It’s the penultimate week of the 2012 NFL regular season, and since there are only two primetime games this week – 49ers/Seahawks on Sunday night on NBC, and Falcons/Lions in a Saturday night edition of “Monday Night Football” on ESPN; remember, NFL Network’s “Thursday Night Football” season concluded last week – there is a whopping fourteen games on tap on Sunday afternoon. This week, Fox has the doubleheader, yet they have six games to CBS’ eight. Previously, both were set for seven apiece, until NBC opted to take a Fox (NFC) game for “Sunday Night Football” and flex out an AFC game – Chargers/Jets – to CBS. Oh, and no Gus Johnson game this week. Now you know. And knowing is half the battle. And if you knew immediately after the Eagles ended their eight-game losing streak with a last-second victory in Tampa two weeks ago, that this week’s Buccaneers game would be blacked out, well, you’re a bigger soothsayer than I thought.
CBS: By the way, of those eight games on CBS’ docket, all but one are in their early game window. And of these seven games, three are divisional matchups – noen bigger than the one Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are working: the Pittsburgh Steelers, at 7-7 on the year, host the Cincinnati Bengals, who are a game up on them. Both teams are behind the Baltimore Ravens, who currently sit atop the AFC North, yet have lost three straight games. So not only is a wild card berth at stake for the Bengals and the Steelers, but perhaps the top spot in the division, as well. The Green Bay Packers have already clinched the NFC North division, and have a chance for a first-round bye if they take care of business against the Tennessee Titans; Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf will be at Lambeau Field. As for the team that just lost in primetime to the Titans, the New York Jets, they mercifully have a second straight primetime dud of a game averted as their home finale against the San Diego Chargers, once penciled in for Sunday night on NBC, is kicked to CBS as a 1 PM game. And while both of these teams bear losing records and will be losing their general managers (at the very least) next season, who benefits from this game? You do, because the great Marv Albert, along with his compadre Rich Gannon, are assigned to this matchup. The team that embarrassed the Jets during their last home game in primetime, the New England Patriots, travel to Jacksonville to make jigsaw puzzle pieces out of the Jaguars, in a game that will be called by Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots. Also, the Oakland Raiders visit Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, and viewers watching this game will be greeted by Spero Dedes and former Panthers quarterback Steve Beuerlein. Well, I told you at the start of this paragraph that CBS was running three division games during this window, none bigger than Bengals/Steelers – and ain’t it the truth: the Kansas City Chiefs host the Indianapolis Colts (okay, so it won’t be all that bad with Andrew Luck involved – but it might get ugly in a hurry); Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker will work this game from Arrowhead Stadium. And you know CBS has a heavy NFL workload when they have to bring in Don Criqui to call a game; in this case, it’s Buffalo at Miami. Criqui will be joined by CBS college football analyst and current morning show co-host on CBS Radio’s new 92.9 The Game in Atlanta, Randy Cross (Criqui and Cross both called NFL games regularly on CBS for years). So the end of the world has not happened, which means people still have bills to pay – and of course, the matter is worse in upstate New York, where they still have to watch them.
FOX: The Dallas Cowboys, like the other 31 teams in the NFL, have aspirations of going to the Super Bowl, which this year takes place in New Orleans. But for the Cowboys, who are in a three-way logjam in first place in the NFC East, the road to New Orleans goes through – well, New Orleans, kinda. The Saints march into Jerry World, as will Kenny Albert, Daryl “Moose” Johnston and Tony Siragusa to interpret game action to viewers. And let’s just get this out of the way: the St. Louis Rams, who at 6-7-1 see the playoff glass half-empty, will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who themselves saw their playoff hopes dashed, in a half-full Raymond James Stadium; as a result, six of the Bucs’ eight home games on the season will be blacked out on local television. Still, Ron Pitts and former Rams coach Mike Martz will be working this one; how much the Bucs will work it is anyone’s guess. The road teams involved in these next two games could possibly be traveling to “Sunday Night Football” next week: The Philadelphia Eagles, who handed the Bucs a loss in the last game they were able to sell out at home, will be playing what is likely the final game in South Philly with one Andrew Walter Reid on the sidelines. And who better to yank the hot seat from under him but the Washington Redskins, winners of five straight games, four of them behind Robert Griffin III, who is slated to return under center this weekend. And returning to Lincoln Financial Field are Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick. The Redskins are one of three teams deadlocked in first place in the NFC East, and next week, they host the Cowboys, so chances are, that game will be flexed to primetime in Week 17. Or could it be the game in which Adrian Peterson might break a 28-year rushing record? Next week, the Minnesota Vikings will host the Packers, but first, the team led by their reliable running back must travel to Reliant Stadium to face another division winner, the AFC South-winning Houston Texans. If Peterson manages to rush for about 150 yards – he’ll only need about 150 more to break Eric Dickerson’s record – and also, if the Vikings manage to win the game, they might find themselves playing under the lights, not only for (possibly) a playoff berth, but history, as well. As for Vikings/Texans, this contest will be worked by Chris Myers and Tim Ryan. Gee, I wonder if Christian Ponder’s new wife, Austin resident Samantha Steele, is going to attend this game.
CBS: There’s just one game in CBS’ late window, and the only people that it matters to the most are gamblers and people who have Peyton Manning on their fantasy football team in the finals. That’s right, the Denver Broncos, who at this point of the season have as many wins (eleven) in the AFC West as the rest of the teams in the division combined, plan to put their winning streak into double digits against the Cleveland Browns. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts will call the game from Invesco High Authority, or whatever it’s called these days.
FOX: The third team in a three-way tie for first in the NFC East, the New York Giants, have coughed up sole ownership of the division lead, while the Baltimore Ravens, losers of three straight games, are in danger of doing it themselves in the AFC North. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman work this game which bears severe playoff implications in both conferences. And speaking of conferences – and bears - do you remember this?
This instant classic from then-Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green came after his team had lost a Monday nighter to the Chicago Bears, who had overcome a 20-0 halftime deficit, improving their undefeated record to 6-0. Fast forward to 2012, and over their last six games, the Bears are not who we thought they were, seeing a 7-1 record slip to 8-6, tied with the Vikings for second place in the NFC North. As for the team in the cellar of that division, the Detroit Lions, they had their asses crowned by the Cardinals last week (not bad for a team that lost by almost 60 points the previous week), and if this game, which will be worked by Dick Stockton and John Lynch, shows Arizona victorious for the second week in a row, well… I’ll just be waiting to see Lovie Smith surface as an analyst on NFL Network one day.
Information from the506.com was used in this post.