So is the Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
And the NFL is trying several experiments, including an unprecedented tripleheader on Christmas Day.
Highlights, wrinkles and easter eggs of the 2022 championship schedule:
In terms of viewers, last season’s two biggest NBC games were involved Tom Brady. There was the Kickoff Game (Dallas to Tampa Bay) and Brady’s return to New England in week 4. Both were blockbusters.
So this season, the NFL is back strong with another double dose of Brady. They are Cowboys-Buccaneers again in the first week and, while there is nothing that can match the showdown with Bill Belichick, an early season match between Kansas City and Tampa Bay. It is probably the last meeting of Patrick Mahomes and Brady.
The whole country will have a good look at both Los Angeles teams this season.
The Rams are constantly in the national spotlight, with home games that include fights against Buffalo (kickoff game), Las Vegas (Thursday night), Denver (Christmas day), and both Dallas and San Francisco in those Fox doubleheader windows. national.
And look how far the Chargers have come. It’s been a long time since they last maxed out in prime time windows, but they play two Sunday nights, two Monday nights, and Amazon’s inaugural streaming game Thursday night.
The Rams and the Chargers face off in the last one scheduled Sunday evening game of the season. Remember that the Sunday night finale in week 18 has yet to be determined. But the fact that the league gave them that marquee seat is noteworthy.
If Allen isn’t the next face in the NFL, at least the Buffalo quarterback is up for debate.
The Bills are playing the Kickoff Game for the first time and are back in your living rooms on Thanksgiving, this time in Detroit. A lot is due to Allen’s budding superstar. Three years ago, he led Buffalo to victory in Dallas on Thanksgiving in what is still the most watched game of the season.
Not only that, but he’s also playing in one of the first ABC / ESPN side-by-side games. More on those below.
OK, what’s this side by side thing?
In the second week of “Monday Night Football,” Tennessee plays Buffalo at 4:15 pm on ESPN, then it’s Minnesota to Philadelphia at 5:30 am on ABC.
That’s right, ABC is back in the game with a game. It’s an NFL experiment to put the games side by side under the Disney banner.
The logic is to try to keep ABC’s involvement with the NFL. This year that network will broadcast four ESPN games simultaneously, as well as broadcast one game on its own.
This is an experiment with an eye on 2023, when there will be three ABC / ESPN games side by side.
Remember all those early season years with double-headed “Monday Night Football” on ESPN, with the first game starting at 4 and the second at 7:15? Well, it didn’t go very well on the east coast when that second game was ending around 1am. Much of the country was turned off by TV in the second half, mainly because the matches were Raiders-Chargers, Broncos-Raiders and the Likes.
With this side-by-side system, instead of six hours of football, it will be closer to 4½. Spectators can tune in to the first 90 minutes of the match beginning, so there is an overlap, followed by the end of the second match. That way, no one sleeps with an alarm clock the next morning.
Denver was a strong candidate to open against the Rams. This is just the kind of juice that Russel Wilson brings.
Instead, the NFL opted to open the Broncos in Seattle, with Wilson returning to face the Seahawks.
Why so early? Most people expect the Seahawks to take a step back this season. It’s probably best to get that Wilson game in as soon as possible, when everyone’s hopes are still intact.
When we heard the term “cross-flex” earlier, it invariably meant that the league was taking away a good game from Fox and giving it to CBS to bolster that network’s inventory. Last year, for example, CBS got Chicago to Tampa Bay, Seattle to Green Bay, and Dallas to the Chargers.
Part of this is an effort to balance the Fox and CBS packages, and part is getting some sunlight on some Fox games that may be under-distributed across the country.
Once again, CBS is getting a great game this season that otherwise would have gone to Fox: Rams in Tampa Bay. But there is also a turning point this year. For the first time ever, CBS is airing a great game on Fox: Kansas City in San Francisco.
One reason is that CBS has a solid inventory of really good pairings. The AFC is loaded with great young quarterbacks.
When the new media deals go into effect next season, there is a big change on the way. The whole concept of the visiting team that determines the television network goes away. So it’s not, the AFC is on its way, so it’s a CBS game; NFC is on the go, so it’s a Fox game.
Next season, every game is a free agent, a jump to two. No commitment, no obligation. The idea that this game belongs to CBS or Fox goes out the window.
Now, on the back end, the league will distribute at least a minimum number of matches to the goals. So Fox will get even more NFC games and more Cowboys appearances, but the old concept of game ownership is gone.
Why the change? Moving forward, the league is moving away from the idea that Fox has the premium package and CBS has something less. Now both networks will have to raise tariffs for similar rights, an astronomical and otherworldly number.
Fox is gearing up for perhaps the biggest four-day stretch in sports TV history, starting with the New York Giants in Dallas on Thanksgiving. Sure, the Giants aren’t what they once were, but this is a classic rivalry, with a distinct John Madden-Pat Summerall feel.
The next day, on Black Friday, Fox has the United States versus England in a World Cup football match.
The network will follow that Saturday with Michigan at Ohio State.
There will be an NFL doubleheader on Sunday that includes Rams in Kansas City.
Could Fox reach 30 million viewers a day?
The NFL network schedules a Christmas Eve game between Las Vegas and Pittsburgh.
Imagine the Raiders-Steelers arriving 50 years plus a day after the legendary Immaculate Reception game.
The weird thing about this is that it’s a ranking-based match, so the NFL didn’t know until the last game of the season that this match was going to happen.
The Raiders played against the Chargers in their last game on Sunday night and, winning, finished second at AFC West. The Steelers finished second in AFC North.
Now, four days before the one-year anniversary the sports world lost Madden, an Immaculate Rematch.
The NFL is hosting its first tripleheader on Christmas Day, with Green Bay in Miami, Denver at the Rams and Tampa Bay in Arizona.
Those street quarterbacks are Aaron Rodgers, Wilson and Brady.
Keep this in mind: Christmas falls on a Monday next year. You can trust that the NFL has another tripleheader in mind for 2023.