The Chicago Bears enter the 2021 season looking for their third playoff appearance in four years under head coach Matt Nagy.
For a franchise that only qualified for the postseason once in the dozen previous years, that has been a welcome change.
The next welcome change? The arrival of highly-anticipated rookie Justin Fields. Chicago spent its first-round pick on the Buckeye signal-caller with hopes that he’ll be the quarterback to lead the team for the next decade.
But will he be the quarterback in 2021? Not if Andy Dalton has anything to say about it.
The 11-year veteran signed with the Bears as a free agent in March and appears to have first dibs on the QB1 job. Dalton has started the majority of the games every season he’s been in the league, including last year in Dallas after Dak Prescott went down with an injury in Week 5. Fans have been clamoring for Fields to get a look, but if Chicago gets off to a solid start, expect Nagy to stay with Dalton as long as possible.
Whoever ends up taking the majority of snaps for the Bears in 2021 should benefit from solid production at the skill positions around him. 1,000-yard rusher David Montgomery and 1,000-yard receiver Allen Robinson are back for another season with Chicago, and the Bears invested in free agent wideouts like Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Boyd to go along with Robinson and Darnell Mooney at the position.
Pro Bowl linebacker Khalil Mack headlines the defense once again in 2021. The unit allowed 28 points per game during a six-game losing streak last fall, and will need to perform more consistently if the Bears are going to finish above .500 for just the second time since 2012.
The 2021 campaign kicks off with a nationally televised road game against the Rams on September 12, with the Bears’ home opener coming the following Sunday vs. Cincinnati. Division play gets underway in October when the Lions and Packers both visit Soldier Field. Week 7 brings a trip to face the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, a team Chicago defeated during the 2020 regular season.
Other schedule highlights include a pair of Monday Night Football appearances (a road game against the Steelers in Week 9 and a home date with the Vikings in Week 15), a Sunday night trip to Lambeau Field December 12, and a Thanksgiving afternoon showcase game at Detroit.
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