Two years ago, Aaron Rodgers told Green Bay Packers officials he didn’t want to return, nearly upsetting the NFL schedule.
Cooler heads prevailed for the league’s scheduling department’s sanity.
Rodgers was traded to the New York Jets this summer, but the league and its network partners have time to submit requests. Six prime-time games and four Sunday afternoon games (4:25 p.m. ET) await the Jets.
Fox EVP, Head of Strategy and Analytics Mike Mulvihill said the process was mostly about Aaron and his future. “Focus is always on marquee quarterbacks who could change teams. This year, too.”
On Sept. 11, the Jets host the Buffalo Bills on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” for the second year in a row. Russell Wilson’s first game with Denver, coincidentally in Seattle, averaged 19.85 million people, the most watched Monday night game since ESPN took over the package in 2006.
The Jets’ first three games are nationally televised. Rodgers’ first encounter with Patrick Mahomes is on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” when the Jets play Kansas City on Oct. 1.
CBS has eight Jets games, Fox, ESPN, NBC, and Amazon Prime Video two each. The league sets Week 18 networks after Week 17.
This was the first year of the NFL’s new television package, where any game could go to any network, but most of the old structure remains. Fox has at least one NFC club on 90% of their schedule, while CBS is the top network for AFC teams.
CBS will air most of the major AFC matches but 13 NFC games.
Collaboration grows. CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said the NFL’s flexibility for AFC and NFC packages helped everyone. “The good news is, even though we have all these great NFC games, we’re still the conference of the AFC, so we get all these star quarterbacks.”
NFL schedule release on Thursday:
CBS has the defending Super Bowl champions for eight games, six in the late afternoon.
McManus claimed the network’s dream matchup was the Dec. 31 AFC championship game rematch between Kansas City and Cincinnati. Buffalo-Kansas City on Dec. 10 was also considered a prime-time game.
Nickelodeon will air the Dec. 25 Chiefs-Raiders game. The slime-filled Christmas Day program returns for the second year. NBC has the Chiefs three times, ESPN/ABC twice, Fox, NFL Network, and Prime Video once.
CBS airs Super Bowl 58 in Vegas.
America’s Team Fox
Fox prioritized Dallas Cowboys games more than usual after Rodgers left for the Jets and Brady retired.
Fox airs the Cowboys nine times, including six at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday.
“I’m not exaggerating; we spent more time discussing our fifth-best Dallas game than our No. 1 game on our schedule. Because if you get eight or nine Dallas appearances, you’ll have a couple of blockbusters,” Mulvihill added. “Last year, we had only three at 4:25, so that’s a big change that’s driven mostly by Brady and Rodgers’ departures.”
Fox Cowboys games at Philadelphia on Nov. 5, New York Giants at Buffalo on Dec. 17, and Miami on Dec. 24 are important.
Prime Video chose the first Black Friday game. It got the Jets-Dolphins AFC East game on Nov. 24.
“All things being equal, we’d love to start this new holiday tradition in New York. “They were able to come through with that and an awesome game,” said Marie Donoghue, Amazon’s Vice President of Global Sports Video.
Prime Video’s second “Thursday Night Football” season will visit Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Las Vegas, and New Orleans for the first time.
After owners approved several games on four- or five-day weeks, the Chicago Bears, Steelers, Saints, and Jets will appear on Prime Video multiple times this year. The Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, and Indianapolis Colts will not play prime-time games this season.
“I think we were already headed in that direction, to some extent already, with the additional Thursday night game we had already added and now adding Black Friday,” said NFL Media Executive Vice President Hans Schroeder regarding teams making multiple appearances on a short week. We give our fans the best matchups for a national timeframe. That helped the Thursday night package in a right way.
Monday Night Mania
ESPN has two of the most anticipated matchups and the first flex scheduling in Week 12. On Nov. 20, Rodgers makes his Jets debut and the Eagles-Chiefs Super Bowl rematch.
“I would argue we’ve got the best two games on the entire board,” said ESPN President of Content Burke Magnus.
Sept. 18, Sept. 25, and Dec. 11 will include ABC and ESPN games. Since ESPN has an NBA day, ABC will air the Baltimore-San Francisco game on Dec. 25.
The Cowboys make two MNF appearances this season, the first since ESPN took over the package in 2006.
Giants-Cowboys will play the first Sunday night game for the seventh time since NBC debuted “Sunday Night Football” in 2006. Their 13th SNF matchup is on Sept. 10.
First-time game on NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service. Buffalo Bills vs. LA Chargers on Dec. 23. That will precede the NBC Bengals-Steelers game.
“We spent a lot of time with the NFL and had productive meetings about the proper positioning of that (Peacock) game,” NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua said. “We think that’s going to be a great combination of using NBC’s power with that late-afternoon game and driving that audience to Peacock for the regular-season exclusive game.”