Say this for the NFL. Their marketing machine is unmatched compared to any other in professional sports. No league understands better how to create a sense of hype and build up their stars. That is on display again with their recent announcement. One saying that a record 23 preseason games will be shown on live TV. That includes all three Chicago Bears games next month. In case people can’t put two and two together? This is what you call the Justin Fields effect.

The Bears were always going to be a prominent fixture for the league network anyway. Third-largest media market and all that. However, things changed when they pulled off the blockbuster trade for Fields in the NFL draft three months ago. He was one of the darlings of college football in 2019 and 2020. A star that carried Ohio State to the College Football Playoffs twice. Everybody knows how excited Bears fans are to see him.

So one can imagine the ratings bonanza even for preseason games.

“On Saturday, August 14, NFL Network carries a quadruple-header of live Week 1 preseason games, starting at 1 p.m. ET with rookie quarterback Justin Fields’ debut for the Chicago Bears against the Miami Dolphins.

On Saturday, August 21, NFL Network carries a quadruple-header of Week 2 preseason games, starting at 1 p.m. ET with the Buffalo Bills traveling to face the Chicago Bears.

NFL Network’s live preseason schedule concludes with seven Week 3 games, highlighted by two triple-headers. The first triple-header kicks off Saturday, August 28 at 1 p.m. ET with the Buffalo Bills hosting the Green Bay Packers, followed by the Chicago Bears at the Tennessee Titans at 7 p.m. ET and the Los Angeles Chargers at the Seattle Seahawks at 10 p.m. ET.”

It’s clear the NFL is hoping to inject some energy into the preseason this year. They were forced to cancel it in 2020 due to the pandemic. This incoming quarterback class presents a perfect opportunity to get fans energized. What is even more interesting for Chicago is the game start times. Typically the Bears have played their preseason games in late afternoons or evenings. This year two of their outings will be at noon.

That will be an interesting adjustment. Especially since the Bears’ first game of the regular season is in primetime. That aside, fans best make sure they find ways to have access to NFL Network. If they want to see Fields, that is their best bet. Besides, its broadcast figures to be better than the FOX version they’re used to.

Justin Fields will have lots to prove next month

Head coach Matt Nagy has done everything he can to insist there is no quarterback competition for the Bears. Andy Dalton is the starter and Fields is the backup. Training camp and the preseason won’t change that. Yet history says not to take him at his word. Things can change fast in the NFL. If Fields looks sharp in camp and then couples that with some strong preseason outings? Nagy may have no choice but to alter his plans.

Russell Wilson did it back in 2012 and he was a 3rd round pick. If he can, then surely Justin Fields can as well. A lot depends on how Dalton performs. He’ll have to be on top of his game if he wants to hold off this runaway train. All that being said? There are plenty of other subplots to keep Bears fans occupied including several major position battles. Anthony Miller, Marquise Goodwin, and Damiere Byrd going after the #3 wide receiver spot. Desmond Trufant and Kindle Vildor competing for Kyle Fuller’s vacated corner spot.

Not to mention an interesting situation behind David Montgomery at running back.

As always, there will be two or three players that end up using those games as a springboard to make the roster. Several candidates could be in play for that honor including a slew of undrafted free agents. It should be a fun few weeks. One can only hope the Bears manage to get through it all without any major health setbacks.