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Ready for prime-time players

CHICAGO – Every NFL fan in America should know new Bears coach Marc Trestman by the end of the season.

The Bears learned that they would play 25 percent of their regular-
season games in prime time, including once each month, as part of the NFL schedule that was released Thursday. That number could increase for the Bears, if other late-season games are flexed into prime time.

Locked into place are four contests in the national spotlight. They include a pair of ESPN “Monday Night Football” appearances Nov. 4 at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers and Dec. 9 at Soldier Field against the Dallas Cowboys. The Bears also will visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 22 for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” and they will play host to the New York Giants on Oct. 10 as part of the NFL Network’s slate of Thursday night games.

Before his prime-time debut as the 14th head coach in franchise history, Trestman will have a pair of noon games on the lakefront. The Bears will open the regular season Sept. 8 against Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals, and they will remain home in Week 2 for a Sept. 15 game against the division rival Minnesota Vikings.

Not since 1999 have the Bears opened the regular season with back-to-back home games. They have won their last three
season openers at Soldier Field against Detroit, Atlanta and Indianapolis, and they are 17-3 in season openers at home since 1984.

With 53 opening-day wins in team history, the Bears lead all NFL franchises. They have won nearly 60 percent of their Week 1 games with a 53-35-5 overall record.

However, as last season showed, the end of the season could loom larger than the beginning. The Bears jumped to a 7-1 start in 2012, but lost five of their next six games and eventually missed the playoffs, which prompted Lovie Smith’s dismissal after nine
seasons as coach.

With that said, the Bears’ final six games of the regular season include four road contests against St. Louis, Minnesota, Cleveland and Philadelphia.

The Bears also will play host to the Cowboys in the fourth-to-last game of the regular season, and they will welcome the Packers on Dec. 29 at Soldier Field in the regular-season finale.

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