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NFL Plays Own Game Of ‘Succession’ With Schedule Release

  • League’s TV partners squabble over best-game matchups.
  • FOS rates which NFL TV partners got the best schedules.
Patrick Mahomes
Syndication: Arizona Republic

In some ways, the NFL’s annual schedule release is similar to the hit HBO show “Succession.”

Think of the NFL as the powerful mogul Logan Roy. And the league’s five media partners – ESPN, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Amazon Prime Video – as the squabbling children, forever competing for the best game matchups from Big Daddy.

As always, the most valuable TV currency are Dallas Cowboys game telecasts. Besides “America’s Team,” Aaron Rodgers’ New York Jets will be media darlings this season.

Based on full game schedules released Thursday, here’s the best in the NFL’s game of “Succession:”

No. 1 ESPN 

The Walt Disney Co.’s sports cable network scored the biggest game of Week 1, with Rodgers making his regular season debut for Gang Green at home against Josh Allen’s Buffalo Bills (Sept. 11).

The nationally televised prime time should generate monster ratings for ESPN since it closes out Week 1 of the 2023 season. 

A giddy Disney had ESPN’s new “Monday Night Football” analyst Troy Aikman announce the news with Robin Roberts on sister broadcast network ABC’s “Good Morning America.” 

Disney will simulcast Rodgers’ debut on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN+.

“It was one of the most sought-after games by all networks. Every network campaigned for it. Because he can only debut once,” said one source.

ESPN’s schedule also features another tentpole: a Super Bowl Bowl rematch between Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs and Jalen Hurts’ Philadelphia Eagles (Nov. 20). 

Not to mention ESPN landing two Dallas Cowboys games for the first time since taking over the MNF package in 2006 (on Oct. 16 and Dec. 30). 

And for the first time, the MNF schedule will employ flex scheduling.

Troy Aikman Joe Buck Monday Night Football

Aaron Rodgers Will Make Jets Debut On ‘Monday Night Football’

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No. 2 CBS Sports

At age 27, Mahomes has won two Super Bowls and played in three. He’s the face of the NFL. CBS’ Tony Romo and Jim Nantz should prepare for frequent KC trips.

And CBS plans to showcase him more than any network, airing at least eight Chiefs games this season. That’s more than double any other network.

The Tiffany Network will also cash in from the AFC Conference housing many star quarterbacks.

CBS viewers are expected to see an AFC Championship Game rematch between Mahomes’ Chiefs and Joe Burrows’ Cincinnati Bengals (Dec. 31), Mahomes vs. Allen’s Bills (Dec. 10), Rodgers’ Jets vs. Dak Prescott’s Cowboys (Sept. 17) and Hurts’ NFC Champion Eagles vs. Allen’s Bills (Nov. 26).

No. 3 Fox Sports

Fox made sports TV history last season by airing the most-watched Super Bowl of all time with Chiefs vs. Eagles (115.1 million viewers) and the most-watched regular season game ever with Cowboys vs. New York Giants on Thanksgiving Day (42 million viewers). 

On a video appearance, Fox executive Michael Mulvihill called the NFL playing games on Thanksgiving the “smartest programming move that’s ever been made.” Now, the league even “controls Christmas Day” he added.

This season, Fox will feature the Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, and San Francisco 49ers in nine games apiece.

With the NFL trying to own the holiday season, Fox scored the Lions vs. Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23) and Eagles vs. Giants on Christmas Day (Dec. 25).

The network’s “America’s Game of the Week” matchups also include an NFC Championship Game rematch between the Eagles and 49ers (Dec. 3).

No. 4 NBC Sports 

“Sunday Night Football” has been the No. 1 primetime show for a record 12 years in a row. NBC always gets a strong schedule.

Early on, the two best-looking TV matchups are Cowboys vs. Giants (Nov. 17) and Chiefs vs. Jets (Oct. 1).

With Cowboys-Giants, NBC will have the league’s most popular TV team a playing resurgent Big Blue team from the nation’s largest TV market. 

Plus, the Chiefs-Jets should feature a first-ever matchup between Mahomes and Rodgers. Enough said. 

But why would the NFL match the Detroit Lions against the Chiefs on NBC’s season-opening Thursday night telecast (Sep.7)? 

“Wait, what? I cannot believe this is the kickoff game,” said Adam Schein of CBS.

The “perfect” opponent for the Chiefs would have been the Dolphins, said Schein. That way, Mahomes would have gone up against old teammate Tyreek Hill.

Aaron Rodgers

Amazon Prime Video Scores NFL’s First-Ever Black Friday Game

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No. 5 Amazon Prime Video

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is having a bromance with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. To make up for last season’s week “Thursday Night Football” schedule, the NFL handed the streamer its first-ever Black Friday game on Nov. 24. 

Even better, Rodgers will be the star, with the Jets taking on Allen’s Bills in the Meadowlands. 

Amazon also boasts a strong opener with Eagles vs. Minnesota Vikings (Sept. 14). They will also have Giants vs. 49ers (Sept. 21), Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos (Oct. 12), Bengals vs. Lamar Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens (Nov. 16), and Cowboys vs Seattle Seahawks (Nov. 30).

“League did us a solid,” said Amazon’s play-by-play announcer Al Michaels to Sports Illustrated.

There may be a method to the NFL’s madness. The league knows everyone will watch the Opening Kickoff on NBC. So it can afford to drop the Lions there – and save Rodgers as the closer for MNF. 

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