First, it was the Steelers. Then it was Dolphins, followed by the Jets and the Colts. Now, the Chicago Bears are on their way to Toronto to battle Buffalo in the Bills Toronto Series.
Back in March, when the Bills announced that the Indianapolis Colts would be the next NFL team to play in Toronto (at a preseason game scheduled for Aug. 19), I speculated as to which of the team’s eight home opponents would land here for the third regular-season affair in the marriage between the two cities:
These are the eight possibilities, ranked from most attractive to least attractive:
1. New England Patriots
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. New York Jets
4. Miami Dolphins
5. Chicago Bears
6. Detroit Lions
7. Cleveland Browns
8. Jacksonville Jaguars
Unfortunately for Toronto folk planning to attend the game, it’s almost a certainty that one of the bottom four teams will be coming to Canada. The Jets, Dolphins and Steelers have already been involved in the series, while the Bills would probably fight like hell to keep the Patriots game in Western New York.
Based on that logic, the Bears were probably the best realistic option. Rogers Communications wouldn’t have been happy with Detroit, Cleveland or Jacksonville, but Chicago ain’t so bad.
Sure, the Bears struggled to only a 9-7 record, missing the playoffs last season, but there is some sex appeal on this team — sex appeal the Jets and Dolphins didn’t have. And when you consider that they probably underachieved last season, there’s a chance they could be the best team yet to hit Toronto for one of these games.
Not only do you have high-profile quarterback Jay Cutler, but you now have big-name free-agent signee Julius Peppers, the Bears’ new star.
It also isn’t a huge challenge to find Bears fans in the city of Toronto. There’s a lot of history surrounding the franchise, and Super Bowl Shuffle days had to win over more than a few on-the-fence fans who are now in prime position to spend their disposable income on overpriced games like these.
A good compromise
As for Bills fans that choose not to take part in the trip down the QEW, they can take solace in the fact that they aren’t losing the Steelers or a division rival/top draw like New England. They should also be happy that a warm-weather team won’t get to benefit by playing the Bills in a domed stadium. A team like the Bears is as familiar with the elements as the Bills are.
Unless you’re the CFL….
The Canadian Football League can’t be as thrilled with the situation, mainly because of the timing. The first two regular-season games in this series took place in December, after the Grey Cup. But this game goes down on Nov. 7 — the last day of the CFL regular season.
I’ve said time and again that NFL fans and CFL fans are very separate, and I highly doubt this game will hurt TV ratings for the Argonauts-Alouettes game scheduled for that very same day in Montreal (especially considering that game will start three hours after the Bears-Bills game does).
And let’s be real: the CFL already loses viewers on NFL Sundays. It’s not like it’s going to lose more viewers just because one of the 12 NFL games that day will be played on our side of the border.
So from a logistics standpoint, this shouldn’t make any difference. But from a political standpoint, the CFL probably isn’t happy that the NFL is horning in on its territory.
Even more than it was before.
Note on ticket prices
Rogers Centre will have a new seating plan this year, with lower ticket prices in certain sections and a new $65 seating section, according to series organizers.