Matt Nagy will have the opportunity to do something the previous four Bears coaches accomplished in his first game – win at Lambeau Field.
The Bears will kick off the 2018 season against the rival Packers in prime time on Sunday, Sept. 9. It's the first time the Bears will open the season in Green Bay since 2009 and just the second time in the last nine years the team will begin the season on the road.
John Fox, Marc Trestman, Lovie Smith and Dick Jauron all won in their first trip to Green Bay as head coach. Considering the Packers' domination of the series since the beginning of the Brett Favre era – Green Bay is 39-14 vs. the Bears since the 1992 season - that's a considerable feat and one Nagy and his staff will attempt to duplicate in Week 1.
The tone Nagy set with players this month as they assembled at Halas Hall for the beginning of the voluntary offseason program was that he wants to experience success from the start.
"I want them to know that we want to win now," Nagy said. "So you've got to understand what it takes to get there. You can't just say you're going to do it. Again, this isn't just something we want to just spray paint on and cover up for a little bit. We're building this thing. So let's understand that and the work that's involved."
To win, the Bears are going to have to start by turning things around against their primary competition. They have lost nine consecutive NFC North games and are 4-20 in the division since 2014. The Bears last had a winning record against the division in 2010.
After the Packers, they will have to wait to see other NFC North opponents until November when they host the Lions in Week 10 and the Vikings in Week 11 and then play at Detroit on Thanksgiving, the first time the Bears will play at Ford Field on the holiday since 2014.
The Bears close out the division schedule by hosting the Packers in Week 15 and playing in Minnesota in Week 17, the fifth time in eight years they will complete the season with a road game against the Vikings.
One complaint about the schedule in 2017 was that the Bears opened the season facing four teams coming off winning seasons, three of which reached the postseason. This year, only one of the first five opponents had a winning record last year – the Seahawks, whom the Bears host on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" in Week 2.
The Bears do not face a 2017 playoff team until Week 7 when the defending AFC champion Patriots come to Soldier Field in what will be the second and surely final game Tom Brady will play in Chicago. The New England game falls in a four-week stretch against the AFC East as the Bears face the Dolphins in Miami in Week 6, host the Patriots and Jets in consecutive weeks and then travel to Buffalo, where they have not played since 2002, in Week 9.
If the Bears are going to make a playoff push, they need to be well-positioned for the stretch run as the most challenging quarter of the schedule appears to be the final four games. The host the Rams in Week 14 and Packers the following week before a road game against the 49ers and then the trip to Minnesota.
You never know how a season will unfold, especially in April, but it sets up for the young Bears team to have a little success early in the year, which would provide the team with a chance to grow. There are only four playoff teams from last year on the schedule – Vikings (twice), Rams, Bills and Patriots – and there are four games against teams with first-year head coaches like Nagy – Lions (twice), Cardinals and Giants.
The open date comes in Week 5, earlier than teams typically prefer. But the Bears haven't had their week off that early since it fell in Week 5 in 2009 and they've been off between Weeks 7 and 9 seven times in the last eight years, so they were due for an early one.
The nation will get a close look at the Bears in the first two weeks with the prime-time appearances – the only two night games scheduled. Nagy starts out in Green Bay and there's no better gauge to see where his program is from the outset. No schedule is going to set up perfectly for a team, but the Bears have to feel pretty good about what was unveiled Thursday.