Bears’ 2022 schedule includes five games filled with intrigue

Fields vs. Lance highlights five intriguing Bears games in 2022 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

We’ve known the Bears’ 2022 opponents for a few months, and now we know how that relatively easy slate will shake out.

With the 2022 NFL schedule being officially released Thursday, we can now spend the next three months analyzing and re-analyzing all 17 games of Justin Fields’ second season.

I broke down the game-by-game schedule here. But now we’re going to dig into the five games of the Bears’ 2022 season that I am most excited to watch for various reasons.

This was a no-brainer.

When the 49ers visited Soldier Field last season, Fields authored the best play of his rookie year and one of the most impressive plays I saw in 2021.

This game should be an early measuring stick for Matt Eberflus and the Bears.

The 49ers were 10 minutes away from their second Super Bowl berth in three seasons last year. They boast one of the most well-respected coach-GM tandems in the league in Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch. Shanahan and Lynch did what Eberflus and new general manager Ryan Poles hope to do in Chicago: Rebuild a marquee NFL franchise from bottom-feeder to contender in short order.

This game should show the Bears how far away they are from one of the teams expected to vie for the NFC title. (Oh, and the Packers are next in Week 2.)

The fact that the 49ers likely will turn the offense over to Trey Lance, who was drafted eight spots ahead of Fields in 2021, only adds to the intrigue.

The 49ers have had a rocky offseason. The inability to trade Jimmy Garoppolo and Deebo Samuel’s unhappiness and desire to leave the Bay have shaken a stable foundation.

A motivated Fields and the Bears might find the 49ers easier to pick off in Week 1 than later in the season.

A Monday night in Foxboro against Bill Belichick and Mac Jones? Sign me up.

Fields and Jones were the two most hotly debated quarterback prospects in the 2021 class. Most people believed the 49ers would draft one or the other at No. 3 overall. Instead, the 49ers zagged and selected Lance, letting Fields fall to the Bears at 11 and Jones to the Pats at 15.

Fields and Jones were my QB2 and QB3 in that class, respectively, and watching them trade blows on a cold New England night will be a blast.

Two young quarterbacks against two high-level defensive minds in Belichick and Eberflus makes for a must-watch Monday night tilt.

See a pattern?

Entering the 2020 college football season, Fields was the unquestioned No. 2 quarterback in the class behind Trevor Lawrence. Zach Wilson’s meteoric rise while playing non-Power Five competition started Fields’ draft tumble.

The Bears are thankful for Wilson’s rise. It’s also something Fields likely hasn’t forgotten.

Late-season matinees in New York are the definition of a trap, but I could see Fields putting on a show in the Big Apple against the QB the Jets took at No. 2 over him.

Week 13 vs. Green Bay Packers

I’m going to chalk the Week 2 game at Lambeau Field up as a loss. However, the second bout should tell us more about the direction the Bears are headed under Eberflus.

As long as Aaron Rodgers’ right arm is attached, the Packers will be the standard the Bears are trying to meet in the division and conference.

I’ll have my eyes on how much the Bears and Fields have improved from Week 2 to Week 13 against an elite opponent.

The Bears have a season full of measuring sticks. That’s the case when you face three of the top Super Bowl contenders. Four if you count the Cowboys as a serious threat, which I do not.

Josh Allen and the Bills were 13 seconds away from knocking off the Chiefs last postseason and perhaps 13 seconds away from a Super Bowl title. As charming as the Bengals’ run was, it’s easy to see the Bills rolling them up in Orchard Park and outdueling the Rams in the Super Bowl.

It’s a team that enters 2022 on a mission and is many people’s pick to win it all.

So, how close are the Bears to the class of the AFC? Will they be competitive? Or get dusted on Christmas Eve?

Eberflus and Poles will look at the games against the Packers, Bills, and 49ers to see where the Bears’ biggest shortcomings are against the league’s best and use that to inform their roster-building strategy during a critical offseason.

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