What are oddsmakers saying about the 2022 Chicago Bears? Who are the Super Bowl favorites? What were the changes in the broadcast booths? Here’s a primer for the 2022 NFL season.
The 272-game regular-season schedule begins Thursday when the defending champion Los Angeles Rams host the Buffalo Bills at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. (7:20 p.m., NBC-5).
The Bears open Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field (noon, Fox-32). In the NFC North, the Detroit Lions host the Philadelphia Eagles, and the defending division champion Green Bay Packers face the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis.
Teams will play a 17-game schedule for the second straight year. NFC teams will host nine games this season after playing nine road games in 2021.
Oddsmakers say …
The Bears finished 6-11 last season, leading to the firings of general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy. Enter Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus.
Vegas isn’t sold on the new regime.
At Bovada, the Bears are 15-1 to win the NFC North — the worst odds in the division. The Packers are 10-19, the Vikings 13-5 and the Lions 10-1. The Bears win total is set at 6½.
For player props, Bovada has the over/under for Justin Fields touchdown passes at 17½ and passing yards at 3,250½. The over/under for David Montgomery’s rushing yards is 870½, while his rushing touchdowns is 6½. Darnell Mooney’s over/under on receptions is 75½, receiving yards 950½ and receiving touchdowns 5½.
Super Bowl favorites
The Bills, at 11-2, are Bovada’s favorites to win the title, followed by Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 15-2, the Packers and Kansas City Chiefs at 10-1 and the Rams at 12-1.
The Bears, meanwhile, are 150-1, tied for the third-worst odds in the league with the Seattle Seahawks. The Atlanta Falcons are 31st at 200-1 and the Houston Texans last at 250-1.
Broadcast booth changes
After spending 20 years as the No. 1 broadcast team for Fox Sports, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman left for ESPN. They’ll make their debut for the network Monday, calling the Seahawks-Denver Broncos game. The duo replaced Steve Levy, Louis Riddick and Brian Griese on “Monday Night Football.”
On NBC, Mike Tirico took over for Al Michaels as play-by-play man for “Sunday Night Football,” pairing with analyst Cris Collinsworth, who is returning for his 14th season in that role. Melissa Stark takes over for Michelle Tafoya as sideline reporter.
Michaels, meanwhile, jumped to Amazon Prime and will be paired with longtime ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit for “Thursday Night Football.” Herbstreit will continue working college games for ESPN.
Jim Nantz and Tony Romo remained CBS Sports’ No. 1 pairing.
And for you ManningCast fans, the Peyton and Eli Manning simulcast returns for 10 “Monday Night Football” games this season on ESPN2. The Bears’ Oct. 24 game against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., is on the Mannings’ schedule.
The main change worth noting is the overtime rule for playoff games.
After the Bills lost to the Chiefs 42-36 in the AFC divisional round last season without getting an overtime possession, league owners voted to guarantee each team an overtime possession — but only in the postseason.
Under the new rule, if the team possessing the ball first in overtime scores a touchdown on that series, the opponent still gets a possession. In recent seasons, that touchdown would have ended the game.
That second possession of overtime would extend beyond the initial 15-minute period if needed. Should that team tie the game, it then would become sudden death.
Of note: Eight players per team will be permitted to return from reserve lists, an increase from the original number that was set at three for the 2020 season. A player is eligible to return from injured reserve twice in a season, but he would count against the allotment of eight each time.
Several former Bears players are making their mark across the league, including:
- Edge rusher Khalil Mack, who was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers for second- and third-round picks.
- Quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who is in line to start for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was named a team captain.
- Wide receiver Allen Robinson, who signed a three-year, $46.5 million deal with the Rams in March with $30.25 guaranteed.
- Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who joined Brady and the Buccaneers on a one-year deal worth $6.5 million, plus another $1.5 million in per-game roster bonuses. He could earn $8 million if he plays a full season, plus another $2 million in bonuses, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
- Punter Pat O’Donnell, who spent his first eight seasons in Chicago before signing a two-year, $4 million contract with the Packers. ESPN reported the deal included a $950,000 roster bonus and total guarantee of $1.6 million.
Changes of address
The offseason saw some big names move around, including one deal with an impact on the Bears-Packers rivalry:
- QB Russell Wilson, whom the Broncos acquired in a massive deal with the Seahawks that included six picks and three players between the teams.
- WR Davante Adams, who was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders for 2022 first- and second-round picks after spending eight seasons with the Packers.
- WR Tyreek Hill, whom the Miami Dolphins acquired from the Chiefs for a boatload of picks: a 2022 first-rounder, 2022 second-rounder, 2022 and 2023 fourth-round picks and a 2023 six-round pick.
- QB Deshaun Watson, who will begin the year suspended after the Cleveland Browns acquired him from the Texans for several draft picks. Watson is suspended 11 games as part of a settlement with the NFL after accusations of sexual misconduct by two dozen women.
- QB Matt Ryan, whom the Falcons traded to the Indianapolis Colts for a third-round pick. Ryan will be backed up by former Bears QB Nick Foles.