Three appearances each by marquee NFL teams, the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears and the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers; the much-anticipated opening of the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Week 2; all 12 of last season’s playoff teams; and storied rivalries including Patriots-Colts, four NFC East games, Chicago-Green Bay at Lambeau, Pittsburgh-Baltimore and New England-Miami highlight the “NBC Sunday Night Football” schedule as the league today announced its 2009 slate of games.
Highlights of “NBC Sunday Night Football” schedule:
· All 12 NFL playoff teams from last season are featured.
· Fourteen of NBC’s 16 scheduled games involve at least one playoff team from last season; 8 of 16 include two playoff teams; three of the 16 games are playoff rematches from last season.
· Sixteen of the 17 teams playing on “Sunday Night Football” had .500 or better records, 14 of 17 had winning records.
· Giants at Cowboys to open the $1.1 billion Dallas Cowboys Stadium and a rematch of the most viewed game ever on “Sunday Night Football.” The stadium features the world’s largest scoreboard 60 yards long and has been called the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” The scoreboard itself cost more than the $40 million it cost to build Texas Stadium nearly 40 years ago. Last year’s Cowboys victory over the Giants on “Sunday Night Football” was the No. 1 primetime program on network TV last season among Adults 18-49 and drew 23.1 million viewers.
· Three appearances from six marquee teams: the Super Bowl XLIII champion Steelers (Chargers, Titans, Ravens), the Super Bowl XLII champion Giants (Cowboys, Cardinals, Eagles), Dallas (all against NFC East rivals including the home opener in their new stadium), Indianapolis (Arizona, Tennessee, New England), Chicago (Green Bay, Atlanta, Philadelphia) and Philadelphia (Dallas, Chicago, New York Giants).
· Six games involving one of the Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli.
· Quarterback duels between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, Peyton and Kurt Warner, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger and Donovan McNabb and Jay Cutler.
· The 177th regular-season meeting between the two oldest NFL franchises when the Chicago Bears visit the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on the first Sunday of the season. The Bears and Packers have played each other more than any two teams in NFL history.
· Four matchups among bitter NFC East rivals: Giants-Cowboys, Cowboys-Eagles, Eagles-Giants and Cowboys-Redskins.
· A rematch of last year’s hard-hitting AFC Championship game between the Steelers and the Ravens and last year’s AFC divisional playoff game between the Steelers and the Chargers.
· The first appearances on “NBC Sunday Night Football” by the NFC Champion Cardinals as they host the Colts and travel to the Meadowlands to face the Giants.
· The first “NBC Sunday Night Football” visits to Miami, Tennessee and Atlanta.
DICK EBERSOL, CHAIRMAN, NBC SPORTS: “For the first time, the ‘Sunday Night Football’ schedule features all of last year’s playoff teams and the vast majority of the great traditional rivalry games that are the essence of the National Football League. The schedule is made even more special in Week 2 with the national debut of what is expected to be the gold standard of all stadiums in the world.”
SNF DOMINATED SUNDAY NIGHTS: Last season the dominant “Sunday Night Football” franchise powered NBC to Sunday Night victories in 13 of 16 weeks (81%) in the coveted Adults 18-49 demographic up significantly from 11 of 16 weeks (69%) in 2007 and 9 of 16 weeks in 2006 (56%). Last year, “SNF” averaged 16.8 million viewers for its 16 Sunday Night broadcasts, five million more viewers than Monday night telecasts. For the full season, “Sunday Night Football” ranked as the No. 1 program across the key demographics of Men 18-49 and Men 18-34. Additionally, “SNF” ranked No. 3 in Adults 18-49, No. 4 in Adults 18-34, No. 8 in Viewership and No. 9 in household rating among all primetime programs for the season.
NFL OPENING KICKOFF: As previously announced, the NFL will open the season on NBC, Thursday, Sept. 10, with the Steelers hosting the AFC South champion Tennessee Titans, who had an NFL-best 13-3 record last season. In the first “NBC Sunday Night Football” contest of the season, the Green Bay Packers will host their longtime rival the Chicago Bears.
2009 “NBC SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL” SCHEDULE
Thurs. Sept. 10 NFL Kickoff Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sun. Sept. 13 Week 1 Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Sun. Sept. 20 Week 2 New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Sun. Sept. 27 Week 3 Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals
Sun. Oct. 4 Week 4 San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sun. Oct. 11 Week 5 Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
Sun. Oct. 18 Week 6 Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons
Sun. Oct. 25 Week 7 Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants
Sun. Nov. 1 Week 8 NO SNF GAME (Football Night airs 7-8 p.m.)
