The Chicago Bears love playing the Baltimore Ravens almost as much as they love playing in the NFL’s Hall of Fame game, so combining these two elements into one figures to bode well for the Monsters of the Midway. This will be Chicago’s fifth appearance in the game in Canton, Ohio that the celebration of football’s greatest players is centered around, and to date, the Bears are 4-0. Only the Washington Redskins (5-0) have won more Hall of Fame games.
Only the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys, with six appearances each, have played in the Hall of Fame game more frequently than the Bears, although were it not for the 2011 lockout that scuttled the game that summer, when the Bears were to play the St. Louis Rams, Chicago would be playing in its sixth Hall of Fame game tilt in this one. The Bears have beaten the Ravens the last two times they’ve faced Baltimore and are 4-2 all-time against the Ravens.
Honoring Their Heroes – Two great linebackers who starred for these teams will be among the enshrinees during Hall of Fame weekend. Brian Urlacher (2000-12) gives the Bears 31 players in the Hall, the leading total among all of the NFL teams. Ray Lewis (1996-2012), a two-time Super Bowl winner, is the fifth Ravens player to be inducted. Only the Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals, with three apiece, and the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, both still awaiting their first, have fewer players in the Hall.
Time For Relocation? The Bears were a dismal 5-11 last season, but there was one area where they shone, and that was when the opposition was provided by the AFC North Division. Chicago won all four of its inter-divisional clashes with the AFC North, capturing home meetings with the Pittsburgh Steelers (23-17) and Cleveland Browns (20-3) and road tilts at the Cincinnati Bengals (33-7) and in Baltimore (27-24). By contrast, the Bears were 0-6 in games against their own division, the NFC North.
Working Overtime – Two of those victories – the win at Soldier Field over the Steelers and the victory at Baltimore – were fashioned in overtime. In fact, Chicago’s last two wins over the Ravens have been garnered via a field goal in the OT session. The Bears are 3-6 in their last nine overtime games, and all three of their OT triumphs have come at the expense of AFC North squads. They also downed the Ravens 20-17 on Nov. 17, 2013.
Stuck In Neutral – The Ravens are no fans of neutral-site games. Last season, they took their show to London, England for the first neutral-site game in franchise history at Wembley Stadium, and there was nothing at all neutral about the outcome. Jacksonville put a 44-7 shellacking on the Ravens, matching the most lopsided loss in franchise history.
Including their 46-10 Super Bowl XX win over the New England Patriots, Chicago is 5-2 in neutral-site games, although one of the Bears’ two losses was a 27-23 setback to the Dallas Texans in a 1952 game played at Akron, Ohio. The Bears have won games in three different countries – Canada, England and the United States.
It’s Their Game – The Bears will be seeking to continue NFC dominance of the Hall of Fame game. Last season, Dallas edged the Arizona Cardinals 20-18 in an all-NFC match up, marking the sixth consecutive win the game by an NFC team. The NFC has won five in a row from AFC squads, although the last AFC team to beat an NFC team was an AFC North club, the Steelers. Overall, NFC North teams are 9-5-1 in the Hall of Fame game, while AFC North teams are 6-8.
His First One – While he doesn’t figure to see a lot of playing time in the first preseason game of the campaign, Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky will no doubt feel some fond memories when he comes up under center and sees the Ravens across the line of scrimage. He made his second NFL start as a rookie against them last season and the 27-24 triumph was his first career victory as an NFL QB. Trubisky completed just eight passes for 116 yards and a touchdown, but a win is a win regardless.
Is It Ominous? Does a win in the Hall of Fame game hold any bearing on the future fortunes of the team during the upcoming NFL season? Sadly, no. Just one of the last eight winners of the game, the 2015 Minnesota Vikings, qualified for the playoffs in the same season. No team has ever won the Hall of Fame game and the Super Bowl in the same season, although two teams – the 1988 Bengals and the 2001 Rams – won the Hall of Fame game and lost in the Super Bowl in the same season.
On the other hand, when the Bears last won the game in 2005, beating the Dolphins 27-24, they went on to capture the NFC North title. In 1990, when the Bears beat Cleveland 13-0 in the Hall of Fame game, they won the NFL Central crown. Also in 1977, when they downed the New York Jets in the Hall of Fame game, the Bears qualified for the playoffs as a wildcard team. Only Chicago’s 1968 triumph over the Cowboys was not followed by a postseason appearance.
What The Future Holds – Beyond the diehards, you aren’t likely to find many bolting to sportsbooks to place a future wager on either of these teams to do something special this season. At Bovada, the total on wins by the Bears this season is set at 6.5, with odds on the over set at -155 and odds on the under coming in at +125.
The Ravens are given eight wins as a total, and whichever way you opt to play the wager, the odds are set at -115. Both the Ravens (+5500) and Bears (+10000) are given extremely long odds to win Super Bowl LIII. Ravens QB Joe Flacco is +7500 to earn the NFL’s MVP Award. Trubisky’s odds of being named MVP are +9000.