Friday, June 21, 2024

One prime-time game the NFL should schedule for each week of 2024 regular season

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The National Football League carefully curates its prime-time television (and streaming) slots with the hopes of attaining massive, and increasing, viewership while also showcasing the best matchups.

With that in mind, we created one matchup we would love to see in prime time for each of the 18 weeks of the 2024 regular season.

Though this was an attempt to be realistic and reasonable, the version below is not as concerned with ratings as the rightsholders and league are. Additionally, there might be teams that will inevitably have more prime-time slots (such as the Cowboys) and teams that probably won’t be featured as heavily (the Texans, for example).

Amazon’s Prime Video (“Thursday Night Football”), NBC (“Sunday Night Football”) and ESPN (“Monday Night Football”) are the three broadcast partners that have prime-time slots during the regular season. Our list does not specify which rightsholder would air the game.

The NFL schedule is expected to be released Wednesday, May 15.

Week 1: Detroit Lions at Houston Texans

We know that the Chiefs will open the season Thursday – tradition for the reigning Super Bowl champions. The Philadelphia Eagles play in Brazil the next night. Let’s hope the NFL has the Baltimore Ravens play the Chiefs on Thursday.

That leaves Houston open for one of the two remaining stand-alone slots on the opening weekend. Detroit is no longer a stranger to the spotlight after last season’s run to the NFC championship game. A cross-conference contender matchup is an easy way to acclimate to the new season.

Week 2: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets

More than a year removed from his season-ending Achilles injury, Aaron Rodgers retakes the field at MetLife Stadium against Buffalo. Maybe the American flag will make an appearance again.

Week 3: San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers

Rematch of last year’s NFC divisional round and one of the best NFC rivalries in the last decade.

Week 4: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

By Week 4, we’re ready to see some smash-mouth AFC North football. The division has won 62.6% (106-63) of its games against non-AFC North opponents since 2020, according to Sharp Football Analysis. The freneticism when the teams play each other is worthy of prime time.

Week 5: Texans at Dallas Cowboys

The Texas Bowl has some juice this year. Micah Parsons and C.J. Stroud can take their banter from the podcast studio to the field.

Week 6: Packers at Chicago Bears

Packers QB Jordan Love welcomes No. 1 pick Caleb Williams to prime time with this NFC North matchup.

Week 7: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

More AFC North, please. Deshaun Watson (or perhaps Jameis Winston?) vs. Russell Wilson (or Justin Fields?).

Week 8: Texans at Chiefs

The game’s best young quarterback in Stroud against the game’s best quarterback in Patrick Mahomes. Maybe both teams are starting to jockey for position atop the AFC as the season’s midpoint nears.

Week 9: Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings

Falcons QB Kirk Cousins should be close to full strength when it comes to the Achilles rupture he suffered last season while with the Vikings. His first game back in Minnesota, where he spent six seasons, will be emotional.

Week 10: Cowboys at New York Giants

Obligatory NFC East matchup.

Week 11: Chiefs at Niners

Cleanse the prime-time palate with a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl.

Week 12: Ravens at Los Angeles Chargers

The Harbaugh Bowl. Too appealing to not have in prime time, no matter how repetitive it is.

Week 13: Steelers at Eagles

Both the Steelers and Eagles look mighty different from last season heading into 2024. Will either – or both – be looking to shore up a playoff push by this point in the year?

Week 14: Los Angeles Rams at Jets

The Jets had six prime-time games on the schedule heading into last season with the acquisition of Rodgers putting them in the spotlight. But Rodgers went down in Week 1. Schedule-makers will be high on the Jets, but perhaps they back off slightly.

Week 15: Jacksonville Jaguars at Texans

The AFC South gets the big stage this week, and it’s another opportunity to highlight Stroud, as well as Trevor Lawrence.

Week 16: Miami Dolphins at Browns

The NFL can’t resist putting the Dolphins in high-leverage, cold-weather situations. That could very much be the case as these teams potentially duke out AFC wild-card seeding.

Week 17: Bills at Lions

Josh Allen and the Bills will see plenty of prime time throughout the season, even if expectations aren’t as high compared to previous years. The Lions once again go under the lights for a big interconference matchup.

Week 18: Chiefs at Chargers

This matchup is more of a placeholder. The league waits until the stakes for the final weekend are set before scheduling the lone prime-time window in “Sunday Night Football.” Any “win-and-in, loser missed playoffs” scenario would get the nod here.

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