Sun. Nov. 8 Week 9 Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
Sun. Nov. 15 Week 10 New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts
Sun. Nov. 22 *Week 11 Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears
Sun. Nov. 29 *Week 12 Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Sun. Dec. 6 *Week 13 New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
Sun. Dec. 13 *Week 14 Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
Sun. Dec. 20 *Week 15 Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
Sun. Dec. 27 *Week 16 Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
Sun. Jan. 3 *Week 17 TBA
Football Night in America begins every Sunday at 7 p.m. ET
A complete breakdown of the matchups with analysis from “NBC’s Football Night in America” co-host Cris Collinsworth:
THURSDAY, SEPT. 10 – NFL KICKOFF 2009
Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers (Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.)
In a tradition that began in 2004, the Super Bowl champion annually hosts the NFL Thursday night season kickoff the following year and this year it features a showdown between the Steelers and the Titans, who at 13-3 had the best regular-season record in the NFL last season. In last season’s 31-14 Tennessee victory, which assured them of home field advantage, Titans players stomped on the Steelers “Terrible Towels” drawing the ire of “Steeler Nation.”
Collinsworth: “If the Titans are looking for ‘Terrible Towels’ there will be plenty to choose from. It’s going to be an emotional setting and there’s added juice to this rivalry.”
SUNDAY, SEPT. 13 – WEEK ONE
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.)
The “Sunday Night Football” schedule kicks off with bitter division rivals at historic Lambeau Field as Jay Cutler makes his Bears debut. The teams have met 176 times in the regular season, more than any two teams in NFL history, with the Packers holding a 90-80-6 advantage. The rivals split two meetings last season but the Packers trounced the Bears at Lambeau 37-3 with Ryan Grant rushing for 145 yards.
Collinsworth: “The Packers are always a national draw and the Bears may be the most interesting team heading into the season. There’s so much anticipation on what effect Cutler will have on a team that’s always been built around defense and a running game. It’s the most significant offseason acquisition in many years.”
SUNDAY, SEPT. 20 – WEEK TWO
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (Dallas Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas)
The Cowboys make the much-anticipated debut of their $ 1.1 billion new stadium against their archrival the New York Giants. The retractable roof stadium incorporates some of the historical features of Texas Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys for the past 35 years, with distinct arches spanning the length of the stadium, a hole in the roof when the dome is open and open-air end zone plazas, which can give the stadium an outdoor feel. The colossal 80,000-seat stadium can be expanded to as much as 100,000 for big events such as the Super Bowl and features a 60-yard long scoreboard screen, the longest in the world. The scoreboard itself cost more than the $40 million it took to build Texas Stadium.
Last year the Dec. 14 “SNF” matchup between the teams was the No. 1 primetime program of the season and set a “Sunday Night Football” record with 23.1 million viewers.
Collinsworth: “This game could be played at a high school field and it would be interesting but at the Cowboys’ new stadium it may be the best game of the year.”
SUNDAY, SEPT. 27 – WEEK THREE
Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals (University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.)
A matchup between two of the NFL’s most prolific quarterbacks League MVP Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner, in what promises to be an offensive shootout. Last season, Warner resurrected his career, throwing for more than 4,500 yards and leading the Cardinals to the Super Bowl. Manning threw for more than 4,000 yards for the ninth time in his 11 NFL seasons to win his record-tying third MVP award.
Collinsworth: “A great pitchers duel. For my money it’s worth the price of admission to see either one but both! This is a good early test for the Cardinals to see if they’re for real.”
SUNDAY, OCT. 4 – WEEK FOUR
San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers (Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.)
A rematch of the AFC Divisional Playoffs with LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers leading the NFC West champion Chargers into Pittsburgh to take on Ben Roethlisberger and the Super Bowl champs. In last year’s playoff game, the Steelers defeated the Chargers 35-24 to reach the AFC Championship Game for the third time in five years. The two teams met in the regular season in Week 11 with the Steelers winning 11-10, the first such final score in NFL history. The Chargers lost their next two games but recovered to win their last four games to capture the AFC West. Roethlisberger and Rivers will be forever linked as part of the historic 2004 draft class, which also includes Eli Manning.
