A Ringing Endorsement For Warren Sapp

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp will be inducted into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ring of Honor on Monday, November 11. Sapp played defenstive tackle for the Bucs for nine seasons.

NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp will be inducted into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor on Monday, November 11. Sapp played defensive tackle for the Bucs for nine seasons.

2013 is turning out to be a banner year for Warren Sapp.

And a welcome one, considering the hellish 2012 he’s endured.

Just three months after he was voted into this year’s class of Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees, the team that made his NFL career possible, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who drafted him 12th overall in 1995, is inducting him into their Ring of Honor – a ring whose occupants will actually double, with the late Lee Roy Selmon being its lone inductee (2009).

Sapp will have his number 99 retired during the Buccaneers’ first Monday night game since the post-Hank Williams, Jr. era abruptly began. The ceremony will take place at halftime of the Bucs’ matchup with the Miami Dolphins on November 11. Everything about this is symbolic, not only because Sapp’s alma mater was the University of Miami, but Sapp is also known to tweet “11:11 Yes Zirr” at 11:11 local time on any given day.

“Full circle for me,” Sapp, currently an NFL Network analyst, opined on “NFL Total Access” last week. “11/11, 99 in the rafters… hanging over the stadium… what can be better than that?”

One thing that doesn’t top it is the New York Jets’ current quarterback situation. During Sapp’s appearance on “Total Access” on the day of the Ring of Honor announcement, host Andrew Siciliano threw some red meat at him in the form of the circus that is Gang Green.

“I tell all my Jet fans, relax: you have a Florida boy at the helm,” Sapp said of recently drafted quarterback Geno Smith. “Don’t worry, Geno got you covered. You’re in good hands, Rich,” he added, tweaking colleague Rich Eisen.

One thing that would make this year a true blessing for Sapp is if the network extended his contract long term. You may recall around this time last year that NFLN was reportedly dropping him from their squad; obviously, that never materialized. I would think this is the perfect time for NFLN and Sapp to agree to a new deal that would give him financial security for the foreseeable future, now that his bankruptcy case is behind him. I think he’s learned his lesson for calling players “snitches” on their air.

But you know what the best thing about being inducted into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor is?

Unlike the Super Bowl and national championship rings he won with the Bucs and the Miami Hurricanes, respectively, Warren Sapp can’t lose this one.

Time To Panic In Tampa? 98.7 The Fan Unplugs Gary Shelton

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tampa Bay Times sportswriter Gary Shelton is the latest in a long line of personnel to exit "98.7 The Fan," which continues to see a large number of empty seats, as far as ratings go.

Tampa Bay Times sportswriter Gary Shelton is the latest in a long line of personnel to exit “98.7 The Fan,” which continues to see a large number of empty seats, as far as ratings go.

If you’ve been following the radio business over the last few years, you’ll know that CBS Radio has a penchant for launching sports talk stations on the FM dial in several markets, as well as migrating preexisting AM sports radio stations to the FM band (e.g. New York’s WFAN).

And usually, CBS Radio has a great track record when it comes to FM sports talk. Perhaps their biggest success story is in Boston, where WBZ-FM/”98.5 The Sports Hub” unseated the perennial sports radio leader in the market, WEEI, to the point that they’ve recently made drastic changes, including parting ways with longtime sports host Glenn Ordway.

But after just over half a year, it appears that the FM sports radio experiment in Tampa Bay appears to be going over as well as Alvin Harper’s tenure with the Buccaneers.

At first, WHFS-FM/”98.7 The Fan” launched with live and local sports talk around the clock, including notables such as former ESPN and Yahoo! Sports Radio host Todd Wright, Tampa Bay Lightning hockey analyst Chris Dingman, and Nanci Donnellan, best known as “The Fabulous Sports Babe.”

