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Five prime-time games for Bears

CHICAGO – The Bears will spend plenty of time under the bright lights again this season.

The NFL revealed its full schedule Tuesday, and the Bears learned that they will play five of their first 10 games in prime time. Their evening slate includes one Thursday night game, one Sunday night game and three Monday night games, which are the most in the league.

The Bears will open their season at Soldier Field on Sept. 9 against the Indianapolis Colts.

Bears coach Lovie Smith said he was excited to receive the 16-game schedule.

“We started our offseason program [Monday] and received our schedule [Tuesday], so our 2012 season is officially under way,” said Smith, who is entering his ninth season with the Bears. “I love starting the season at home in front of our fans. I don’t think there is a better place to kick off the season than playing at Soldier Field on the lakefront.”

Besides the home opener, which could feature the NFL debut of high-profile quarterback prospect Andrew Luck, the Bears’ schedule includes several other highlights.

• In Week 2, the Bears will travel to Lambeau Field for a Thursday night game against the reigning NFC North champion Green Bay Packers. The Bears will play their first two games of the regular season in a five-day span for the first time since 1940.

• In Week 7, the Bears will host the Detroit Lions for a nationally televised game on “Monday Night Football.” The renewed rivalry between the Bears and Lions could escalate in the regular season finale in Detroit with playoff implications possibly on the line.

• In Week 11, the Bears will visit the San Francisco 49ers in another Monday night contest. That will mark the first time 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will face his former team.

In addition to playing each team in the NFC North twice, the Bears will play one game apiece against every team in the NFC West and the AFC South. The final six games are subject to flexible scheduling, which could mean more prime-time games for the Bears.

2012 Bears schedule

Preseason

Day, date Opponent Time Network

Thursday, Aug. 9 DENVER 7:30 p.m. Fox

Saturday, Aug. 18 WASHINGTON 7 p.m. Fox

Friday, Aug. 24 at N.Y. Giants 7 p.m. CBS

Thursday, Aug. 30 at Cleveland 6:30 p.m. Fox

REGULAR SEASON

Day, date Opponent Time Network

Sunday, Sept. 9 INDIANAPOLIS Noon CBS

Thursday, Sept. 13 at Green Bay 7:20 p.m. NFL

Sunday, Sept. 23 ST. LOUIS Noon Fox

Monday, Oct. 1 at Dallas 7:30 p.m. ESPN

Sunday, Oct. 7 at Jacksonville 3:05 p.m. Fox

BYE WEEK

Monday, Oct. 22 DETROIT 7:30 p.m. ESPN

Sunday, Oct. 28 CAROLINA Noon Fox

Sunday, Nov. 4 at Tennessee Noon Fox

Sunday, Nov. 11 HOUSTON 7:20 p.m. NBC

Monday, Nov. 19 at San Francisco 7:30 p.m. ESPN

Sunday, Nov. 25 MINNESOTA Noon * Fox

Sunday, Dec. 2 SEATTLE Noon * Fox

Sunday, Dec. 9 at Minnesota Noon * Fox

Sunday, Dec. 16 GREEN BAY Noon * Fox

Sunday, Dec. 23 at Arizona 3:15 p.m.* Fox

Sunday, Dec. 30 at Detroit Noon * Fox

* Game times tentative and subject to flexible scheduling

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