An excerpt from my latest Chicago Tribune column:
There is a short list of NFL teams coming off a 5-11 season, sporting no superstars and low expectations that still are desired by the networks.
In fact, there might be only one team: the Bears.
Despite some dire forecasts, Fox’s and CBS’s No. 1 announcing crews will work two of Bears’ first three games: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will be in the booth for the Packers-Bears game Sunday for Fox; and Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will be on the call for the Bears’ trek to Seattle to face the Seahawks in Week 3, which will be the national doubleheader game for CBS.
However, the networks know viewers love the Bears’ heritage and the notion of old-school football, even if the reality is something different. So they will take their shots with early-season games when the Bears still have some hope. Also, the Bears-Packers rivalry always has national appeal regardless of the records. NBC, though, won’t be giving thanks if it gets a repeat of the Packers’ 55-14 drubbing of the Bears on Sunday night last year.
“When the Bears are good, this is a better league. No question,” Buck said. “Maybe this is the year, but there are a lot of questions.”