But just about a decade removed from the Bucs winning their first Super Bowl, “The Fan” appeared to be showing qualities very unlike a champion behind the scenes. The station’s first program director, Mike Pepper, who’s been a part of the CBS/Tampa cluster since the company’s original local sports talk effort on AM 1010 (which is now a 24/7 feed of the CBS Sports Radio Network), made a lateral move by taking a sales job within the company, before leaving CBS altogether. Also, Wright, originally co-host of the “Fan” afternoon drive show upon its launch, but moved to evenings just months later, announced his abrupt departure from the station. It was right around that time that WHFS-FM began simulcasting the nationally syndicated “Jim Rome Show” – also heard, of course, on WHFS-AM.

And now, today comes word that one half of the midday show on “The Fan,” Tampa Bay Times sportswriter Gary Shelton, has exited the station. He was informed after his show with Justin Pawlowski that today’s edition would be his last.

“It was a wonderfully positive experience that ended badly,” Shelton told, well, his colleague, Eric Deggans. “Right now, I’m not sure of any future in radio, [but] I have a future in newspapers.”

Shelton suspects that the high number of frequent flyer miles he collects while covering sports for the Times may have contributed to his demise, but the station didn’t confirm the reason for his dismissal. “I assume it had something to do with that and they didn’t tell me.”

Just to give you an idea of how much of a traveling sports reporter Shelton is: On “The Fan’s” first day on the air, August 2, 2012, during a two-hour program introducing listeners to the people that they will hear on this new FM sports station, Shelton phoned in live from London, where he was covering the Olympics for the Times. And Deggans says Shelton will be away from Tampa during the next few weeks, as he covers the NCAA tournament, as well as the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, GA.

Whatever the reason for Shelton’s mysterious ouster, it can’t be for the fact that he’s a sportswriter. For just over a year, the leading sports radio station in Tampa, Clear Channel’s 620 WDAE, has had a morning show consisting of, not one, but two Tampa Bay Times sports columnists in Tom Jones and Rick Stroud. “The Sports Page” has been WDAE’s morning show since the station fired Dan Sileo (which, by the way, today is the one-year anniversary of that).

So how much of a leader in the format is WDAE in Tampa? In the February PPM, they outrate WHFS-FM 3-to-1 (2.1 vs. 0.7). In fairness, while “98.7 The Fan” has fluctuated between 0.4 and 0.7 in recent PPM’s, WDAE has seen its share drop from 2.7 in December (which might be expected as the station is the flagship station of the Bucs). The next Tampa PPM is released next week.

When I first wrote about the coming of Tampa’s first FM sports talk station, I speculated that Buccaneers legend and newly-minted Hall Of Famer Warren Sapp would be one of the personalities heard there. Now, because I want to see the station succeed, I’m simply lobbying for it to happen. We know that it’s possible for sports network figures to simultaneously hold down radio shows. And we also know that Sapp could use a little more coin these days.

Look: when a radio station launches a new format, it could take time for it to build an audience. Lord knows “98.5 The Sports Hub” in Boston wasn’t an overnight sensation by any means, but here they are, scaring the 850-pound gorilla WEEI, now a shabby 93.7, off its perch and into a frenzy.

There seems to be a consistent aura of woe and uncertainty at “98.7 The Fan.” A lot of it could be due to the fact that they’ve barely made inroads against the AM station that’s been around the block for years. Perhaps they expected to get no smaller than a 1 share by default, since they’re on the FM dial.

What the station needs is a person that can inspire all of the personnel that work there, not just the hosts. It needs a person that can reinforce what teamwork is all about. It needs a person that can explain from firsthand experience, how to be a winner.

That person is Warren Sapp. If he can right the Buccaneers’ pirate ship, imagine what the NFL Network analyst can do on the air for three hours a day.

Come on, CBS. Make it happen.

Regional Roundup: NFL Week 17

 

Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will be working a game featuring the New England Patriots for the sixth time this season, when the Pats host the Miami Dolphins from Foxboro.

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?

EARLY GAMES

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.

LATE GAMES

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.

