With the NFL Draft just about four weeks away, the next big NFL event after that will be when they release the NFL schedule. The schedule is usually released on a Wednesday or Thursday in mid May. Smart money this year will be that they’ll announce it at night on NFL Network on May 11th this year, but that sometimes is adjusted based on when they exactly get everything to mesh.
Despite the Chicago Bears only winning three games in 2022, they will have multiple games on prime-time television in 2023. There are a few reasons for that. One, the Bears are one of the original franchises and networks love history. Two, the Chicago market is alluring, and networks like to get their hands on large markets that love football. Third, their quarterback is Justin Fields.
What that probably means is that each prime-time slot (Monday on ESPN, Thursday on Amazon and Sunday on NBC) will have one Bears game in 2023. The fact that the Bears were bad in 2022, yes, they are expected to improve, but nobody at this point is really thinking the Bears are going 11-6, most experts think the Bears will still have a losing record in 2023. What that means is that most likely, they won’t have primetime games late in the season. It’s a lot easier for NBC to sell the Bears at 1-2 to an audience then it is at 5-10.
Now, keep in mind, I said the primetime networks like having the Chicago market, well so does CBS. CBS usually gets two (sometimes three on a trade) Chicago games per year. The network assigned on those cross-conference games are usually determined by the road team. If that holds, the Bears will be on CBS when they have home games against the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos. CBS would prefer if the NFL doesn’t take those games away from them and the NFL will take that under consideration. If they do want one of those games, CBS would consider using a block (they have a select number per season) to keep the Chicago market on CBS.
Conversely, when the Kansas City Chiefs are on Fox for just one of their two times this year, it’ll be against the Bears, so Fox won’t want to lose their opportunity to have a Patrick Mahomes game in the Chicago market, especially being defending Super Bowl champions, so the odds that one finds it way to primetime is also a longshot.
Now the NFL schedule makers stated last year that this will change in 2023 and more games will be “free agents” and we could see CBS with more NFC games and Fox with more AFC games, but for the purpose of this exercise, we will leave the majority of NFC games on Fox and the majority of AFC games on CBS and focus specifically on the prime-time networks.
With those parameters in place, we are predicting three games on primetime television in 2023, and here are the games they could be:
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers- NBC Sunday Night Football
This one almost feels like a lock. NBC almost always swipes a Bears-Packers game and it almost always seems to be at Lambeau Field. NBC loves the colors and the history of Lambeau and in this case, assuming Aaron Rodgers eventually finds his way to New York, NBC will be able to pump a new era of the Bears-Packers rivalry with Justin Fields and Jordan Love.
Of course, the Packers may also be in for a long season, so I would expect this one to be early, potentially in week 2 or 3 of the season.
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears- ESPN Monday Night Football
While this doesn’t seem to be a trend, it seems that Monday Night Football gets the Bears playing another middle of the road team but one that has some history behind it. It seems like the Minnesota Vikings are a popular Monday Night Football choice against Chicago, but with the Vikings potentially fading some in 2023 and the Lions on the rise, a Bears-Lions game seems to make a lot of sense.
In this case, I think ESPN picks the Chicago game, as the Lions are the better team here, so putting the game in Chicago leaves a better chance for the game to be competitive in the fourth quarter.
With the Bears on primetime in mid September with the Packers game, this one feels like an early October clash.
Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears- Amazon Thursday Night Football
Networks love storylines, and what better one than having the rookie quarterback the Panthers take at one overall facing off against the team that traded the first pick to Carolina.
While NBC wouldn’t necessarily want to roll the dice on this matchup, Amazon would happily pump this one up. They may be concerned the rookie QB doesn’t start right out of the gate, especially with Andy Dalton in tow, so this one feels like it would be the Bears last prime-time game of the year, probably somewhere in late October, perhaps the first week in November.
The storylines with CJ Stroud or Bryce Young in Carolina and DJ Moore in Chicago thanks to the trade write themselves and make for an easy one for Amazon to throw their weight behind.