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6 games Caleb Williams, Bears must win to make playoff dreams reality in 2024

Caleb Williams and the Bears' 2024 playoff dreams could come down to six crucial games

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The 2024 NFL schedule release came and went Wednesday, and now we have months to dissect every possible reality Caleb Williams and the 2024 Bears will travel this fall.

After a potentially transformational offseason, the Bears will enter the 2024 campaign with high expectations and a fair amount of pressure on Williams and head coach Matt Eberflus to deliver winning football.

The Bears went 7-10 last year while giving away three games in which they held double-digit fourth-quarter leads. With an upgrade at quarterback, offensive coordinator, and the skill positions, it's reasonable to expect the Bears to contend for and make the playoffs in the weakened NFC.

But if the Bears plan to turn those postseason dreams into a reality, there are a handful of opportunities on the schedule they can't let slip through their fingers.

Here are the six games the Bears need to win to feel good about punching their playoff ticket this fall:

Week 1 vs. Tennessee Titans

Caleb Williams gets a soft launch into the NFL against a team that is rebuilding on both sides of the ball.

The Titans have some nice defensive pieces in Jeffery Simmons, L'Jarius Sneed, and Harold Landry, but their defense it shouldn't be a unit that will give the Bears' new-look offense a ton of issues out of the gate.

With games against the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, and Los Angeles Rams to follow, it's vital for Williams and the Bears to get off to a clean start against a team that is expected to be among the worst in the NFL in 2024.

Week 5: vs. Carolina Panthers

The Bears will open October against a Carolina Panthers team that is still in the basement of a rebuild with quarterback Bryce Young and first-year head coach Dave Canales.

Carolina's roster got better in the offseason, but the Bears should be able to handle them on both sides of the ball. If they are going to be a serious team, this game is an easy win.

It has to be.

Week 11: vs. Green Bay Packers

The Bears' division schedule doesn't start until Week 11, and it's imperative they open it with a win at home against a Packers team that pasted them last year at Soldier Field.

The Bears' final eight-game stretch will be tough to navigate. It starts here against Jordan Love. If the Bears want to "Take The North," they must start beating their division rivals.

Week 12: vs. Minnesota Vikings

The saving grace in the Bears' final eight-game stretch is the unknown of the Minnesota Vikings.

Minnesota is projected to finish last in the division, but the murky quarterback picture between Sam Darnold and rookie J.J. McCarthy makes them hard to pin down.

The Vikings have great weapons, a good head coach, and a true difference-maker at defensive coordinator in Brian Flores.

But if you want to be a playoff team, you shouldn't lose to Darnold or McCarthy, especially at home.

Week 15: at Minnesota

I oscillated between this game and the Week 16 game against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.

The Bears match up well against the Lions, and they should have beaten them both times last season. A win over the preseason division favorite is a nice feather in the cap of a team hunting for a playoff spot.

But I went with the Monday night tilt in Minnesota because of its place in the schedule.

After facing the Vikings at home in Week 12, the Bears have back-to-back road games at Detroit and San Francisco.

It's a lot to ask a still relatively young and unproven roster to go on the road and win against two of the NFC's top teams. A split is doable, but it's very possible that the Bears lose both games. If that's the case, a skid-stopping win in Minnesota is a must.

A three-game losing streak with the Lions coming again in Week 16 could be catastrophic to their playoff hopes.

Week 17: vs. Seattle Seahawks

With a Week 18 trip to Lambeau Field on deck, the Bears' home finale could have significant playoff implications.

The Seahawks went 9-8 last season with one of the league's worst defenses and both their starting tackles missing a large portion of the season.

New head coach Mike Macdonald will be value-added, and the Seahawks will be one of the teams jostling with the Bears for one of the final wild-card spots.

Beating Geno Smith at home to earn the tie-breaker over a Seahawks team that could be in the wild-card picture is a must.

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