When the Bears hosted the Vikings on ‘‘Sunday Night Football’’ last November, NBC play-by-play man Al Michaels opened with a zinger.
“Welcome to Chicago — words that haven’t been uttered on this show in six years,” he quipped.
That prime-time NFL broadcast missed the Bears for years but is elated to have them back in the rotation. They’re scheduled to play on NBC three times — the maximum — this season, starting with the Sept. 5 opener against the Packers, and they were a dominant topic on the ‘‘SNF’’ annual preseason conference call Tuesday.
The Bears’ resurgence has been a boon for NBC because they’re one of the league’s most recognizable teams and play in the country’s third-largest TV market.
“It’s great because the Bears are an iconic franchise,” said Michaels, who referred to them as ratings gold. “When they hit the skids, that was not helpful. . . . It’s always good to have Chicago doing well.”
Beyond the opener, NBC chose a Week 11 game at the Rams and the Chiefs’ visit to Soldier Field in Week 16.
The network would’ve taken more if it was allowed and had to bypass compelling games against the Vikings and Saints. Aside from the NBC dates, the Bears also have two stand-alone Thursday games on Fox and an ESPN ‘‘Monday Night Football’’ appearance.
“There were probably six games we would’ve been happy with,” ‘‘SNF’’ executive producer Fred Gaudelli said. “The Bears have games that sound like big games. The Bears and Packers always sounds like a big game.
“We were intrigued by a Matt Nagy and Andy Reid matchup. The Rams game last year, they were the first team that really shut down that Rams offense. You’re talking about two of the top three television markets in America. With the Bears, you have a lot of choices.”
NBC believes the hype after a 12-4 season that prompted the Bears to target the Super Bowl heading into this one. Michaels and color analyst Cris Collinsworth brushed off the recent Sports Illustrated prediction that had them going 7-9 and finishing last in the NFC North.
“That defense isn’t going anywhere,” Collinsworth said. “I understand there are some moving parts, and you can’t lose Vic Fangio without having some impact on the team, but this is a rock-solid defensive team. . . . If they’re under 10 wins, I’m gonna be really surprised.”
Michaels added, “If I was going to Las Vegas — and I don’t bet, as you know — and I saw 7 [wins] for over/under, I think you know which way I’d go.”
The crew mentioned the Bears’ brutal playoff exit against the Eagles last season a few times, and that was an NBC game, as well. Collinsworth was the one who coined the term that has haunted Chicago ever since Cody Parkey’s 43-yard field goal in the final seconds bounced out.
“Did this hit the upright and the crossbar?” he said on air, “The Bears’ season is gonna end on a double doink. Unbelievable.”
The kick has been replayed throughout the offseason, and the play is now commonly known as The Double Doink.
The word “doink” popped into his mind from years of hearing John Madden use it every time a kick hit an upright, and Collinsworth had no idea his call would endure.
“There are some games you just get lost in, and you almost forget you’re talking to 30 million people,” he said, noting that people have been mentioning the term to him everywhere he has gone the last several months. “I really was just thinking out loud. I just couldn’t believe the Bears lost on a double doink.”