Bears Insider

How NFL put Bears' 2024 schedule together for Caleb Williams' rookie season

The NFL plans to "count on" the Bears in several key windows

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Bears will enter the 2024 season as one of the most exciting teams in the NFL, thanks to No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams and the host of improvements general manager Ryan Poles made this offseason.

But despite the anticipation for what could be the start of a new era in Chicago, the NFL opted only to give the Bears three primetime games and only one before Week 15. They play on "Sunday Night Football" in Week 2 against the Houston Texans and don't return to the primetime window until being part of a Week 15 "Monday Night Football" doubleheader in which they play the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears will play their "Thursday Night Football" game in Week 17 against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Bears also have two standalone games that aren't in primetime. They play in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 6 at 8:30 a.m. CT and will visit the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day.

Last season, the Bears had four primetime games and were featured in the 3:25 slot four times. This season, they are only slated to be in that slot once during Week 14 against the San Francisco 49ers.

So, what's the reason for the lack of marquee games for the young, up-and-coming Bears?

NFL Director of Broadcasting Charlotte Carey explained how the Bears' schedule came together on "Up and Adams" after the slate was released Wednesday.

"A few years ago, the schedule came out before the draft so we didn't even have those draft stories or pieces to put the puzzle together to actually be able to react afterward," Carey said. "Now we have that time. A team like the Bears is so exciting now post-draft, and they were an exciting team at the end of last year, too.

"This is a team that we are really counting on. You'll see, as you said, a decent amount of primetime there. But also, we're using them strategically across our 1 o'clock windows, where they can anchor and help in certain areas. They are a team that you are going to see a lot of this year."

As for the odd quirk of the Bears not playing an NFC North opponent until Week 11, NFL Vice President of Broadcast Planning Mike North doesn't view it as a competitive disadvantage for head coach Matt Eberflus' young team.

“We certainly didn’t set out to not have any division games [in the early part of the season],” North said Thursday on a video conference call with reporters. “It feels like a college basketball schedule, the nonconference games first. It wasn’t intentional, but also it wasn’t necessarily something that we looked at and thought was unfair."

The NFL has long attempted to backload the schedule with division games to increase the drama in the playoff hunt.

This approach has rewarded the league with several high-stakes games in the final weeks of the season.

“There is a legacy from the [former senior vice president of broadcasting and media operations] Howard Katz years of running the scheduling process: It’s division games late in the season. It’s always something we’re looking for, not forcing it in other than Week 18. More division games late in the season usually means fewer teams have clinched playoff spots.”

The Bears were also given a three-game road trip to Detroit, San Francisco, and Minnesota in Weeks 13 through 15. While that might seem like an unnecessary late-season gauntlet, North doesn't view it that way.

“We talk about three-game road trips as though it’s the worst thing you can do to a team,” North said. “I’m not sure that that’s true. I think sometimes it’s who you play, not where. We could break up somebody’s three-game road trip by taking away that third road game and giving them a home game against Kansas City or San Francisco. Is that really better?

“You think about this three-game road trip for the Bears from a competitive standpoint, the first one is Thanksgiving. Then you get that 10-day break before that second game. And then the third game is on a Monday night. So you actually get extra days between Games 1 and 2 and then 2 and 3. I hope they don’t look at that schedule and think that it was unfair.”

While the Bears are only slated for three primetime games and one in the 3:25 window, the NFL's flex scheduling windows will allow the league to feature in primetime windows down the stretch if they are in the playoff chase.

The Bears will open the season on Sept. 8 against the Tennessee Titans at Soldier Field.

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.

Contact Us