Bears Insider

NFL explains reason for Bears' odd division scheduling quirks, three-game road trip

The Bears' 2024 schedule came with a few oddities

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The Bears' 2024 schedule arrived Wednesday and had a few notable quirks, including that the Bears do not play a divisional game until Week 11 against the Green Bay Packers.

Six of the Bears' final eight games are against NFC North opponents. Meanwhile, the other three teams in the division each play two NFC North games prior to Week 11. But the Bears aren't alone in this strange division scheduling, as the Pittsburgh Steelers also don't play a divisional game until Week 11.

On Thursday, NFL Vice President of Broadcast Planning Mike North discussed why the Bears' schedule came with the unusual divisional slate.

“We certainly didn’t set out to not have any division games [in the early part of the season],” North said 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."

North noted that the NFL has always preferred to have divisional games late in the season to maximize the drama.

“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.”

North said the league will probably look at having such an extreme division schedule next season.

Charlotte Carey, the NFL's Director of Broadcasting, noted on "Up and Adams" that because both the AFC and NFC North are such exciting and heavily competitive divisions, the NFL was OK with having the back part of the schedule loaded with those games.

Another oddity in the Bears' schedule occurs in Weeks 10-15 when they play three consecutive home games followed by three straight road games in Detroit, San Francisco, and Minnesota. The Vikings have the reverse—three away, three home—during the same period.

North doesn't view the Bears' Detroit-San Francisco-Minnesota trifecta as a negative because of the rest in between the games.

“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.”

The Bears will play four preseason games, including the Hall of Fame Game against the Houston Texans on Aug. 1. They'll open the season against the Tennessee Titans at Soldier Field on Sept. 8.

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