The NFL Preseason kicks off today, Thursday, August 2nd at 8pm on NBC.  The game is between the Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens, and will be played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium (formerly known as Fawcett Stadium) in Canton, Ohio, right next to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  I’ve not been to the Hall in years, but I was lucky enough to go to one HOF game, Colts vs Redskins, and it’s an experience to remember.  The stadium is so small, the audience can get up close & personal with the players, and the game begins to feel very exciting very fast.  I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some football!  Here’s a look at the teams that will be playing tonight:

Chicago Bears – Last season was a “rebuilding year” for the Bears, which also describes basically every single season for Chicago since their improbable trip to get pummeled in the Super Bowl vs Indy back in Peyton’s hay day.  Last year, the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky to be their franchise quarterback, and this will be his first opportunity to step into the season as the leader of the team, to prove to critics that he and Chicago have what it take to get back to the playoffs.  It won’t be easy, as the NFC North is one of the toughest divisions in football: Green Bay has Rodgers the future HOFer, Minnesota has Cousins and an amazing defense, Detroit has Stafford the no-quit kid.  This team is probably a few years away from real contention, but there are a few reasons to like where they are heading.  As a pair of RBs, Cohen & Howard have the potential to be the best in the league; the same could be said for WRs Kevin White & Allen Robinson, if they can stay healthy.  Trubisky has weapons, and the defense is improving as well, with the addition of rookie LB Roquan Smith, who can be plugged right in and can make a big difference.  Results may not come over night, but this is a team that’s on the ups; let’s see what they can do on the big stage in the first preseason game of this new and exciting season.

Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens made a statement in the first round of the 2018 Draft by selecting TE Hayden Hurst and QB Lamar Jackson.  Hurst will step in right away, Jackson will ride the bench behind Flacco, but the offense has been put on notice; this isn’t the 2000s era Ravens, the defense is not going to take you to the Super Bowl, the offense has got to step up.  We could see the end of the Flacco dynasty soon if things don’t change in Baltimore, if they don’t start winning what isn’t really a stellar division.  The Steelers are always on top, the Bengals are always in the middle, and the Browns actually seem to be improving, so it’s time for the Ravens to make some big gains or change things up.  Word is that Flacco is having a great camp so far and has perhaps had a fire lit underneath him with the selection of Jackson; that’s great news, now he just needs to turn that fire into wins.  They could come, the Steelers aren’t unbeatable, and Baltimore could take the AFC North, the offense simply needs to put up more points.  The WR trio of Michael Crabtree, John Brown, & Willie Snead should help, and the Ravens might show some flashes this season, as they look to stay relevant.  Perhaps we’ll get a sneak peek Thursday Night in Canton.