NFL Schedule: League Plans To Kick Off '11 Season With Saints-Packers Sept. 8
The NFL yesterday revealed its schedule for the '11 season, which will kick off Sept. 8 with a Thursday night game on NBC featuring Saints-Packers, the last two Super Bowl champions. Sixteen of NBC's 17 scheduled game broadcasts involve at least one playoff team from last season, and 11 of 17 include two playoff teams. The net will again use flexible scheduling for Weeks 11-17. ESPN will air 17 primetime games next season, beginning with a "MNF" doubleheader on Sept. 12 featuring Patriots-Dolphins and Raiders-Broncos. ESPN's "MNF" schedule will feature all 12 playoff teams from last season. NFL Network's eight-game "Thursday Night Football" slate, which consists of seven Thursday night games and one Saturday night telecast, will feature seven playoff teams from last season. NFL Network kicks off its coverage with Raiders-Chargers on Nov. 10 (THE DAILY). DAILY VARIETY's Rick Kissell notes the NFL "for a second straight season" has slotted a "SNF" game "opposite what will be Game 4 of the World Series on Fox." NBC is scheduled to air Colts-Saints on Oct. 23 (DAILY VARIETY, 4/20). The following is a list of the primetime games airing on NBC, ESPN and NFL Network (THE DAILY).
LEFT OUT IN THE COLD: The Bills, Bengals, Cardinals, Panthers and Titans are the only teams not scheduled to play in a primetime game (THE DAILY). In Phoenix, Kent Somers notes the Cardinals' absence from primetime is "likely a result of last season's 5-11 record" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/20). In Charlotte, Joseph Person notes after the Panthers' 2-14 record last year, the team has 15 games scheduled for 1:00pm ET and one 4:15pm kickoff (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/20).
SEASON'S GREETINGS: In Green Bay, Kareem Copeland reports the Packers "will be the first team in league history to play on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day in the same season" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 4/20). In Ft. Lauderdale, Omar Kelly noted the Dolphins will be "on the road for both Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 4/19).
PRIMETIME PLAYERS: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes some teams that "seem less-than-right" in primetime are "going to be in primetime anyway." But "not on NBC." NBC "pays $600 million annually for its Sunday night games compared to ESPN's $1.1 billion for its Monday night games," but the NFL "still gave NBC a highly promising lineup for TV's most-watched night." ESPN's lineup is "loaded with iffy teams" such as the Rams, Redskins, Buccaneers, Jaguars, Lions and 49ers. NFL Network's lineup includes teams such as the 49ers, Texans and Browns (USA TODAY, 4/20). In Detroit, Chris McCosky notes the Lions will host the Bears on Oct. 10, their first appearance on "MNF" since '01. Lions President Tom Lewand "made it clear ... that being awarded a 'MNF' game was about the team and not a reward for opening Ford Field, and filling it, for the Giants-Vikings game last season after heavy snows collapsed the Metrodome roof." Lewand: "To be selected not only to play but to host shows we are a team that people want to watch" (DETROIT NEWS, 4/20). Also in Detroit, Drew Sharp writes the "MNF" appearance is "validation that, although the Lions remain a long way from being a serious championship contender, the mere sight of them on national television shouldn't send the country running away from their high-definition big screen TVs in a screaming fit." Sharp: "It's as though the NFL officially welcomed the Lions back into the league" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 4/20).
BACK ON THE BIG STAGE: In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote the Jaguars may play in a "small market," but they "received some royal treatment with the Tuesday night release of the 2011 schedule that includes two Monday night prime-time home games" against the Ravens and Chargers. The Jaguars' schedule also includes an "ideal bye at midseason before a critical road matchup" with the Colts. Frenette: "What more could the Jaguars possibly ask for in terms of favoritism? ... Owner Wayne Weaver has to be doing cartwheels over getting two home games on Monday Night Football, especially against opponents ... that normally wouldn't be a huge attraction" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 4/19). Meanwhile, in St. Louis, Bryan Burwell notes the Rams will play on "MNF" for the first time since '06, "not once but twice." This is "one of the surest signs that the Rams have arrived at that wonderfully fascinating athletic purgatory, suspended somewhere between football heaven and hell" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/20).