LAKE FOREST, Ill. — THe moment Bears head coach Matt Eberflus got his hands on the 2023 schedule, he liked what he saw.
The Bears have a very manageable slate, yes. That’s a gift for finishing 3-14 last season. But it’s not the opponents that have Eberflus excited about the schedule. It’s the manner in which the NFL laid it out that has Eberflus believing the league did his team a favor.
“Yeah, so once you look at the schedule, you know, and I presented it to the team after the weekend it came out, I think it’s positive,” Eberflus said Tuesday at Halas Hall. “You know, cause you look at two Thursday games that are Game 5 and Game 10, so you really have two mini-byes, and I think that’s a real big positive for us. Gives us a little break after five games and after 10 games. Then we play two games after that. We got Detroit, and then we got the Monday game against the Vikings. We got our real bye at Week 13. Then you finish with five games at the end.
“You know you start with the division opponent, you end with a division opponent, so I think it’s good, and I think we have some good rest in there so we can rest and recover and get refreshed to play our best football.”
The Bears will travel to Washington to face the Commanders on Thursday Night Football in Week 5, giving them an extra few days to prepare for a Week 6 visit from the Vikings. In Week 10, the Bears host Bryce Young and the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football at Soldier Field. That date with the Panthers is the lone home game in a five-game stretch that sees the Bears travel to Los Angeles, New Orleans, Detroit, and Minnesota.
Last season, the Bears utilized their lone “mini-bye week” effectively. Following a sloppy Week 6 loss to the Commanders at Solider Field, the Bears reevaluated everything on both sides of the ball. That reevaluation sparked an offensive explosion that showed the Bears how dangerous quarterback Justin Fields can be when the offense is tailored to his strengths.
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After a teardown season led to a bottoming out, general manager Ryan Poles started his rebuild this offseason. He added an elite wide receiver in DJ Moore, retooled the offensive line, injected talent into the linebacking corps, and added the final piece to a rebuilt secondary.
Poles is being patient with his rebuild, but there’s no doubt the Bears should, on paper, have the talent to compete in an NFC North that is up for grabs after Aaron Rodgers’ departure.
A soft schedule with two mini-byes should give the Bears multiple chances to re-evaluate, alter their approach, and steady themselves during the 17-game grind.
With checkpoints at Week 5, Week 10, and a bye in Week 13, the schedule sets up perfectly for the Bears to attack it in segments. Win each segment, and they will find themselves playing meaningful football when the calendar turns to December, giving themselves a chance to be a surprise entrant into the postseason picture.