We’ve once again reached the final week of the regular season of the NFL. And so, as 2012 becomes 2013, 32 teams become 12 (with four of them on a bye week). And each and every game will be on Sunday. No Monday night game, and no Thursday night game. And the Sunday night game, as first speculated here, is going to be Cowboys/Redskins for the NFC East division title. And yes, both CBS and Fox have doubleheaders, except in markets where a team will be hosting a game, or a team fails to sell enough tickets (hello, Buffalo!). The SportsFans.org website actually tallied a grand total of fourteen games being blacked out locally this season, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers leading the way with six blackouts. The San Diego Chargers are right behind them with four games – but they won’t be adding (subtracting?) to that total this year, as their home finale (which will likely be the finale of Norv Turner’s coaching career and A.J. Smith’s general managing career in San Diego) against the Oakland Raiders has been sold out. I guess they’re happy to see Norv and A.J. go, huh?
CBS: Virtually everybody west of U.S. Route 31 will be watching the Houston Texans play the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium, a.k.a. The House That Peyton Built. And Peyton’s eventual successor, Andrew Luck, is no Wally Pipp, potentially leading his team to a playoff berth in his rookie season. Just two weeks ago in Houston, the Texans defeated the Colts, clinching the AFC South division. Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf call this rematch. Of course, every single game on this weekend’s roster is a rematch, as they’re all games between division rivals. Remember back in Week 1, when Mark Sanchez and the Jets blew out the Bills in New Jersey? Well, as you read in the opening paragraph, Western New York wants no part of the Jets again, which means Marv Albert and Rich Gannon will be working a game that will only be seen in New York City and Albany and their surrounding areas. Reminds me of last season, when the great Marv Albert did a Jets/Eagles game, while most of the rest of the country watched the Patriots vs. the Broncos (and Tim Tebow). The Cincinnati Bengals, who were notorious for games being blacked out last year, only had one such game this season – and it was their win against the reigning Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants. This week, the Bengals face the team that just beat said Giants last week, the Baltimore Ravens, and Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots are assigned to that game. The Pittsburgh Steelers, another AFC North team that defeated the G-Men this year, host the Cleveland Browns, in a game that will be called by Spero Dedes and Steve Beuerlein. And in a game that has no playoff implications whatsoever, the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) take on the Tennessee Titans (5-10), and for those who have the will to watch it, especially now that Maurice Jones-Drew just went on injured reserve, you’ll hear Don Criqui and Randy Cross interpreting game action for you.
FOX: Looks like the NFC North is going to be split between Fox’s top broadcast booths. First, the trio of Kenny Albert, Daryl “Moose” Johnston and Tony Siragusa will work a game between the Chicago Bears, who are in danger of missing the playoffs, and the Detroit Lions, whose current losing streak pretty much puts an end to any playoff aspirations they may have had this year. Two more teams that also had playoff aspirations this season: the Philadelphia Eagles, who will likely part ways with head coach Andy Reid next week and quarterback Michael Vick next year, and the New York Giants, who have parted ways with the desire to win football games over the past couple of months. Earlier this year on a Sunday nighter in Philly, the Eagles beat the Giants; it would be the last game they would win until they got off the schneid in Tampa earlier this month. The rematch will be worked by Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick, the former Ravens head coach who has been rumored to assume Reid’s job next year. The other two matchups in Fox’s early game window all involve the NFC South division. The Atlanta Falcons, who clinched the division and the number one seed in the NFC overall, entertain the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; working this game will be Dick Stockton and former Buc John Lynch. And the Carolina Panthers travel to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (not in Benzes, I’m assuming) to take on the New Orleans Saints; assigned to this matchup are Ron Pitts and Mike Martz, who never worked for the Saints, though he did coach the St. Louis Rams.
CBS: For the sixth time this season, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will be working a game involving the New England Patriots. The six-pack includes a trip to jolly ol’ England, as you recall. This week, the also-rans in last year’s Super Bowl host the Miami Dolphins. For the record, Gumbel and Dierdorf worked their previous matchup back in Week 13. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts actually called a Patriots game this season (granted, it was against a lesser opponent) and this week, they’ll be in Denver, where the Broncos, behind Peyton Manning, will face the Kansas City Chiefs (poor Ian and Dan). And calling the Oakland Raiders/San Diego Chargers game that will not be blacked out in Baja California are Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker (poor Bill and Steve).
FOX: This week’s Green Bay Packers/Minnesota Vikings game is assigned to the A-team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, and for good reason: Adrian Peterson could break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. He needs about 200 yards to do so – which, given AP’s body of work, isn’t entirely impossible, but perhaps he can run the Vikings into the postseason, as a playoff berth is also on the line for Minnesota. As you read last week, this game was also a candidate, in my view, of being flexed into Sunday night this week. The St. Louis Rams and the Seattle Seahawks, who ended the regular season in NBC’s Sunday night spotlight two years ago – and could have possibly done so again this season, especially if a “win or go home” situation presented itself – will settle for Chris Myers and Tim Ryan instead of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. And speaking of notable announcers, Gus Johnson will once again get the call for an NFL game, as he and Charles Davis work the regular season finale for the playoff-bound San Francisco 49ers and the January-could-not-come-soon-enough Arizona Cardinals.
My next roundup will be in roughly ten weeks, when NCAA March Madness once again takes its toll. Thanks for reading.
Information from the506.com was used in this post.