Chicago Bears schedule released

April 20, 2011 11:13:02 AM PDT
The Chicago Bears will begin their NFC North title defense against the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field on Sept. 11, if the lockout doesn't delay the season. The Bears' schedule, released Tuesday, includes an Oct. 23, game against Tampa Bay in London, which will be a home game for the Buccaneers.

After opening against the NFC South champion Falcons, the Bears visit New Orleans. In Week 3, the Bears host the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, which beat Chicago in the NFC title game. They meet the Pack again on Christmas night, a Sunday. Chicago's only other Christmas game was in 2005 when the Bears won 24-17 in Green Bay.

The schedule includes Monday night games at Detroit on Oct. 10 and Philadelphia on Nov. 7, along with a Sunday night matchup against Minnesota at home on Oct. 16. The Bears end their season at Minnesota on Jan. 1. The Bears have played two other New Year's Day contests, losing at Minnesota, 34-10, on Jan. 1, 2006, and beating the Vikings, 35-18, on the road, Jan. 1, 1995, in a wild-card playoff game.

Click here to read the Bears' full 2011 schedule

"We like opening with three of our first four games in front of our fans at Soldier Field," Coach Lovie Smith said Tuesday in a press release. "It is also clear that our division is well respected as we face each of our rivals in primetime this season. The NFC North deserves the showcase games and we look forward to those classic match-ups in front of a national audience."

The Bears own 51 opening-day victories overall (51-35-5, .588), tied with Green Bay (51-36-3, .583) for the most by any NFL franchise. Chicago has won two of their last three opening-day contests.

Of Chicago's last 18 season openers at home dating back to 1984, the Bears are 15-3. The last time the Bears opened the season against the Falcons was in 1983 when Atlanta beat Chicago, 20-17, at Soldier Field.

Chicago will play four games against AFC West teams, hosting Kansas City in Week 13 and San Diego in Week 11, and traveling to Denver Week 14 and Oakland in Week 12. The Bears are 24-21 all-time against teams in the AFC West.

The Bears also play four teams in the NFC South. The Bears will travel to New Orleans Week 2 and take on Tampa Bay Week 7 while hosting Atlanta Week 1 and Carolina Week 4. Chicago is 65-44 all-time against teams from the NFC South. The Bears beat the Panthers in Carolina, 24-6 last season, and fell at Atlanta, 20-17, in 2009. Chicago last faced all four teams from the NFC South in 2008, going 1-3 in those contests.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.