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Hoge: Analyzing The Bears' 2014 Schedule

By Adam Hoge-

(CBS) -- We've known the Bears' 2014 opponents since the end of last season, but we now know when all those games will be played.

There are a number of quirks in this year's slate, including:

- The Bears will open at home for the fifth straight season. They are 4-0 in the last four years opening up at home. This will also be the third year in a row they open up at home against an AFC opponent.
- The Bears are scheduled to play five primetime games in 2014. They were 4-1 in primetime last season.
- The Bears will play their first Thanksgiving game since 2004 and first in Detroit since 1999.
- That Thanksgiving game will be played on CBS, as part of new rules that allow select all-NFC games to be played on CBS and select all-AFC games to be played on FOX.
- The Bears will play back-to-back Thursday games. A week after playing on Thanksgiving, the Bears will host the Cowboys on the NFL Network. The Cowboys, of course, will also be coming off their usual Thanksgiving game so both teams will have equal rest.
- The Bears will play three straight home games in December.
- For the second straight season, the Bears have no games scheduled in the Sunday late-afternoon time slot. Last year, they didn't play a late-afternoon game until Week 17 when their game against the Packers was flexed from Noon seven days before kickoff.

Here's a game-by-game breakdown of the Bears' 2014 schedule:

Week 1: vs Buffalo Bills - Sunday, Sept. 7 - Noon - FOX

Usually this game would be on CBS, but the NFL's new "cross flex" scheduling rules puts this one on FOX.

Last meeting: Nov. 7, 2010 - Bears 22, Bills 19 in Toronto
Last meeting in Chicago: Oct. 10, 2006 - Bears 40, Bills 7
Key additions: MLB Brandon Spikes, CB Corey Graham, OLB Keith Rivers, OG Chris Williams
Key losses: S Jairus Byrd
Outlook: The Bills gave former Bears Corey Graham and Chris Williams nearly $30 million combined, which tells you all you need to know about their offseason. This is a must-win game at home for the Bears.
Way-too-early pick: Bears

Week 2: at San Francisco 49ers - Sunday, Sept. 14 - 7:30 PM - NBC

The Bears will be happy to help open Levi's Stadium. They may even petition to help knock down Candlestick the night before the game.

Last meeting: Nov. 12, 2012 - 49ers 32, Bears 7 in San Francisco
Key additions: S Antoine Bethea
Key losses: S Donte Whitner, RB Anthony Dixon, CB Carlos Rogers
Outlook: Not only do the Bears never win in San Francisco, they usually get blown out. The good news? This one will be played in the 49ers' new stadium in Santa Clara. NBC has to be drooling over this early-season matchup between two of the NFC's best teams.
Way-too-early pick: 49ers

Week 3: at New York Jets - Monday, Sept. 22 - 7:30 PM - ESPN

Back-to-back primetime games for the Bears, but they'll get an extra day to prepare as they go coast-to-coast.

Last meeting: Dec. 26, 2010 - Bears 38, Jets 34 in Chicago
Last meeting in New Jersey: Nov. 19, 2006 - Bears 10, Jets 0
Key additions: WR Eric Decker, RT Breno Giacomini, RB Chris Johnson, QB Michael Vick
Key losses: OG Austin Howard, CB Antonio Cromartie, QB Mark Sanchez
Outlook: Geno Smith or Michael Vick? Not sure the Bears will be worried about either.
Way-too-early pick: Bears

Week 4: vs Green Bay Packers - Sunday, Sept. 28 - Noon - FOX

This is an NFC North tone setter for the Bears as they've lost four straight games to the Packers at home, including the 2010 NFC Championship Game.

Last meeting in Chicago: Dec. 29, 2013 - Packers 33, Bears 28
Key additions: DE Julius Peppers (Bears)
Key losses: C Evan Dietrich-Smith, WR James Jones, RT Marshall Newhouse, S M.D. Jennings (Bears)
Outlook: The Packers biggest additions always come via the draft and as long as Aaron Rodgers is under center, they're the NFC North favorites until proven otherwise. That said, the gap is closing.
Way-too-early pick: Bears

Week 5: at Carolina Panthers - Sunday, Oct. 5 - Noon - FOX

Ron Rivera thought he had the Bears beat at Soldier Field two years ago, but his team fell apart late.