Collinsworth: “They played in two of the better games we saw last season. Both are clear-cut favorites to win their division and this could easily be a playoff preview. The Rivers-Roethlisberger battle always adds extra interest. That is quickly becoming one of the most dominant quarterback draft classes ever.”
SUNDAY OCT. 11 – WEEK FIVE
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans (LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.)
A matchup of AFC South division rivals as Peyton Manning and the Colts look to regain supremacy in the division as they travel to Nashville to take on the Titans in the first-ever “SNF” game at LP Field. The Titans won the AFC South for the first time since 2002 breaking the Colts five-year stranglehold on the division. The two teams split their regular season meetings with the Titans defeating the Colts in Week 8 last season 31-21 in Nashville and the Colts winning in Indianapolis 23-0 in Week 16.
Collinsworth: “A great boxer-puncher matchup with a high-powered offense against a physical defense.”
SUNDAY, OCT. 18 – WEEK SIX
Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons (Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.)
The Falcons were the surprise of the NFL last season, making the playoffs in a supposed rebuilding year, with Offensive Rookie of the Year QB Matt Ryan leading the way, joined by RB Michael Turner, who rushed for nearly 1,700 yards. Jay Cutler was acquired by the Bears in a much-publicized off-season trade, and instantly becomes the most high-profile Bears quarterback since Jim McMahon in the 1980s. Last season, the teams played one of the most exciting games of the year, with the Falcons kicking a game-winning, 48-yard field goal as time expired. Atlanta had completed a 25-yard pass to set up the kick.
Collinsworth: “A rematch of the single most exciting regular season matchup from last season. That game propelled the Falcons and legitimized Matt Ryan and was a blow to the guts of the Bears.”
SUNDAY, OCT. 25 – WEEK SEVEN
Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants (Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.)
The Giants outgunned the Cardinals 37-29 last season but the Cardinals had the last laugh as they represented the NFC in the Super Bowl. In last year’s shootout, Kurt Warner threw for more than 300 yards but Eli Manning tossed three touchdown passes and the Giants defense limited Arizona to 23 yards rushing. The Cardinals boast perhaps the best receiving tandem in the NFL in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin while the Giants rely on a relentless pass rush led by Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.
Collinsworth: “The return of Kurt Warner to the only place he didn’t have significant success. You know he’d love to put a show on for all the people in New York. Kurt Warner has this game circled on his calendar.”
SUNDAY, NOV. 1 WEEK EIGHT
No “SNF” Game (World Series Game). Football Night in America airs from 7-8 p.m. ET.
SUNDAY, NOV. 8 – WEEK NINE
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa.)
In another bitter NFC East rivalry game, the Cowboys seek revenge against the team that kept them out of the playoffs last season. On the final day of the season, the Eagles embarrassed the visiting Cowboys, 44-6, at one point scoring 41 unanswered points, to make the postseason at the Cowboys expense. Dallas enjoys playing under the primetime lights, winning all three of its “Sunday Night Football” games last year.
Collinsworth: “A game you don’t even have to promote. The rivalry is amped up even more when it’s played in Philly.”
SUNDAY, NOV. 15 – WEEK 10
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts (Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.)
In one of the NFL’s most anticipated games every year, two future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks square off as Tom Brady returns from the knee surgery that kept him out of action last season to lead the Patriots into Indianapolis against Peyton Manning and the Colts. The Colts defeated the Pats 18-15 in Week 9 last season to jumpstart their year as Manning threw for two touchdowns. It was the first of nine straight wins for Indy. In 2007, the last time the teams met at full strength, the Colts-Pats was the highest-rated game of the regular season, earning a 20.1.
Collinsworth: “The best game of the last 10 years and obviously we’re thrilled to have it. The two best quarterbacks of the last decade, it’s always compelling television. All you can do is sit back and enjoy it.”
SUNDAY, NOV. 22 – WEEK 11
Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears (Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.)
A rematch of a 24-20 Bears victory over the Eagles last year on “Sunday Night Football,” which the Bears secured with a fourth quarter goal-line stand. Last season, Donovan McNabb resurrected his career after being benched in November, rallying the Eagles to a berth in the playoffs. Under new quarterback Jay Cutler, the Bears hope to return to NFC supremacy, having represented the conference in Super Bowl XLI.
Collinsworth: “It’s fascinating that there were all those rumors that Donovan McNabb would go back to his hometown of Chicago, the Chicago-kid coming home. Now he gets to face Jay Cutler who did end up there.”