Regional Roundup: NFL Week 16

Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green lashed out after losing a game at home to the Chicago Bears in 2006. These teams meet in Glendale once again this weekend.

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.

EARLY GAMES

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.

LATE GAMES

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.

Regional Roundup: NFL Week 15

The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Dallas Cowboys in Texas, the Cowboys’ starting quarterback was 1986 Heisman Tropy winner Vinny Testaverde (or, if you prefer, Vinny Football). This week, his eventual successor, Tony Romo, battles Ben Roethlisberger.

First and foremost, prayers to everyone related to the victims in what was confirmed to be the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history – yes, even more than Columbine – that took place in Newtown, Connecticut.

As Roger Goodell says, back to football. But not in San Diego, where the Chargers will once again be blacked out. And the Oakland Raiders might be joining them, as they have been granted an extension to sell out their game this weekend. Any updates will be posted in this space. It’s a CBS doubleheader weekend, except for San Diego, even as it’s a Fox Chargers game, as league rules prohibit a network doubleheader being in effect in markets where a team’s game is blacked out locally.

EARLY GAMES

CBS: Hard to believe that CBS has the doubleheader, despite having three less games to work with than Fox. But most of them are going to be thrilling to watch. The Denver Broncos will be taking their seven-game winning streak to Baltimore, where the Ravens, after a two-game slide, recently fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and named his replacement, Jim Caldwell – who I’m sure Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning knows a thing or two about, as Caldwell had been a coach on Manning’s former team, the Indianapolis Colts, for a decade, including three of them as the head coach. Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf will work this game from Charm City. As for those Colts, led by their charming rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, they’ve been on a tear, threatening the Houston Texans for the top spot in the AFC South division – there’s just one problem: in their previous thirteen games, the Colts haven’t played the Texans – and they’ll be in Houston this weekend, as will Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts. A Colts victory in Houston would certainly make their Week 17 rematch an early favorite to be flexed into this season’s “Sunday Night Football” finale. And you know what hasn’t been featured on “SNF” in awhile? A football team from Florida: the Sunshine State was last represented by the Miami Dolphins in Week 4 of 2010. This week, two Florida teams will be facing off, as the Fins host the Jacksonville Jaguars. And yes, this game will be thrilling because it will be called by the great Marv Albert, along with Rich Gannon.

FOX: Color me shocked. When Fox up and protected a three-game stretch of games involving the New York Giants this month, I was convinced that Joe Buck, who went so far as to agree to call both a Giants/49ers game from San Francisco, before taking a cable car to AT&T Park to work a World Series game with the San Francisco baseball Giants, would be all over them. As it turns out, Buck and his booth buddy Troy Aikman will actually be in Soldier Field for a divisional showdown between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. So that rematch of last year’s wild card playoff game between the Giants and the Atlanta Falcons – in which the Falcons scored all of two points – will be worked by the trio of Kenny Albert, Daryl “Moose” Johnston and Tony Siragusa. And there will be yet another divisional tilt taking place in New Orleans, as the Saints host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who saw their playoff hopes all but dashed last week by the Philadelphia Eagles, who ended their eight-game losing streak on a day in which the Bucs celebrated the tenth anniversary of their Super Bowl team – a Super Bowl trip that was denied to the Eagles (who, by the way, went back to their losing ways on Thursday night). Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick will be working this game. Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson, who is charging to break rushing records this season, will be leading his Minnesota Vikings to Missouri, hoping to upend the St. Louis Rams and say, “show me the playoffs!” (Because Missouri is the Show Me State, you see.) Assigned to this game are none other than Gus Johnson and Charles Davis. And just days after enduring ESPN’s Rob Parker calling him out as a “cornball brother” (he’s since been suspended for those remarks), Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins will face a true endurance test as they play a Cleveland Browns team that has won three straight games. Ron Pitts and Mike Martz will work this game from the Dawg Pound – I understand Parker will be watching this one from the doghouse.

