Only 129 Shopping Days ‘Till Christmas

Yes, I know it’s only May, and actual Christmas is way farther out than that.  But to a pro football fan, the annual announcement of the official NFL schedule is the unwrapping of a present that will take them way beyond Christmas and officially begins the countdown to the start of what will likely be the most-watched professional season of live sports in history.

If you think that statement was pure hyperbole, consider this:  In 2022, in a year where plenty of new episodes of entertainment television was readily available, more than 80 per cent of the most-watched telecasts on anything anywhere were NFL games.  At the rate things are moving with the WGA strike and, more than likely, subsequent actions taken either in solidarity or as their unions’ contracts expire later this summer, there will be far fewer of those options available.  And in a non-election year, short of a catastrophic world event little else in news even offers a smattering of the upside potential of the National Football League.

As yesterday’s announcement detailed, the league’s partners have opened up still more national windows for games amd with renewed interest in New York teams, opportunties for viewers from the top market are enhanced.  Aaron Rodgers’ presence as Jets’ quarterback has made them relevant enough both to open up ESPN’s Monday Night Football schedule– on 9/11 against Buffalo in at home, no less–and become the first Black Friday game in Prime Video’s history with another divisional opponent at home (Miami).

Not to be outdone, the Giants will visit the Philadelphia Eagles on Christmas Day afternoon, part of a tripleheader strategy that succeesfully challenged the NBA’s dominance on that day on a traditional Sunday last year, that will now be played out on a Monday.  They will have a rematch just two weeks later in New Jersey in the season finale, which the league only hopes will have relevance.

Earlier on Christmas morning, Nickelodeon and corporate sibling CBS will give kids a real present to unwrap, a potentially key divisional wrapup between the Raiders and the defending champion Chiefs in Kansas City.  Saddled with mediocre games in the past seasons, this one actually could matter, and the creative, fun environment NFL Slimetime is presented in, coupled with yet another network partner, opens up opportunities for cumulative viewership in demographics often not seen by those other 80-something highly-rated games.

And the Thursday night games on Prime Video, which struggled both with meeting estimates and expectations after early success, will have the same capacity for late-season flexing that the top-rated NBC Sunday night package has.  It may be disruptive to teams and fans who will need to shift their planning at the drop of a hat from a six-day week to a three-day week, and could result in a flurry of StubHub activity both good and bad in the impacted cities.  Fans in Dallas, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Los Angeles (Rams) and Cleveland should be on notice that they may need to keep Sundays in December open just in case.

And there will now be five early morning games in England and Germany in October and November, including back-to-back games for the suddenly relevant Jacksonville Jaguars in London in October.  Those weekends will create a de facto quadrupleheader that will give fans the chance to watch games from 9:30 am through just before midnight.  The Jaguars will need to relocate for two seasons beginning in 2025 while TIAA Stadium undergoes significant renovations.  Wanna take bets that London might be a temporary home and a de facto testing ground for full-time international expansion?

And speaking of bets, yes, with a schedule announcement comes opening lines.  ESPN published the first lines from Caesar’s Sportsbook just after they devoted air time to what amounted to the release of a pdf.  For those so inclined:

Week 1 lines

 Detroit Lions at Kansas City Chiefs
Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City

Line: Chiefs (-7)
Money line: Chiefs (-285), Lions (+228)
Total: 54.0 points

 Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Line: Falcons (-3)
Money line: Falcons (-155), Panthers (+130)
Total: 43 points

 Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore

Line: Ravens (-9.5)
Money line: Ravens (-440), Texans (+335)
Total: 45.0 points

 Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland

Line: Bengals (-2.5)
Money line: Bengals (-135), Browns (+115)
Total: 47 points

 Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

Line: Jaguars (-4)
Money line: Jaguars (-190), Colts (+158)
Total: 43.0 points

 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

Line: Vikings (-7)
Money line: Vikings (-292), Buccaneers (+235)
Total: 45.5 points

 Tennessee Titans at New Orleans Saints
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, Caesars Superdome, New Orleans

Line: Saints (-3.5)
Money line: Saints (-178), Titans (+150)
Total: 42 points

 San Francisco 49ers at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

Line: 49ers (-3)
Money line: 49ers (-160), Steelers (+135)
Total: 41.5 points

 Arizona Cardinals at Washington Commanders
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, FedExField, Landover

Line: Commanders (-5.5)
Money line: Commanders (-240), Cardinals (+196)
Total: 40.5 points

 Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Soldier Field, Chicago

Line: Bears (-3)
Money line: Bears (-140), Packers (+118)
Total: 44.5 points

 Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Empower Field at Mile High

Line: Broncos (-3)
Money line: Broncos (-165), Raiders (+140)
Total: 44.5 points

 Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, SoFi Stadium, Inglewood

Line: Chargers (-2.5)
Money line: Chargers (-140), Dolphins (+118)
Total:  49.5 points

 Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough

Line: Eagles (-5)
Money line: Eagles (-220), Patriots (+180)
Total: 46.0 points

 Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Lumen Field, Seattle

Line: Rams (-5)
Money line: 
Seahawks (-225), Rams (+185)

Total: 47.0 points

 Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford

Line: Cowboys (-2)
Money line: Cowboys (-140), Giants (+118)
Total: 47.0 points

 Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

Line: Bills (-1)
Money line: Bills (-125), Jets (+105)
Total: 47.0 points

Remember, bet with your head, not over it.

See you in 129 days.  Or less.


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