Last meeting: Oct. 28, 2012 - Bears 23, Panthers 22 in Chicago
Last meeting in Carolina: Oct. 10, 2010 - Bears 23, Panthers 6
Key additions: WR Jerricho Cotchery, S Roman Harper
Key losses: WR Steve Smith, S Mike Mitchell, CB Captain Munnerlyn, WR Ted Ginn Jr., WR Brandon LaFell
Outlook: In addition to losing so many receiving weapons, the Panthers also have Cam Newton recovering from an ankle injury. This is still a good team though and it's a road game, so leaving Carolina with a win won't be easy.
Way-too-early pick: Panthers

Week 6: at Atlanta Falcons - Sunday, Oct. 12 - Noon - FOX

The Bears' last two trips to Atlanta had brutal endings. Remember the pooch kick in 2008 and the red zone mistakes in 2009?

Last meeting: Sept. 11, 2011 - Bears 30, Falcons 12 in Chicago
Last meeting in Atlanta: Oct. 18, 2009 - Falcons 21, Bears 14
Key additions: DT Paul Solai, DE Tyson Jackson, OG Jon Asamoah, KR Devin Hester
Key losses: S Thomas DeCoud
Outlook: The Falcons should be improved from last year's disappointing season and the Bears' special teams will be tested by Devin Hester on the turf.
Way-too-early pick: Bears

Week 7: vs Miami Dolphins - Sunday, Oct. 19 - Noon - CBS

The last time the Dolphins came to Chicago, they won handily, but the Bears ended up in the Super Bowl.

Last meeting: Nov. 18, 2010 - Bears 16, Bills 0 in Miami
Last meeting in Chicago: Nov. 5, 2006 - Dolphins 31, Bears 13
Key additions: LT Branden Albert, DT Earl Mitchell, CB Cortland Finnegan, RB Knowshon Moreno
Key losses: DT Paul Solai, S Chris Clemons
Outlook: The Dolphins nearly made the playoffs last year despite the Richie Incognito drama and they'll be a tough opponent again in 2014. This is one the Bears should win at home though.
Way-too-early pick: Bears

Week 8: at New England Patriots - Sunday, Oct. 26 - Noon - FOX

Trip to Foxboro concludes first-half stretch that includes five road games, three of which are against 2013 playoff teams.

Last meeting: Dec. 12, 2010 - Patriots 36, Bears 7 in Chicago
Last meeting in New England: Nov. 26, 2006 - Patriots 17, Bears 13
Key additions: CB Brandon Browner, CB Darrelle Revis, WR Brandon LaFell
Key losses: CB Aqib Talib, RB LaGarrette Blount, LB Brandon Spikes
Outlook: The Patriots lost Aqib Talib and somehow got better at corner. This is one of the Bears' hardest games of the year and it would be hard to count on a victory.
Way-too-early pick: Patriots

Week 9: BYE

Never hurts to have the bye week come right in the middle of the season.

Week 10: at Green Bay Packers - Sunday, Nov. 9 - 7:30 - NBC

This will mark the fourth year in a row (and fifth time in the last six years) the Bears' trip to Green Bay will be played in primetime.

Last meeting in Green Bay: Nov. 4, 2013 - Bears 27, Packers 20
Key additions: DE Julius Peppers (Bears)
Key losses: C Evan Dietrich-Smith, WR James Jones, RT Marshall Newhouse, S M.D. Jennings (Bears)
Outlook: Last year's win at Lambeau wouldn't have happened if Aaron Rodgers didn't get hurt on the first series of the game. The Bears can win without that happening again, but they'll be the underdogs.
Way-too-early pick: Packers

Week 11: vs Minnesota Vikings - Sunday, Nov. 16 - Noon - FOX

The Bears' defense really struggled against the Vikings last year, despite Minnesota's generally awful quarterback play.

Last meeting in Chicago: Sept. 15, 2013 - Bears 31, Vikings 30
Key additions: Head coach Mike Zimmer, DT Linval Joseph, CB Captain Munnerlyn, DT Corey Wootton (Bears)
Key losses: DE Jared Allen (Bears), RB Toby Gerhart
Outlook: The Vikings' defense should take a step forward with Mike Zimmer, but this is still a team without a quarterback, which puts them behind the three other teams in the NFC North.
Way-too-early pick: Bears

Week 12: vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Sunday, Nov. 23 - Noon - FOX

Lovie Smith and Josh McCown return to Chicago in what will locally be one of the most anticipated games of the year.