LATE GAMES

CBS: Last season, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms called two Cowboys games: a Week 10 matchup with the Bills, and of course, the Thanksgiving contest with the Dolphins in Week 12. This week, the duo returns to Jerry World as the Cowboys host the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have won their last two matchups with Dallas. (Bonus: Watch this recap of the 1994 season opener for the Cowboys and the Steelers, from ESPN B.F.T. – or Before First Take.) The fifth and final game on CBS’ menu this weekend is the Kansas City Chiefs vs. the Oakland Raiders, which will be worked by Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots.

FOX: Dick Stockton and John Lynch will be shuffling off to… Toronto? Yep, it’s that time again where a Buffalo Bills home game is farmed out to Canada. This week, the Bills “host” the Seattle Seahawks, fresh off of a thumping of the Arizona Cardinals by nearly sixty points. (Question: Suppose the game didn’t sell out in the Great White North – would that mean Western New York wouldn’t get to see it?) I’m surprised that the Cardinals’ next home game isn’t blacked out after that debacle last week, and this week, they play host (without quotation marks, this time) to the high-flying Detroit Lions, in a game that will be called by Chris Myers and Tim Ryan, and shown virtually only in the states of Arizona and Michigan. As you know, around this time, fantasy football is in playoff mode, and I know several people that plan on using the Lions defense this week, so I’ll just say this: If the Cardinals win this one, there are going to be a lot of angry people calling for Jim Schwartz to be fired after this season. And speaking of head coaches getting fired, Norv Turner will be on the sidelines for his penultimate home game as head coach of the San Diego Chargers, who this week will play a team that actually has a record worse than theirs, the Carolina Panthers. In other words, expect Cam Newton to “charge” up the scoreboard. This game will be worked by Sam Rosen and Heath Evans, and televised only in the Carolinas – so if this becomes a blowout early, don’t be surprised if they start paying tribute to Andy Griffith at some point.

Information from the506.com was used in this post.

Regional Roundup: NFL Week 14

Weeks removed from working college football games, Gus Johnson and Charles Davis are together again, as they have been assigned this weekend’s Atlanta Falcons/Carolina Panthers NFL matchup.

Gus. Is. Back. Your regional roundup for week 14, a week in which Fox has the doubleheader.

EARLY GAMES

CBS: The San Diego Chargers announced this week that they will remove the “stickum” from head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith at the end of the season. But first, they’ll play out the string, starting with a trip to Heinz Field, and a Pittsburgh Steelers team that gets Ben Roethlisberger back. Also returning to Pittsburgh for the first time in just over a year are Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. Had the New York Jets been playing good – or playing Tim Tebow – you’d probably expect the duo to work that game. Alas, both the Jets and their next opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, are two teams headed to the top ten in the 2013 NFL Draft, and Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots are stuck with that game. But it could be worse: Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker are calling the Kansas City Chiefs/Cleveland Browns tilt. Meanwhile, Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts are assigned a divisional matchup between the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts. And there’s also a Beltway battle brewing, as the Washington Redskins, winner of three straight games against all three NFC East rivals, bring their business to Baltimore and plan on shooing the Ravens, and who better than the great Marv Albert and Rich Gannon to call that contest.

