NFL Spokesperson Greg Aiello announced recently that league officials have every intention of releasing the 2011 NFL schedule on time, despite the current lockout situation.
Although the owners didn't intend for an 18-game schedule to take effect until 2012, the issue was discussed during the recent labor negotiations and owners agreed to back-off the subject for now.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that the owners are keeping that off the table. They still would like to move to 18 games, they simply agreed to not force it upon for the players for at least an additional year.
If football doesn't start on time in September, it's likely that the entire 16-game season would still take place; it would simply be pushed back. But it's not clear how long the NFL would allow that to extend. At some point the players will need time off before preparing for 2012.
But nevertheless, the NFL will release the schedule as planned sometime in mid-April. So while we don't yet know when the Bears will play, we do know who they will play. I thought we would take a minute to revisit that, as well as the rest of the NFC North.
NFL scheduling currently works on a rotational basis. Each team plays its three divisional opponents twice each year; once at home and once on the road. That leave ten games left to be played. Each team will fill those spots by playing four teams from another division within its conference, four teams from a division in the opposite conference and two intra-conference games.
All of that is on a rotational basis, to determine which divisions each team will play. The NFC North will shape up as follows in 2011:
Home: Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota, Atlanta, Carolina, Seattle, Kansas City, San Diego
Away: Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Denver, Oakland
Home: Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, Falcons, Carolina, San Francisco, Kansas City, San Diego
Away: Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Dallas, Denver, Oakland
Green Bay Packers
Home: Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Denver, Oakland
Away: Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, Atlanta, Carolina, N.Y. Giants, Kansas City, San Diego
Home: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Arizona, Denver, Oakland
Away: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Atlanta, Carolina, Washington, Kansas City, San Diego
Assuming the schedule follows tradition, the Packers will open the 2011 NFL season as defending Super Bowl Champions.
Not only will Bears fans be treated to a Jay Cutler return to Denver, they'll also get to watch the epic Cutler-Rivers rivalry right here in Soldier Field when the Bears face the Chargers.
And don't worry, as soon as the schedule is released, we will begin the ludicrous process of predicting the Bears final regular season record in 2011. I bet you can't wait?!