Revenge is a dish best served on the gridiron.
The Chicago Bears’ regular season schedule is a handful of games that have additional story lines. Old faces in new places. Players visiting their old stomping grounds. Coaches squaring off against teams that once employed them. The Bears’ calendar year is full of such matchups, which could provide an added flair for the dramatic after a 3-13 season.
We’ll have a MUCH more in-depth look at each matchup as they come across the calendar (including this Sunday’s tilt against the Falcons), so for now, let’s start with week 2 and see what’s cooking for the Bears this season.
Week 2: Sept. 17 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Noon, FOX)
After opening the season at home against the Atlanta Falcons, quarterback Mike Glennon returns to Tampa Bay in his second game with the Bears. Glennon was 4-7 as starter in home games with the Buccaneers, completing 59.1 percent of his passes, averaging 176.4 yards per game, and posting an 80.3 rating.
He’ll likely go toe-to-toe with Jameis Winston, who replaced him as starter in 2015.
Because of Hurricane Irma, this will be the Buccaneers’ regular season opener.
Week 3: Sept. 24 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Noon, CBS)
Not the sexiest matchup, but the Bears’ game against the Steelers in Week 3 features Markus Wheaton facing his former team. Of course, he’ll need to be healthy first. Wheaton was drafted in the third round (79th overall) by Pittsburgh in 2013 and appeared to be on the verge of breaking out after catching 44 passes for 749 yards and five touchdowns in 2015. He was a big-play target as he averaged 17.0 yards per catch that season. The Bears hope to get that kind of production from their free agent signee.
Week 4: Sept. 28 at Green Bay Packers (Thursday Night Football, 7:25, CBS/NFL Network/Amazon)
The first of two highly anticipated showdowns between Martellus Bennett and the team that traded him away a year ago.
Bennett was moved to New England around this time last year, and all he did was go on to play a role in the Patriots’ Super Bowl winning season. Meanwhile, the Bears struggled to fill the void left behind by a two-way tight end who was an excellent pass catcher and willing blocker at the line of scrimmage.
It will be interesting to hear what he has to say during the few days of buildup before the game. Shame it comes on a short week.
Week 7: Oct. 22 vs. Carolina Panthers (Noon, FOX)
The familiar faces in new places is a main theme in this game. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera returns to Soldier Field for the first time since 2012, and he’ll bring someone familiar with him. Julius Peppers, who played the last few seasons with the Packers, re-joined the Panthers this offseason as he starts to close the door on a Hall of Fame caliber career.
It will also be the first time John Fox coaches against Carolina as a member of the Bears.
Week 8: Oct. 29 at New Orleans Saints (Noon, FOX)
General manager Ryan Pace returns to New Orleans for the first time since leaving in 2015. Prior to becoming the Bears’ GM, Pace worked in a variety of roles in the Saints front office from 2001 to 2014, working his way up from a scouting assistant to director of player personnel.
We’ll probably get a chance to compare and contrast Drew Brees and Mitch Trubisky at some point.
Week 10: Nov. 12 vs. Green Bay Packers (Noon, FOX)
It’s the first game after the bye, which represents an intriguing opportunity for Trubisky to make his first start because of the additional prep time that comes with the preceding off week.
Martellus Bennett returns to Soldier Field for the first time since 2015. If anything, I’m totally here to hear him spout off about the browning Soldier Field turf in early November.
Week 12: Nov. 26 at Philadelphia Eagles (Noon, FOX)
Before we bill this as a grudge match between the Bears and Alshon Jeffery, I can’t help but wonder if Jeffery will even be active for the game.
Part of the reason Jeffery is no longer in Chicago is that his availability (or lack of it) made it difficult for the Bears’ brass to commit a significant amount of cap room to him. If he’s healthy and playing, this will be a must-see game because Jeffery will have much to prove to his former employer, and 30 other teams who could be in the hunt for his services after the 2017 season ends. However, he’s been battling through injuries this summer.
Week 13: Dec. 3 vs. San Francisco 49ers (Noon, CBS)
It’s quite possible ex-Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer won’t be under center for this early December matchup of rebuilding teams who pulled off the epic draft day trade that sent Trubisky to Chicago. This Week 13 showdown also features the return of kicker Robbie Gould, who was cut late in the 2016 preseason and was the longest-tenured member of the Bears when he was let go.
Week 16: Dec. 24 vs. Cleveland Browns (Noon, CBS)
There was a time where Dowell Loggains and Johnny Manziel were going to wreck the league together. And then what happened? Don’t ask. Fast forward to 2017 and Loggains is the Bears’ offensive coordinator with a new quarterback prospect and Manziel is out of the league. Cleveland is pinning its hopes on the development of quarterback DeShone Kizer, who the Bears are very, very familiar with after their pre-draft visits.