FOX: The day after New Year’s Day 2011. That was the last time Gus Johnson called a regular season NFL game for his former employer, CBS. Since then, he’s moved on to Fox, and with the college football regular season all but wrapped up for the year, guess what? Gus is planning to work a few pro football games before the end of the year. Starting with a divisional showdown between the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons and the NFC South-cellar dwelling Carolina Panthers – okay, so it won’t really be a showdown, but when Gus Johnson’s calling the game, it’ll sound like a conference championship game. Gus is joined by Charles Davis, who also has some spare time after the end of the college football regular season (though he did pinch hit on short notice and little sleep for the ailing Brian Billick a couple of weeks ago). The bigger division matchup in Fox’s early game window will take place in Minneapolis,  where the recently-engaged Christian Ponder and his Minnesota Vikings host Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears, and you can hear Kenny Albert, Daryl “Moose” Johnston and Tony Siragusa work that game. Plus, one week after they couldn’t sell out the joint vs. the Jaguars, the Bills will be playing the St. Louis Rams in a game that will apparently be televised in Buffalo, and will certainly be called by Ron Pitts and Mike Martz. Also, the Cincinnati Bengals, winners of four straight, host the Dallas Cowboys, whom NFL Network analyst Heath Evans thinks will lose their next four games. As for this game, it’ll be handled by Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick. And the Philadelphia Eagles, losers of eight straight games, head to Florida to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’ll be a special game – no, not because it’s only the second time all season that the Bucs have sold out a home game, but at this game, the team will be honoring the Super Bowl XXXVII-winning team from ten years ago, and many personnel associated with that team, including Jon Gruden, former Bucs head coach – and according to the rumor mill, future Eagles head coach. Wouldn’t that be awkward. For those unable to be in attendance, you can hear Dick Stockton and John Lynch call this one – and yes, that includes you in the Tampa area, too. I tell you, it would have been disappointing if the Buccaneers didn’t sell out this game, not just because of the Super Bowl remembrance festivities, but the fact that they’re in the hunt for a wild card berth in the playoffs. After this game, the Bucs have just one more home game remaining, right before Christmas, against the Rams. It’s too soon right now to determine if this will be sold out – but, hey, if the freakin’ Bills can sell out a home game against the Rams… (By the way, in other blackout news, the Oakland Raiders did sell out their Thursday night game this week – thus continuing a streak of games not locally blacked out on Thursday nights since the package started on NFL Network seven years ago.)

LATE GAMES

CBS: Just one late game in the Eyeball window for this week, and it’ll be in the other Bay area – San Francisco, of course. This week, the 49ers, coached by “Saved By The Bell” bit actor Jim Harbaugh, host the Miami Dolphins, famous for a cameo in the Jim Carrey movie “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”, among other things. Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf will work this game.

FOX: Last week in this space, I told you that Fox had protected all of the next three New York Giants contests. So clearly, it’s a no-brainer that Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are going to work each and every one of them. First, the Giants host the New Orleans Saints, a team B&A called just two weeks ago vs. the 49ers. Both the Giants and the Saints played each other last year, too, in New Orleans on a Monday night. And Chris Myers and Tim Ryan head to the Pacific Northwest to call the Arizona Cardinals/Seattle Seahawks contest. The Cardinals are reported to be traveling in that direction as well; no word if they’ll actually play in that game, though.

Information from the506.com was used in this post.

Regional Roundup: NFL Week 13

It will be the first time in two years that Peyton Manning will be playing a game on Fox. Here he is in 2010 with his old team, the Indianapolis Colts, escaping the Dallas Cowboys’ DeMarcus Ware.

It’s a doubleheader week for CBS – but they’ll be working a bit shorthanded as nearly half of their games scheduled to be telecast will be blacked out locally due to low ticket sales (and no, the Buccaneers are playing in Denver, so that’s not one of the games). More info as you read on…

EARLY GAMES

CBS: The New England Patriots are just .500 in Miami in the Bill Belichick era. So expect Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf to call a competitive game between the Pats and the Dolphins. Up in Detroit, the Lions host their second straight AFC opponent in a row (which means the Lions have two CBS games back-to-back), as they look to take their aggression from that turkey of a call during that Thanksgiving game with the Houston Texans out on the Indianapolis Colts. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts will work this game. As for those aforementioned Texans, they’re on the road in Tennessee for a division showdown with the Titans that will be called by Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots. And our first blackout victim of this weekend is the Bills, who have most recently had a couple of games blacked out in Buffalo last December – including a game against the Denver Broncos, featuring one Tim Tebow, in a game in which he threw a career-high three interceptions (or half his pick output for the entire year). As of Saturday morning, still no word of what game the Buffalo CBS affiliate will air in place of the Bills’ contest with the Jacksonville Jaguars (the first of four straight weeks of AFC East opponents for the Jags) but if their neighbors to the east, Rochester and Syracuse, are going with the Patriots/Dolphins tilt, I would expect Buffalo to do so, as well. For those in the Binghamton, Elmira and Watertown areas of New York State, as well as Orlando and the “Panhandle” area, Spero Dedes and Steve Beuerlein have been assigned to your game.