SUNDAY, NOV. 29 – WEEK 12
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.)
A rematch of the AFC Championship Game won by the Steelers 23-14, this game has become one of the hardest-hitting matchups and fiercest rivalries in the NFL. The Steelers swept the season-series as they took the two regular season meetings as well, winning at home in Week 4 23-20 in OT and in Baltimore 13-9 in Week 15.
Collinsworth: “The hardest-hitting most intense rivalry in the NFL. It’s so physically brutal when these teams play you have to wear pads just to watch.”
SUNDAY, DEC. 6 – WEEK 13
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (Dolphin Stadium, Miami, Fla.)
The surprise AFC East champion Dolphins, resurrected by Bill Parcells, make their first ever appearance on “SNF” as they take on their division rival the Bill Belichick-led New England, who at 11-5 missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002. QB Tom Brady returns to the Pats after missing nearly all of last season after injuring his knee in the season opener. Miami QB Chad Pennington won the AP Comeback Player of the Year. These teams split their two games last season with the Dolphins winning 38-13 in Week 3 in Miami while unveiling their exciting “wildcat offense” and the Pats taking the game in Foxboro 48-28 in Week 12.
Collinsworth: “Miami will have something special up their sleeves for New England. The Dolphins, as do a lot of teams, judge themselves by how they do against the Patriots and you know Bill Parcells is fueling a lot of that.”
SUNDAY, DEC. 13 – WEEK 14
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.)
Traditionally one of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries, the two teams split during the regular season but the Eagles won the most important contest, beating the Giants at Giants Stadium to advance to the NFC Championship Game. The Giants have defeated the Eagles in the their last two meetings on “Sunday Night Football,” a 36-31 victory in 2008 and a 16-3 win in 2007 in which they recorded 12 sacks. The rivals have met 148 times in the regular season with the Giants holding a 79-67-2 advantage.
Collinsworth: “Nothing matches the intensity of NFC East football — nothing. Every team has a chance to win the division. Every game is significant.”
SUNDAY, DEC. 20 – WEEK 15
Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers (Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.)
Another matchup of playoff teams as Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson leads the NFC North champion Vikings into Carolina, against Jake Delhomme and the Panthers, who boasted an NFC-best 12-4 record in 2008. The teams met in Week 3 last season, with the Vikings earning their first victory of the season, 20-10. Peterson led the NFL in rushing yards with 1,760, while Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams was third with 1,515.
Collinsworth: “Two of the best running teams in the NFL. I think John Fox finally has the team he wants in Carolina. For the Vikings, it’s no secret that a lot hinges on their quarterback play.”
SUNDAY, DEC. 27 – WEEK 16
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (FedEx Field, Landover, Md.)
Called by Sports Illustrated the top rivalry in the NFL and one of the greatest in sports, the latest edition moves to Landover for a late season battle that could decide the NFC East. Last season, both teams won on the road with the Cowboys winning in Washington 14-10 on “Sunday Night Football.” The Redskins made a huge splash in the offseason, signing Albert Haynesworth to a seven-year, $100 million deal.
Collinsworth: “I’m a big believer in both Jason Campbell and Tony Romo but this is a big season for both. Campbell is a humble, soft-spoken kid with a lot of talent and now it’s time for him to break out. Obviously all eyes will be on Romo without T.O. I think he’s going to be judged on what he does from December 1st on. He needs to break that barrier.”
SUNDAY, JAN. 3 – WEEK 17
Teams to be announced by NFL at least six days prior.
The schedule does not list a “Sunday Night Football” game in Week 17, but an afternoon game with playoff implications will be moved to that time slot to conclude the season.
FLEXIBLE SCHEDULING: The season again will utilize “flexible scheduling,” in Weeks 11-17.
In Weeks 11-16, the schedule lists the games tentatively set for “NBC Sunday Night Football.” Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to “Sunday Night Football,” in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game will be moved to an afternoon start time. Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights.
A flexible scheduling move will be announced at least 12 days before the game. For Week 17, the change will be announced no later than six days before the game. The schedule does not list a Sunday night game in Week 17, but an afternoon game with playoff implications will be moved to that time slot to conclude the season.
Flexible scheduling will ensure quality matchups on Sunday night in those weeks and give “surprise” teams a chance to play their way onto primetime.