The NFL's ratings slide last season "clearly impacted the league's schedule-making process," as the league "packed its prime-time schedule with its best draws," according to Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com. The league formally released its '17 schedule Thursday night, and 10 teams "have the maximum number of five prime-time games, not including potential flex scheduling later in the season." That list includes the "obvious candidates" like the Cowboys, Packers, Patriots and Steelers. The Cowboys -- the NFL's ratings "gold mine -- also have nine late-afternoon kickoffs that traditionally draw larger audiences." Meanwhile, the Browns and Jaguars do not have any scheduled primetime games, marking the first time since '12 "that a team didn't play at least once on Thursday." The league after going to a full season of Thursday night games in '12 "indicated it would ensure every team played at least once on Thursday for fairness" (ESPN.com, 4/21). PFT’s Mike Florio gives the NFL "credit for going back to the drawing board and looking for ways to enhance ratings." That keeps fans from "having to endure really bad football on Thursday nights." Florio: "I would be in favor of knocking even more teams out of primetime. ... For the most part, fans don't want to see them, including Browns and Jaguar fans, in primetime. Why get embarrassed in primetime? You can get embarrassed on Sunday afternoon when nobody’s watching” ("PFT," NBCSN, 4/21).
BACK IN THE SPOTLIGHT: In Oakland, Jimmy Durkin notes the Raiders will play five primetime games this season, which "would be the most in franchise history." In addition to three "SNF" games, the Raiders' one "MNF" appearance comes on Christmas Day, when they travel to face the Eagles. They also have a "TNF" game Oct. 19 at home against the Chiefs (EAST BAY TIMES, 4/21). THE MMQB's Peter King writes the league "will be in a TV mess if the Raiders are not the emerging star team they appeared to be" at the end of '16 (MMQB.SI.com, 4/21). USA TODAY wrote Raiders fans, who are "having their team taken from them in the pursuit of greener -- money -- pastures," get to "show the nation how they feel about it" with two home primetime games (USATODAY.com, 4/20).
WHY STOP A GOOD THING? The Cowboys will host the Giants in Week 1 for the third consecutive season, and in Ft. Worth, Clarence Hill Jr. writes the matchup has "proved to be a ratings bonanza for the NFL." Last season, the Giants-Cowboys opener on Sunday afternoon was the "third-highest rated (15.5) game of the regular season and drew the fifth-most viewers (27.5 million)." The "SNF" matchup between the NFC East rivals is the "fifth time in the past six years the two teams have started the season against each other" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/21). USA TODAY wrote fans may be a "bit sick of Giants at Cowboys in this spot," but they have learned to "live with the league’s lack of imagination" (USATODAY.com, 4/20). Meanwhile, in Dallas, Barry Horn notes Tony Romo will call two Cowboys games this season for CBS -- when the team hosts the Chiefs on Nov. 5 and the Chargers on Thanksgiving Day (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/21).
NOT QUITE READY: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes one day after the Buccaneers were named to be the featured team on HBO's "Hard Knocks," the NFL "gave them a harder knock." The Bucs will play in two primetime games next season. Jones: "This, as much as anything, tells you what the NFL thinks of the Bucs. Not quite ready for prime time" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/21). In N.Y., Brian Costello notes the Jets have just one primetime appearance this season, their fewest since '07, when they "had none" (N.Y. POST, 4/21).