FOX: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman return to Lambeau Field for the 103rd meeting between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers. I guess I should note here that Fox has protected all three of the New York Giants’ games over the next three weeks – so I think I have a good idea of where their A-team will be turning up for the rest of the month. (The Giants play the Redskins on Monday night.) There’s another division faceoff on the Fox menu as the St. Louis Rams look to avenge their tie against the San Francisco 49ers – or is it, the 49ers look to avenge their tie against the Rams? Anyway, Kenny Albert, Daryl “Moose” Johnston and Tony Siragusa will work the game in St. Louis. As for the duo that worked that tie game a few weeks ago, Chris Myers and Tim Ryan, they’ll be in Soldier Field, as the Chicago Bears host the Seattle Seahawks, in a battle of two teams that are virtually undefeated at home; unfortunately for the Seahawks, they’ll be without their “12th man.” Also, we send our wishes to Brian Billick, who was a late scratch for last week’s Falcons/Buccaneers game due to a back issue, one that he vowed would not impede his ability to analyze future games. And with that, we now wish good luck to him and Thom Brennaman, as they now have to work a contest between the Arizona Cardinals and the New York Jets, a couple of reeling franchises of late. But perhaps not as pathetic as the Carolina Panthers and the Kansas City Chiefs, who will also be squaring off against each other, and Ron Pitts and Mike Martz interpreting game action to viewers. Remarkably, the 1-10 Chiefs have continued to have their home games sell out, thus their games airing locally. Sadly, the same cannot be said about teams with substantially better records…

LATE GAMES

CBS: There are three games in CBS’ late game window, and two of the them will be blacked out locally. First, the Oakland Raiders will snap their consecutive home sellout streak with a game against the Cleveland Browns; for those in the Chico and Fresno areas of California as well as western Nevada and northern Ohio able to view the game, you will hear Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker with the play-by-play. Meanwhile, the San Diego Chargers will suffer their third straight blackout this season as their game against the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that’s no stranger to local blackouts, also fell short of a sellout. The great Marv Albert and Rich Gannon will be working this game, one that will be shown only in most of Ohio, central Kentucky, southeast Indiana, Bakersfield ans Santa Barbara, CA, and Yuma, AZ. In lieu of their home team, both the Oakland and San Diego areas will be switched to the second contest in three weeks betweem the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, which will be worked by CBS’ A-team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.

FOX: For the first and only time all season, Peyton Manning will get some Fox time. All four of the Denver Broncos’ games against NFC South teams have been evenly distributed: a road game vs. the Falcons on ESPN, a home game vs. the Saints on NBC, and a road game vs. the Panthers on CBS. So finally, for the first time in almost exactly two years since Buck and Aikman called a Cowboys/Colts contest in Week 13 of 2010, Manning will be in action in a game on Fox, and Dick Stockton and John Lynch will be calling it. This week, the Broncos host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lynch actually played for both teams, though many (myself included) tend to forget about the final four seasons with the Broncos that rounded out his fifteen-year career; he’ll more than likely enter the Hall of Fame as a Buccaneer. The Los Angeles market was initially given this game, but opted for 49ers/Rams. Interestingly, they weren’t given the Vikings/Packers game by default; it’ll be the first time since Week 3 that Buck/Brennaman and Aikman will not be working a game that will be shown in the No. 2 market.

For those wondering, this will be the first time in two years that there were three blackouts in a single weekend.

Information from the506.com was used in this post.