Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Justin Fields And Chicago Can Become A Thanksgiving Tradition For The NFL In The Future


Thanksgiving is one of America’s best holidays as it involves family, food, and tradition. One of the best traditions of the day is NFL Football which fills the day as three games are annually played. With the success that Bears’ quarterback Justin Fields is having in 2022, he could put the Bears in a position to be regularly featured on Thanksgiving moving forward due to his explosive ability to generate highlights.

The Bears Have Been Missing The Start Player That Brings The Team National Exposure

Chicago has a rich tradition of playing on Thanksgiving, as they have the third most appearances on the holiday since the NFL began playing regularly, beginning in 1934. Outside of the two designated host teams, the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, who play every year, the Bears have the most appearances on Thanksgiving outside of those two teams. From 1991 to 2021, Chicago has played on Turkey Day nine times, despite a decade-long hiatus from 2004 to 2014.

One of the main reasons the NFL is hesitant to schedule the Bears more on Thanksgiving, despite their storied history of being the league’s first team and consistently appearing on the day, is due to the team’s struggles to score on offense. The NFL has always tried to schedule more competitive matchups for the day that feature opponents that have more exciting offenses. Last Thanksgiving, Dallas’ game against Las Vegas was more exciting and memorable as it was a 36-33 overtime finish compared to Chicago’s 16-14 last-second victory over winless Detroit. The Cowboys’ game against the Raiders was one of the highest-viewed Thanksgiving games in NFL history.

Fields’ success in 2022 with the Bears’ offense gives the franchise a chance to be a fixture on Thanksgiving in the coming years. Whether it is playing Detroit in the early game, taking on Dallas in the late-afternoon window, or facing off against an opponent in the nightcap, Chicago has a quarterback that will boost rating and ensure a sizable national audience due to his play. Fields has both thrown and ran for touchdowns in each of his last five games, including two rushing scores 60 yards or longer.

It is that play-making ability of Fields that will not only make NFL fans tune in on Thanksgiving but can also turn casual observers viewing the game for the first time because of the holiday into fans. The league has several quarterbacks that can generate a high level of national popularity, but none of them can consistently to appear on Thanksgiving as much as Chicago’s second-year quarterback can due to scheduling regulations. Over the last five games, Fields and the Bears’ offense has averaged nearly 30 points. In the Bears’ nine appearances on Thanksgiving since 1991, they have only scored three touchdowns or more once while never scoring 30 points or more.

Although Chicago has recently played Detroit on the day three of the last five years, they were selected because they had one of the most exciting defenses. Over the next few seasons, Chicago’s defense will take time to rebuild, while the offense has a chance to be one of the best units in the league next season, which could translate to more games scheduled for primetime, including Thanksgiving. Fields’ growth as an NFL quarterback and popularity can entice the NFL to include the Bears as much as possible in the upcoming seasons.

NFL’s Future Schedule Favors the Bears’ Chances of Playing on Thanksgiving

For Fields and Chicago to be scheduled consistently on Thanksgiving, it is significant to remember the scheduling rules that determine who the Lions and Cowboys opponents are each season. The league, since 2020, has tried to get back to scheduling one host city to play an NFC team and the other to play an AFC team while rotating each season. Detroit will likely host an NFC opponent in 2023 and 2025, while Dallas will host an in-conference opponent in 2024. Additionally, the Thanksgiving Night game allows the Bears to play or host an opponent.

Although the dates for future games beyond 2022 haven’t been scheduled yet, the Bears know the opponents that they will play every season for the next several years. The next time Chicago could be slated to play in Dallas is in 2024, as the team will travel to face an NFC East opponent that had the same divisional standing the year prior. If the Bears don’t play the Lions on Thanksgiving next year, they could possibly face the Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, or another team with a marquee quarterback. A matchup of Fields against either Justin Herbert or Patrick Mahomes would generate massive ratings for a Thanksgiving Night game and have the chance to be an instant classic too.

From 2023 through 2025, Chicago will likely play one of those years on Thanksgiving, if not more. Fields gives the bears the edge that other teams don’t have, including the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. Imagine a scenario where Chicago beats Detroit, Dallas, or another team in a thrilling shoot-out capped with a touchdown run or throw by their talented quarterback. A moment like that would be remembered for years because it happened on Thanksgiving in front of all of America.

Bears’ fans have waited decades for a quarterback with the potential that Fields has, and with that talent comes preferential treatment. Part of that treatment includes a better likelihood of playing on Thanksgivings Day for Chicago and their quarterback. Fields missed the chance to play on the day last season due to injury but could find himself playing on Turkey Day again as soon as 2023.

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