the pieces he so desperately coveted for his offense, but only time will tell if that, alone, will be enough.

The most important matchup is on Nov. 3, Week 9 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

After the Bears’ Super Bowl aspirations were crushed in the concluding moments of the 2018 Wild Card Round against the Eagles, this may be the biggest “statement game” they’ll play all season. The Monsters of the Midway will get another swing at things after coming up just short in the playoffs, but this time won’t be afforded the luxury of home-field advantage. Additionally, their week nine matchup will be their first time seeing quarterback Carson Wentz in action, as a late-season injury thrusted Nick Foles into the starting role before the playoffs last year. Like Dallas, Philly boasts a strong offensive line that was ranked as the fifth-best in the NFL by Pro Football Focus following the 2018 season. The Bears defensive front will aim to put more pressure.