When was the last time a regular season football game in which a network’s No. 1 team was instilled to call its action, was blacked out locally?
Well, if it never happened before, history will be made this weekend, as CBS sends their “A” team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, where the Bills, losers of seven straight games after a promising start, host the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos, with one Tim Tebow under center. Make no mistake, Tebow is the one and only reason for the presence of Nantz and Simms at the game. (Did I mention the Bills have a seven-game losing streak?) Keep in mind that the Week 17 Sunday Night Football game has yet to be scheduled, but regardless of any games that may have playoff implications by then – should there be any – NBC is expected to flex the Broncos/Chiefs game, which may have some strong playoff implications itself… let’s just say NBC brass are going to be secretly rooting for the Chiefs to beat the Raiders, and the Lions to upend the Chargers on Christmas Eve… just sayin’. So you really can’t blame CBS for sending Nantz and Simms shuffin’ off to blacked-out Buffalo for one more guaranteed dose of Tebow Time. (Buffalo has lost seven in a row!)
Thus begins our penultimate rundown of regional action in the 2011 NFL season. May you and yours have a festive and healthy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or what have you.
FOX has the double-header this week.
CBS: In addition to the blacked-out Tebowmania affair in upstate New York, the rest of the games on CBS’ early game slate are all divisional matchups. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts will be in New England to call the Dolphins/Patriots matchup – you can bet had Tebow not been starting or, heaven forbid, were injured, Nantz and Simms would be calling this one. It bears mentioning that, upon the Broncos/Bills matchup being blacked out in Buffalo, the CBS stations in nearby Rochester and Syracuse switched to the Dolphins/Patriots game. Remember, the Patriots beat the Broncos just last week (in a game that could have been seen on NBC) ending a winning streak for Denver and Tebow… But this is not a case of WROC and WTVH playing favorites; because Rochester and Syracuse are within the 75-mile radius of Buffalo, they cannot show Broncos/Bills and must choose another game. Speaking of other games, Baltimore hosts Cleveland; that game will be handled by Spero Dedes and Rich Gannon. Meanwhile, Gannon’s old team, the Raiders, travel to Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs try to capitalize on their huge upset over the Green Bay Packers, derailing their perfect season; Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots will be in Kansas City for that one. And Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker host a rematch of the season opener between the Jaguars and Titans in Tennessee.
FOX: It’s the “Subway Bowl” – or, since the location is New Jersey, maybe it should be the “PATH Bowl”. Either way, New York’s Jets and Giants will square off as if they were the Jets and Sharks from “West Side Story.” Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa will cover this Gothamic game in East Rutherford, NJ. Also on the early game docket for Fox: The Rams take on the Steelers, still favored by two touchdowns despite the reported absence of Ben Roethlisberger due to injury; Dick Stockton and John Lynch will be at Heinz Field in a game that will likely find St. Louis playing a lot of “catchup”… get it? Usually, when you think Thom Brenneman calling an Arizona/Cincinnati game, you think Diamondbacks/Reds. It’s actually Cardinals/Bengals – but he’ll take it, as will Brian Billick. Meanwhile, Chris Myers and Tim Ryan will be in D.C. to call the Vikings/Redskins game. And in the lone divisional matchup offering on Fox’s early game slate, it’s the late-season-swooning Buccaneers traveling to Charlotte to take on the Panthers; that game will be called by San Rosen and Chad Pennington (think Chad would rather be calling Jets/Giants?).
CBS: The lone late game on CBS’ Christmas Eve plate will see the Chargers in Detroit to tame the Lions, in a game that will be called by Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf. This is kind of a bizarro reverse of last week; Fox’s only Week 15 late game involved the Lions and another West Coast team, but it was in Oakland. Chargers/Lions will be seen by about 35% of the country, including Los Angeles – apparently, KCBS is picking “Feliz Norv-idad” (hat tip to Tom Waddle for that phrase) over Tebow Time. By the way: noticeably absent from this week’s batch of CBS games is Marv Albert; here’s hoping he enjoys his holiday weekend… perhaps watching his brother call the New York/New York game on Fox.
FOX: Twitter neophyte Joe Buck will be in “Jerry World” in Dallas with Cowboys legend Troy Aikman for an NFC East showdown between the Eagles and the Cowboys, two teams that are both fighting for their playoff lives. The result of this game, as well as Jets/Giants earlier in the day, has major implications on the Giants/Cowboys game in Week 17, and perhaps the Eagles/Redskins finale if Philly is still in the hunt. (That said, NBC is also likely secretly rooting for the Cowboys to sew up the division this week, so the decision to flex Tebow, er, Broncos/Chiefs into primetime in week 17 will be an easier one.) The other late game in the Fox window is another divisional matchup, in which the NFC West-leading 49ers could eliminate the Seahawks from the playoffs – but they’ll have to do so in Seattle. Ron Pitts and Charles Davis will call this game from Qwest Field.
Information from the506.com was used in this post.