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5 facts about Bears' 2016 schedule

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Here are five interesting facts about the Bears' 2016 schedule:

(1) The Bears will battle the arch rival Packers in Green Bay in prime time (Thursday night, Oct. 20) for the sixth straight year. Although the Bears have dropped 10 of their last 12 meetings overall to Green Bay, they've won two of the last three years under the lights at Lambeau Field.

In 2013, Shea McClellin knocked Aaron Rodgers out of the game with a broken collarbone on the Packers' first series and the Bears recorded a 27-20 win on Monday Night Football. Last year on Thanksgiving night, the Bears held Green Bay out of the end zone on four plays from the 8 in the final minute to preserve a stunning 17-13 victory.

The Bears lost the other three prime-time match-ups in Green Bay since 2011, falling 35-21 in 2011 and 55-14 in 2014 on Sunday Night Football and 23-10 in 2012 on Thursday Night Football.

(2) Based on last year's records, the Bears will play the second-easiest schedule in the NFL in 2016, facing opponents that combined for a .461 winning percentage (118-138). By comparison, the teams the Bears played in 2015 combined to post a record of 140-116 (.547) last season.

In 2015, the Bears faced five of the eight teams that reached the second round of the divisional playoffs, and they will play only one of the eight in 2016. In addition, they played four teams outside their division that finished with at least 10 wins in 2015 and won't play any in 2016.

In starting 0-3 last year, the Bears lost to three teams in the Packers, Cardinals and Seahawks that had combined to post an impressive 35-13 record the previous season. This year, the Bears' first three contests are against teams in the Texans, Eagles and Cowboys that went 20-28 in 2015.

(3) It's no big surprise that the Bears will face the Vikings on the road Jan. 1 in the season finale. The Bears have played three previous games on New Year's Day and all of them have been against the Vikings in Minnesota.

The most significant Jan. 1 battle between the long-time rivals occurred in the first round of the 1994 playoffs when the Bears upset the Vikings 35-18 in the Metrodome. Minnesota won the NFC Central title and the Bears finished fourth that season. But that was back when each conference sent three wildcards to the playoffs and the Bears earned the final spot.

The Bears lost both regular-season meetings that season by scores of 42-14 and 33-27 but stunned the Vikings to record their only playoff victory in Dave Wannstedt's six years as coach.

The Bears were already entrenched as the No. 2 seed in the playoffs when they lost the 2005 regular-season finale to the Vikings 34-10 in Minnesota on Jan. 1, 2006. Apparently unimpressed, Vikings ownership fired head coach Mike Tice shortly after the game.

In their last New Year's Day meeting, the Bears beat the Vikings 17-13 on Jan. 1, 2012 in Minnesota.

(4) With road games against the Texans in Week 1 and the Cowboys in Week 3, the Bears will travel to Texas twice in the same season for the first time since 1992 when they lost to both the Cowboys (27-14) and the Houston Oilers (24-7). The Bears actually made three trips to the Lone Star State that year, beating the Cowboys 20-13 in the preseason finale.

The Bears also played two games in Texas in 1977 and 1986. They lost to the Oilers (47-0) and Cowboys (37-7 in the playoffs) in 1977, and defeated the Oilers (20-7) and Cowboys (24-10) in 1986.

(5) The Bears play their first three road games in retractable-roof stadiums in Houston, Dallas and Indianapolis, and will visit two more domes later in the season in Detroit and Minnesota. Their only outdoor road games will be in Green Bay, Tampa Bay and New York.

The Bears went 1-1 in dome stadiums last year, beating the Rams 37-13 and losing to the Lions 37-34 in overtime. They also spilt two indoor games in 2014, defeating the Falcons 27-13 and falling to the Lions 34-17.

Six of the Bears' eight road games this season will be on artificial turf: In Houston, Dallas, Indianapolis, New York, Detroit and Minnesota. The only natural grass fields they'll play on are in Green Bay and Tampa Bay.

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