Originally written on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 7/2/12

Congratulations everyone, we're into July now and that means the home stretch of the NFL off season! The Bears report to training camp in just 23 days, when nuggets will start to leak out through the impromptu press conferences held as the players unload their vehicles in the Olivet Nazarene parking lot. The first practice of the 2012 season is just 24 days away with the first public practice the day after and two days later will be the first padded practice. Unlike last year, when every day was a labor peace update, we know the season is coming. Now it's just a Matt Forte contract situation update. So anyway, we've nearly made it through the off season. Time to look ahead to the schedule a little bit more...
The schedule came out in April but there hasn't been a ton of hard looks at it because it all seemed so far away. What's the point of analyzing games when drafts haven't been conducted or even an off season workout? It's still early and a lot can change, but with the first preseason game just over 5 weeks away (!!) I'd like to look at what certain games say about our team (and QB) then a look at the toughest and easiest games or whatever.

The Bears are scheduled to play 5 prime time games this season. This is one below the maximum that any team can play because of flex scheduling. A team can play on a nationally televised, prime time game only six times a season. So the Bears are only eligible to have one more of their games flexed into a prime time slot.

The prime time games are: week 2 at the Packers, week 4 at the Cowboys, week 7 vs. the Lions, week 10 vs. the Texans and week 11 at the 49ers.

Now, for all the crap the Bears are given by the national media and all the haters lined up against Jay and everything else, why would the Bears be given so many prime time match ups?

Because, despite all the perceived hate out there, the Bears are actually one the NFL's better teams. Everyone knows the franchise goes back to 1920 and that stuff, but what networks are looking for are ratings, nothing matters except that to them and what brings ratings in the NFL? Good teams and great QBs.

Look at the QB match ups in the games I listed: Jay Cutler vs. Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Matt Schaub and Alex Smith. Smith is the only one who isn't a certified franchise QB, but he led his team to an NFC Championship game last season. The other QBs are all coming off playoff appearances or regularly throw for 4,000 yards.

The Bears were 8-8 last year. That shouldn't technically bode well for them to get a lot of prime time spotlights, but because they have Jay Cutler, a player who is finally beginning to be recognized as a legitimate top tier player in the league, the Bears get big match ups this year.

Thanks to Jay and his 7-3 record to start last season, the NFL scheduling people looked passed the teams final record and realized what this team was primed for.

Most fans on here see the team finishing somewhere between 10 and 12 wins. It's certainly do-able and I think the Bears are going to a nice big, national audience for at least five of those wins.

After all, it's been said the NFL is better off when teams like the Bears are better. This should be one of those year, right?

Check out other great articles at 49erslines.com.

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