It is NFL Schedule Release Day! The day where NFL fans get extremely excited and anxiously wait for the NFL to tell them what days in the future to be excited and anxious for. The NFL has overly monetized every part of their league year, so it should be no surprise how big “Schedule Release Day” has become.
However, that does not mean that it is not useful. The NFL schedule is a delicate and important tool for the league because the league has to consider so many different factors into making it. TV ratings, ticket sales, playoff implications, audience interest, storyline potential, and much more have to account for the scheduling of every single game. Where the NFL schedules each team/game can tell you a ton about that team, and typically answers any questions fans may have about a specific situation.
Like, for example, who will be the Chicago Bears starting quarterback in week 1 of the 2021 season.
The Bears moved up in the draft to acquire their future franchise QB, Justin Fields. After some miserable seasons with Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles under center, the team was excited to get a player as good as Fields is. Fans of the franchise, and just of football in general, were extremely excited for the team and the player and were excitedly waiting for his debut on an NFL gridiron.
Everyone wanted to know when the rookie would be allowed to eclipse Andy Dalton, who was labeled “QB1” by the franchise this offseason and take over his rightful spot as the future QB of the Bears. Would Nagy make his rookie sit a year like he did Patrick Mahomes, the last rookie QB he was tasked with building up? Would the media and fan attention around the situation force Nagy to play Fields much earlier?
It appears as if the NFL has given fans an answer to those questions.
The NFL released the first week of the 2021 schedule a bit early to try and stir excitement and fan speculation before the big reveal tonight at 7 PM central. The biggest part of this announcement was, of course, the reveal of the first week of primetime games. The Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers start the season, as is tradition, against the Dallas Cowboys, while Monday Night Football maintains its reputation as the worst game of the week with a matchup between the Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens.
However, the big reveal of the primetime schedule was Sunday Night Football, where the Chicago Bears are visiting the Los Angeles Rams to get the first spotlight of the year.
This game was given the biggest stage of the week over games like Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers @ Washington Football Team, and the Arizona Cardinals @ Tennessee Titans, which means the NFL must have a ton of faith in the potential of this matchup. Sure, the Rams are debuting their new offense, spearheaded by Matthew Stafford, while also finally giving the grand opening of SoFi Stadium to the public (Hopefully… California will be the last state in the US to lift stadium restrictions, so, again, hopefully), but that is not nearly enough to sell as an entire primetime game over some of the above-mentioned matchups.
That is where the Bears come in, and Justin Fields’ potential becomes clear.
The NFL either knows that the Chicago Bears are going to deem Fields as QB1 or are purposefully putting their own form of pressure on the team to do so. This is the only way to make this matchup worth it, and all parties involved know that.
Can the Bears fight back and still bring Andy Dalton out as their starter? Sure. However, they do that at risk of being attacked by the brutal Chicago media, and the overly excitable national media. This is exactly why the NFL put them in the position that they did.