SUPER BOWL CHAMPION STEELERS HOST TITANS IN THURSDAY NIGHT ‘NFL OPENING KICKOFF’ ON NBC

The Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers host the AFC South champion Tennessee Titans, who had an NFL-best 13-3 record last season tomorrow night on NBC at 8 p.m. ET. Coverage begins with a special half hour pregame show featuring Tim McGraw and the Black Eyed Peas. In a tradition that began in 2004, the Super Bowl champions annually host the NFL Thursday night “NFL Kickoff” the following year. Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst) and Andrea Kremer (sideline reporter) call the action from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa.

TITANS-STEELERS IN PRIMETIME: The Steelers make three primetime appearances on NBC this season. In Week 4 they host the San Diego Chargers in what has become a heated AFC rivalry and in Week 12 they travel to Baltimore to take on their division rival the Ravens. Since the NFL’s premier primetime package moved to NBC in 2006, the Steelers are 4-2 overall including wins in their last three Sunday Night games. This is the first of two appearances for the Titans on NBC in primetime this season. They host the Colts in Week 5. This marks just the second appearance for the Titans on SNF having defeated the Colts 16-10 in Week 17 in 2007.

TITANS VS. STEELERS: The Steelers hold a 38-29 advantage in this series that dates back to 1970 when the Titans were known as the Houston Oilers. However since the Titans moved to Tennessee, they hold a 7-3 edge including a 31-14 victory in Week 16 last season.

COLLINSWORTH ON TITANS-STEELERS: “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.”

DUNGY ON STEELERS: “With Pittsburgh, you have to look at what every defending champion has, you’re the red letter game for everybody. You’re going to play that schedule where you’re playing a lot of primetime games. They’ll be ready for it, but it takes a toll on you.”

HARRISON ON TITANS: “I anticipate looking at a lot more eight and nine man boxes forcing Kerry Collins to be that quarterback that he needs to be. You have to throw the ball down the field and I don’t think they’re capable of throwing the ball down the field consistently enough to challenge the Pittsburgh defense.”

“SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL” OPENER: “NBC Sunday Night Football” opens its fourth season Sunday night with the oldest rivalry in the NFL as the Green Bay Packers host the Chicago Bears with their new quarterback Jay Cutler. Coverage on NBC begins at 7 p.m. ET with “Football Night in America,” highlighted by Bob Costas moving from the studio to hosting the show from the game site.

Costas will be joined at the game site by the new SNF broadcast duo of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann will continue to co-host FNIA from NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza studios joined by Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy, two-time Super Bowl winner Rodney Harrison and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King. “Football Night’s” Tiki Barber will report from the site of one of the NFL’s big games as he did towards the end of last season.

BEARS-PACKERS IN PRIMETIME: This is the first of three appearances for the Bears on “Sunday Night Football” this season. They will travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in Week 6 and host the Eagles in Week 11. They are now 4-3 overall since the NFL’s premier primetime package moved to NBC in 2006. For the Packers, this marks their only SNF game of the season. They are 1-2 overall on “Sunday Night Football” including a 27-20 loss on SNF to the Bears in Week 5 of the 2007 season.

BEARS VS. PACKERS: This is the 177th regular season meeting between these two original NFL franchises in a rivalry that dates back to 1921 when the Bears were then known as the Staleys. The Bears hold a 90-80-6 edge in the rivalry and also won the only postseason game between the two teams, a 33-14 divisional playoff win back in 1941. They split their two games last season with the Packers winning 37-3 in Week 11 at Lambeau Field and the Bears taking the game in Soldier Field 20-17 in Week 16. The Bears have won seven of the last 10 meetings and prior to last season, the Bears had won four straight in Green Bay.

COLLINSWORTH ON PACKERS: “Watching the Packers and the way that they’re playing, I really do feel like the circus leaving town has really helped this football team. With Dom [Capers] coming in and taking over the defense, they seem refocused despite the change. Offensively, Aaron [Rodgers] is putting on an absolute show throwing the football and you just can’t deny that they have been the best team of this preseason, I mean they’ve been spectacular.”

COLLINSWORTH ON BEARS: “I got a chance to see a much improved Chicago Bears defense, and that’s really what I focus on with the Bears. I think their offense is going to be good. I think their receivers are going to be fine. But their defense with Lovie [Smith] taking over control seems so much better.”

DUNGY ON THE BEST NFC NORTH TEAM: “I think Green Bay is probably going to come out of the chutes fast because they’ve got their quarterback that’s been there the longest. Cutler and Favre are great quarterbacks and they’ve got great talent, but they don’t have that same two-year window that Aaron Rogers has had working with his receivers. But then as the weather gets colder the defenses are going to take over and I think Chicago is going to have the best defense.”

“SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL EXTRA”: For the second straight season, the 17-game Sunday Night Football schedule will be available to fans on NBC Sports as well as streamed live on NBCSports.com and NFL.com.

The live coverage on NBCSports.com and NFL.com will once again come from NBC Sports’ broadcast of Sunday Night Football plus four additional camera angles and several new interactive features. Sunday Night Football Extra will employ a full HD-quality player using Microsoft Silverlight and Smooth Streaming that will help set new benchmarks for live streaming video cross-platform. The video player, the highest quality yet, will include full DVR and functionality allowing the user to pause and scroll back-and-forth – even review plays in “slo-mo” — all while watching live video.

SNF DOMINATED SUNDAY NIGHTS: Last season the dominant “Sunday Night Football” franchise powered NBC to Sunday Night victories in 13 of 16 weeks (81%) 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.

ROTOWORLD.COM’S WEEK 1 FANTASY SLEEPER PICKS: Rotoworld.com managing editor Gregg Rosenthal, who was named Fantasy Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, picks his fantasy sleepers for Week 1.

· Joe Flacco, Ravens QB vs. Chiefs: Kansas City’s rebuilding defense isn’t tough enough to keep Baltimore out of the end zone plenty. Flacco should sneak in a few scores.
· Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks QB vs. Rams: His back looked amazingly healed in the preseason, and St. Louis’ secondary looks like one of the league’s worst … as usual.
· Cedric Benson, Bengals RB vs. Broncos: The dramatics from Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall in Denver hides the team’s real problem: it’s run defense.
· Beanie Wells, Cardinals RB vs. 49ers: Tim Hightower may start for Arizona, but we bet this rookie closes out drives in a high scoring affair.
· Patrick Crayton, Cowboys WR vs. Bucs: Overlooked option in Dallas could rival Roy Williams to lead the team’s WRs in receiving yards.

2009 “NBC SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL” SCHEDULE

Football Night in America begins every Sunday at 7 p.m. ET
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

*Flex Week

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.
· Giants at Cowboys opens the $1.2 billion Dallas Cowboys Stadium, “the 8th Wonder of the World.” It’s a rematch of the most viewed game ever on “Sunday Night Football.”
· Three appearances a piece from six marquee teams: this year’s Super Bowl champion Steelers, last year’s Super Bowl champion Giants plus Dallas, Indianapolis, Chicago and Philadelphia.
· 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.

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