Predictions for which TV crews will call Bears games this season

Last season, the Bears played in five exclusive windows, including three in a four-week span. They played for CBS’ top crew twice, its second crew once and Fox’s second crew twice. That probably won’t happen this season.

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A Fox Sports TV camera focuses on the action during the Bears-Browns game Sept. 26, 2021, in Cleveland.

David Richard/AP

Did you know that of the Bears’ 17 games last season, 10 were called by a TV network’s No. 1 or 2 crew?

It’s crazy but true. The 6-11 Bears played in five exclusive windows, including three in a four-week span. They played for CBS’ top crew twice, its second crew once and Fox’ second crew twice.

We’re sorry, America.

The networks caught on, though. Fox’ No. 7 crew called two of the Bears’ last three games, and CBS’ sixth crew called the other.

You’re welcome, America.

This season figures to fall in line with those latter games. The Bears are scheduled for only three exclusive windows and none after Week 7. The other 13 games with a start time kick off at noon.

Starting in Week 5, their Sunday games could be flexed into a late-afternoon window or “Sunday Night Football,” but that seems unlikely.

Here’s my annual and largely futile attempt to predict which crews will call each Bears game. Week 1 was announced, and we know the national crews. The rest are based on intuition and preference.

Week 1: vs. 49ers, noon, Fox-32: No. 2 crew of Joe Davis, Daryl Johnston and Pam Oliver.

Week 2: at Packers, 7:20 p.m., Ch. 5: Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth and Melissa Stark.

Week 3: vs. Texans, noon, Ch. 2: CBS usually treats the Bears well. The network had four games last season and used its first or second crew in three of them. But with the QB-fueled Bengals, Bills, Chargers and Chiefs on its schedule, expect to see the No. 5 crew of Andrew Catalon and James Lofton.

Week 4: at Giants, noon, Fox-32: The top crew of Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen, Erin Andrews and Tom Rinaldi figures to get Commanders-Cowboys. Bears-Giants looks like the best of a weak supporting slate. We’ll see Davis and Johnston again.

Week 5: at Vikings, noon, Fox-32: With the Buccaneers and a rare Patriots appearance in the early window, Fox sends its No. 4 crew of Kenny Albert, Jonathan Vilma and Shannon Spake to Minneapolis.

Week 6: vs. Commanders, 7:15 p.m., Prime Video: Al Michaels, Kirk Herbstreit and Kaylee Hartung.

Week 7: at Patriots, 7:15 p.m., ESPN: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Lisa Salters.

Week 8: at Cowboys, noon, Fox-32: Sometimes the Bears get a bump because of their opponent, such as the game last season against the Bucs that aired in CBS’ late window. The Cowboys are one of those teams. Davis and Johnston return one more time.

Week 9: vs. Dolphins, noon, Ch. 2: Jim Nantz and Tony Romo will be at Rams-Bucs in the late window. If the No. 2 crew of Ian Eagle, Charles Davis and Evan Washburn get Bills-Jets, the great Kevin Harlan, Trent Green and Melanie Collins will be here.

Week 10: vs. Lions, noon, Fox-32: This game figures to get Fox’ smallest audience of the week. That lines up with the No. 5 crew of Kevin Kugler, Mark Sanchez and Laura Okmin (no offense, gang).

Week 11: at Falcons, noon, Fox-32: The Broncos, Rams and Ravens top Fox’ schedule. This game might bottom it. Prepare for the No. 6 crew of Chris Myers, Robert Smith and Jen Hale, and have a radio ready.

Week 12: at Jets, noon, Fox-32: It’s Thanksgiving Week, and NFL fans will be thankful for not having to watch the Bears again on Thanksgiving Day. Fox has Rams-Chiefs, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, so we’re looking at Albert and Vilma.

Week 13: vs. Packers, noon, Fox-32: Packers-Bears in December. That has Pat Summerall and John Madden written all over it – in my dreams. But Fox can’t keep its top crew away from the Bears all season. Aaron Rodgers will draw Burkhardt and former Bear Olsen to town.

Week 14: Bye

Week 15: vs. Eagles, noon, Fox-32: Three of five selected games will move to NFL Network on Saturday. Eagles-Bears is not among them. Fox’ reduced inventory gives the Bears a bump and gives us Bears preseason voice Adam Amin, Mark Schlereth and Kristina Pink.

Week 16: vs. Bills, noon, Ch. 2: This game is Saturday on Christmas Eve. Nantz and Romo figure to be at Broncos-Rams on Sunday, and Eagle and Davis at Bengals-Patriots on Saturday. That gives us Harlan and Green.

Week 17: at Lions, noon, Fox-32: Fox doesn’t have many prime matchups to celebrate New Year’s Day. Bears-Lions isn’t even the worst. We’ll see Kugler and Sanchez.

Week 18: vs. Vikings, TBD: Two games of consequence will move to ESPN/ABC on Saturday, and Vikings-Bears probably won’t be one of them. In a fitting finish, Myers and Smith call a forgettable finale.

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