It may seem like a bit of a meatheaded opinion to say that the NFL has become too consumed with dollar signs in recent years, but the Chicago Bears are experiencing a confluence of events this week that could verify that notion.
For instance, the Bears are playing in the Thursday Night Football game this week against the New York Giants. While the quality of these games has been largely absent (with the exception of last week’s Bills-Browns matchup), the fact of the matter is that the league is drawing record numbers of viewers every week to their broadcasts on NFL Network, so there’s no way that the lowered quality of play is going to cause the league to reconsider whether the games are a good idea.
In addition to that, there is also the matter of deliberations within the league offices of whether to expand the playoffs from 12 teams to 14 beginning in 2015. If the extra wild card spots had been in effect last season, the Bears would have actually gotten into the playoffs with a 10-6 record. While that may seem like a good thing to Bears fans, it also has to be noted that the 8-8 Pittsburgh Steelers would have gotten in too. Is an extra .500 team in the playoffs really that good of an idea?
Finally, there is the matter of the league expanding its series of games in London even further. This season there are two games, but next year there will be three with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders all hosting games there.
For the Bears, that could mean a second trip to jolly old England (they played a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011) as they are slated to play the Falcons next year and the league likely won’t make Atlanta play a divisional game overseas.
What all of these things have in common is that they, on their face, are all changes that could benefit the Bears in some way, but they're also ways that could potentially hurt the team too. The Thursday night game obviously is a good thing because the team not only gets more national exposure, but they also get to try to wash the nasty taste of their Week 5 loss to the Saints out of their mouths. On the downside, the Bears are a team struggling with injuries all over the place, and not having the time to sign players to replace Nate Collins could potentially hurt them in Week 6.
The extra playoff team also could be a potential benefit to the Bears, but it could also be a bit of a hindrance if the team ends up winning a division. If the league only adds one extra playoff team in each conference, that would probably mean that only the top team in the NFC would get a first round bye in the playoffs, and that would mean that it would be harder for a team to get to the Super Bowl.
Finally, there’s the London games, which have really caused a rift among football fans. Some think that they are great exposure for the league, and some would even go so far as to say that a team in London would be a good idea. There are plenty of others who think that it’s stupid, and that the league is spending too much time trying to penetrate a market that is never going to fully embrace the sport in the first place.
At any rate, all of these things really do have the same thing in common: money. The league is trying to reap more profits than it ever has before, and even though the London games, extra playoff spots, and Thursday night games aren’t necessarily the best thing for quality of play, the fact of the matter is that they are profitable, and that’s all that matters to the NFL.
Unfortunately, it’s not necessarily in the best interests of the game itself, and that’s where Bears fans should be irritated. Sending the team overseas to play in a game, having them play on short rest while they are banged up with injuries, or denying them the chance at a beneficial bye week come playoff time are all things that are great for the bottom line, and the league needs to re-evaluate whether getting a bigger slice of the sports money pie is really worth it.