There’s something wonderful about the release of the NFL schedule. I always picture those late November, December Sundays when it is cold outside, giving you the perfect excuse to park on the couch all day and watch football. Of course, I do the same thing on those beautiful Sundays in September.
Here’s my breakdown of how the NFL divided up the goodies among the networks.
NBC: The network gets 19 games this year, including a new Thanksgiving night telecast. And it’s a good one: New England at the Jets.
NBC should get off to a huge start with Dallas-New York Giants on Wednesday, Sept. 5 and then the Pittsburgh-Denver game on that Sunday. It’ll be all-Manning-all-the-time during the first week. Should do big ratings.
Best games for NBC: Besides the first week, its schedule is loaded: Detroit-San Francisco on Sept. 16; New England-Baltimore on Sept. 23; Green Bay-Giants on Nov. 25 and several others.
Landmine alert: NBC has the flex schedule beginning on Nov. 18, so it won’t get stuck with any late-season dogs. Prior to that week, it has Houston-Chicago on Nov. 11. Keep on an eye on that one if both teams underachieve. However, even then, Al Michaels always likes doing a game in Chicago.
ESPN: It gets a better slate than last year, when it had some atrocious games (San Diego-Jacksonville, St. Louis-Seattle) at the end. Still, I can’t say I’m thrilled about a Baltimore-Cincinnati/San Diego-Oakland doubleheader for its first Monday night of the year. It’s not exactly Pittsburgh-Denver.
Best games for ESPN: ESPN gets its first crack at Peyton Manning with Denver-Atlanta on Sept. 17. Chicago-Dallas should do a strong rating on Oct. 1; Philadelphia-New Orleans on Nov. 5 could be intriguing if the Saints hold up; and Atlanta-Detroit on Dec. 22.
Landmine alert: With no flex options, it has several clunker candidates. San Francisco-Arizona on Oct. 29; Jets-Tennessee on Dec. 17 has potential disaster written all over it; and Atlanta-Detroit could be a dud if the Lions revert to their old form.
NFL Network: It’s the first season of their new expanded 13-game package.
Best games for NFL Network: The NFL awarded itself a plum for its opener: Chicago at Green Bay on Sept. 13. You’ve got to like Giants at Carolina the following week; New Orleans-Atlanta on Nov. 29; and Denver-Oakland on Dec. 6.
Landmine alert: Unless Andrew Luck morphs into Peyton Manning really quick, I’m betting most people take a pass on Indianapolis-Jacksonville on Nov. 8.
Fox: The NFC network gets out of the gate quick with San Francisco-Green Bay as its first doubleheader game.
Best games for Fox: Giants at San Francisco in an NFC title game rematch on Oct. 14; New Orleans-Green Bay on Sept. 30; Giant-Dallas on Oct. 28.
Landmine alert: Any games with the 49ers. Are they are a one-year wonder? Fox obviously can switch off its highlighted doubleheader slots, but it would help the network if the 49ers remained strong.
CBS: With Denver’s first two games in prime time, the AFC network has to wait until week 3 to get a shot at Peyton Manning.
Best games for CBS: Denver-New England on Oct. 7 with Manning-Brady; Pittsburgh-Giants on Nov. 4; Pittsburgh-Baltimore on Dec. 2.
Landmine alert: CBS needs Manning to be healthy and playing like his old self. If not, CBS will see a lot of potential ratings points fly out the window for those Denver games.