Last meeting: Oct. 23, 2011 - Bears 24, Buccaneers 18 in London
Last meeting in Chicago: Sept. 21, 2008 - Buccaneers 27, Bears 24
Key additions: Head coach Lovie Smith, CB Alterraun Verner, DE Michael Johnson, QB Josh McCown (Bears), C Evan Dietrich-Smith
Key losses: CB Darrelle Revis, FB Erik Lorig
Outlook: It will be interesting to see if Josh McCown is actually the Bucs' starting quarterback when this game comes around, but there's a chance he'll go head-to-head against his good friend Jay Cutler. Tampa made some great offseason signings and still have the draft to improve even more, but with this game being played at Soldier Field, it's still one the Bears should win.
Way-too-early pick: Bears

Week 13: at Detroit Lions - Thursday, Nov. 27 (Thanksgiving) - 11:30 AM - CBS

The Lions were expected to host either the Dolphins or Bills on Thanksgiving, but the new "cross flex" scheduling gave CBS a much better matchup.

Last meeting in Detroit: Sept. 29, 2013 - Lions 40, Bears 32
Key additions: Head coach Jim Caldwell, WR Golden Tate, S James Ihedigbo
Key losses: DE Willie Young (Bears), WR Nate Burleson
Outlook: Detroit has become a harder place to leave with a win in recent years and this season will be no different.
Way-too-early pick: Lions

Week 14: vs Dallas Cowboys - Thursday, Dec. 4 - 7:25 PM - NFL Network

The Bears and Cowboys meet for the third year in a row and fourth time in the last five years.

Last meeting: Dec. 9, 2013 - Bears 45, Cowboys 28 in Chicago
Key additions: DT Henry Melton (Bears), DT Terrell McClain, QB Brandon Weeden
Key losses: DE DeMarcus Ware, DT Jason Hatcher
Outlook: The Cowboys haven't had a great offseason thus far and need a good draft next month. Considering what the Bears did to these guys at Soldier Field last year, you would think they'd handle them this season, but that's not always how it works out in the NFL.
Way-too-early pick: Bears

Week 15: vs New Orleans Saints - Monday, Dec. 15 - 7:30 PM - ESPN

The Bears get 10 days to prepare for their third consecutive nationally televised game.

Last meeting: Oct. 6, 2013 - Saints 26, Bears 18 in Chicago
Key additions: S Jairus Byrd, FB Erik Lorig, CB Champ Bailey
Key losses: RB Darren Sproles, S Roman Harper, DE Will Smith, CB Malcolm Jenkins, LB Jonathan Vilma, C Brian de la Puente (Bears).
Outlook: The Saints' revamped defense caused the Bears problems at Soldier Field last year, while Drew Brees completed 82.9 percent of his passes and Jimmy Graham caught 10 passes for 135 yards. New Orleans should be just as good this season and the Bears' chances of winning this game will probably depend on their defensive upgrades. If the new pass rushers can get after the Brees, the Bears can win.
Way-too-early pick: Saints

Week 16: vs Detroit Lions - Sunday, Dec. 21 - Noon - FOX

The home finale is also the first of two huge divisional games to end the season.

Last meeting in Chicago: Nov. 10, 2013 - Lions 21, Bears 19
Key additions: Head coach Jim Caldwell, WR Golden Tate, S James Ihedigbo
Key losses: DE Willie Young (Bears), WR Nate Burleson
Outlook: The Bears lost to the Lions twice last season, which is pretty much unacceptable at Halas Hall. Detroit should have won the NFC North in 2013 and figure to be a smarter team in 2014 under Jim Caldwell.
Way-too-early pick: Bears

Week 17: at Minnesota Vikings - Sunday, Dec. 28 - Noon - FOX

A heated field is currently being installed at TCF Bank Stadium for late-December games like these.

Last meeting in Minnesota: Dec. 1, 2013 - Vikings 23, Bears 20
Key additions: Head coach Mike Zimmer, DT Linval Joseph, CB Captain Munnerlyn, DT Corey Wootton (Bears)
Key losses: DE Jared Allen (Bears), RB Toby Gerhart
Outlook: The Bears won the last meeting between these two teams at TCF Bank Stadium and as long as they aren't kicking field goals on second down, they should win this one too.
Way-too-early pick: Bears

Way-too-early projected record: 10-6

Adam Hoge covers the Bears for and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.

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