It’s going to take the NFL Network crew a good three hours to work their way through all the nuances of the 2023 schedule. As the youths are wont to say, ain’t nobody got time for that. Here’s a breakdown of the things you need to know, and if it gobbles up more than five minutes of your day/night/whatever, you’re going to have to learn how to read faster.
Most National TV Appearances:
Dallas Cowboys (12), Kansas City Chiefs (12). Dallas has 13 national games if you count the Nov. 30 game against Seattle on Amazon Prime Video. Another date not included in this calculus is the ‘Boys Sept. 24 matchup with the Cardinals, as Fox will be beaming that same afternoon’s Bears-Chiefs outing to more than half of its affiliates.
Nitpicking aside, the Cowboys once again will be an all but ubiquitous presence on your TV this fall, as Fox leading all comers by featuring Dallas in five full-bore national windows. Six of the team’s other coast-to-coast outings will air in primetime.
The Chiefs basically will serve the same function for CBS, landing a half-dozen of the network’s big 4:25 p.m. ET windows and the early Christmas Day game against the Raiders. If these two teams meet up in Super Bowl LVIII, Fox’s viewership record won’t stand for very long.
Fewest National TV Appearances:
The closest the Atlanta Falcons will get to a high-profile TV slot is during its Oct. 1 game against Jacksonville, although because that Wembley Stadium scrum kicks off at 9:30 a.m. ET and will stream exclusively on ESPN+, the phrase “high-profile TV slot” is being asked to carry more weight than it can bear. Meanwhile, the Houston Texans don’t even have the benefit of a streaming window, and all but one of its games is scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. ET.
Biggest Move Up:
The New York Jets will appear in eight national broadcasts, up from a goose egg in 2022. (Gang Green popped up in a late-December Thursday Night Football skirmish against Jacksonville, which was streamed by all of 8.26 million people.) Told you so. Twice.
Biggest Disappearing Act:
Since Ben Roethlisberger called it quits after the 2021 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have all but fallen off the TV map. (Last year, the team’s Nov. 20 game against AFC North foes Cincinnati was flexed out of the scheduled Sunday Night Football slate, a turn of events that would have been unthinkable during peak Big Ben era.) Once good for as many as eight national TV dates per year, the Steelers are down to just three marquee TV spots, although they will pop up in a pair of TNF games.
Despite Aaron Rodgers’ tectonic plate-rattling move to Noo Yawk, the Green Bay Packers and Jordan Love are still looking at eight national dates, including the early Thanksgiving Day table-setter on Fox. Bolstered by unbelievable good fortune at the QB position, the Pack have spent the last 30 years serving up some of the NFL’s biggest TV deliveries, and more often than not, the team has finished behind only Dallas in the annual Nielsen race. As tiny as its home market is (Milwaukee’s total active TV base is 900,020 households, while Green Bay proper has about half as many as its larger neighbor), the franchise always seems to punch above its weight, and the networks’ faith in the team’s drawing power is apparent from a glance at the schedule.
Late Bloomer Award:
The Cincinnati Bengals are mostly putting out a Witness Protection Program vibe for the first half of the season, but once Halloween rolls around, Joe Burrow & Co. will become a regular fixture on your screen of choice. Parenthetically, one of the things of particular interest to advertisers this season is how the Great AFC Quarterback Renaissance impacts CBS’ ratings and overall ad sales haul. Last year the Tiffany Network got thisclose to bringing Fox’s hegemonic NFL run to an end, but the rival network ultimately prevailed for the 14th straight season. One massive advantage that Fox continues to enjoy (even under the structure of the new NFL rights deal) is the sheer reach advantage afforded by its NFC markets. Affiliates in NFC towns enjoy a 30 million-TV-household edge over the AFC markets, and the purchasing power in the Fox-leaning areas is around $2 trillion higher.
Ho Ho Holy Cow, the NFL Is Not Backing Off on Christmas
Raiders-Chiefs on CBS, Giants-Eagles on Fox, Ravens-49ers on ABC. All on the day that’s supposed to belong to the NBA. There’s ruthless, and then there’s stealing all the presents from the 7-footers down in Whoville. And thus are empires built. It’s the NFL’s world, and pretty soon they’re going to charge us for so much as thinking about anything unrelated to the Shield.