The NFL’s annual lead up to this weekend’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony takes place on Thursday night when the Chicago Bears take on the Baltimore Ravens at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
The Bears last played in this game in 2005 (defeated Miami, was scheduled to play in the cancelled 2011 game), and this will be their fourth appearance overall. The Ravens are making their first-ever Canton appearance.
Pro Football Hall of Fame Game: Chicago Bears vs. Baltimore Ravens
Time: 8 p.m. ET (Thursday)
Where: Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium (Canton, Ohio)
Some argue that this game has been watered down in recent years, especially since the starters see little to no playing time. But this game isn’t a complete waste of time as there are still reasons to watch. Here are five reasons in particular to tune into Thursday night’s exhibition.
1. Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III
With Joe Flacco most likely to get the night off, if he plays at all, Jackson and Griffin figure to get the bulk of the snaps for the Ravens. The NFL will get its first taste of what Jackson brings to the table. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner will get his first chance to show that he is real deal and not just another player full of college hype. RG3 on the other hand gets another chance to prove that he can still play in the NFL.
Injuries ended his career in Washington and things didn’t work out in Cleveland. The Ravens gave Griffin another chance after he sat out the entire 2017 season. Both men need to make the most of their opportunities.
2. The NFL’s new helmet-to-helmet rule will be put to the test
Throughout the offseason we’ve heard many players and even some coaches complain about how the league hasn’t exactly been clear about what will constitute an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit this year, despite the league’s attempts to do so. The NFL even went as far as to have referees visit team practices to explain the rule in person, but even that didn’t satisfy anybody. There are so many incidental hits to the head that happen during the course of the game that it’s nearly impossible to keep track of all of them. The new rule will get a good workout in Canton for sure.
3. Get to know the rookies
Curious to see what the new guys on your team can do? Well this will be the game in which they’ll get the most playing time, well the ones that are signed at least. The preseason opener is the game in which all rookies get to truly cut their teeth and start to earn their spots for the upcoming season. The most entertaining part of the game will be when these young players fill up both sides of the field.
4. Players at the bottom of the depth chart will get the chance to prove themselves
For the novice players that are most likely to be cut by September, this will be the game in which they’ll get a good chunk of their August snaps. At the very least these guys are looking to put some game film together for other teams, and maybe even other leagues. Of course there’s always that chance that there’s a diamond in the rough to who can snag an 11th hour roster spot.
5. The unofficial debut of the 2018 Chicago Bears
Regardless of whether or not the starters play, head coach Matt Nagy will still begin to rollout his new offense while defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has the task of breaking in many new faces into his defensive packages. This game will be more about fundamentals and timing than it will be about game planning and lineups.
-- Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo by Phil Hoffmann/Baltimore Ravens, courtesy of www.baltimoreravens.com)