Broadcast nuggets off the NFL’s schedule release on Wednesday night:
▪ Among the changes this season: There’s no longer a double-header on the opening Monday night of the season. ESPN insteads gets a Saturday double-header on the final weekend, which is now Week 18 with the expansion to a 17-game schedule for each team.
Those two Saturday Jan. 8 ESPN games - at 4:15 and 8:15 p.m. - will be determined no later than six days before.
ESPN’s only Monday night game in Week 1 will be Baltimore-Las Vegas. The MNF finale: Cleveland-Pittsburgh on Jan. 3. (There’s no Week 18 Monday night game.)
Three ESPN games will be simulcast on ABC: the Ravens-Raiders opener and the Week 18 Saturday games.
Dolphins-at-Saints is the Dec. 27 MNF game on ESPN.
▪ The Thanksgiving schedule: Chicago-Detroit at 12:30 on Fox, Las Vegas-Dallas at 4:30 on CBS and Buffalo-New Orleans at 8:20 on NBC.
▪ The NFL is carrying two games on Christmas, which will be a Saturday this year: Cleveland-Green Bay at 4:30 on Fox and NFL Net, and Indianapolis-Arizona at 8:15 only on NFL Net. It will be interesting to see if the NBA opposes both games with its traditional Christmas slate - which would be a sure-fire ratings loser for the NBA.
▪ The league’s Thursday night package - except for NBC’s opening game and Thanksgiving night - will remain on Fox and NFL Network for one more season. Amazon Prime will take over the Thursday package in 2022, a year earlier than originally announced.
The Fox Thursday package (which includes Ravens-Dolphins Nov. 11) curiously has only one game matching two 2020 playoff teams: Rams-Seahawks on Oct. 7.
The Thursday games relegated to NFL Network only: Giants-Washington on Sept. 16, Carolina-Houston on Sept. 23, Jacksonville-Cincinnati on Sept. 30 and San Francisco-Tennessee on Dec. 23.
NFL Net also gets exclusivity for a Saturday, Dec. 18 double-header (games TBD), that Christmas night Colts-Cardinals game and Jets-Falcons at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 10 from London.
▪ NBC gets Dallas-Tampa Bay as the season opener on Thursday night, Sept. 9 and Chicago-Rams as the Sunday night opener on Sept. 12.
NBC’s Sunday schedule gets the most coveted game: Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady’s return to New England in Week 4, on Oct. 3.
Even though the Dolphins went 10-6 and the 49ers went 6-10, NBC is airing no Dolphins games on Sunday night but is airing three 49ers games: Green Bay, Indianapolis and Seattle.
Minnesota (7-9) got two NBC Sunday night games, against Dallas and Green Bay. The Chargers (7-9) got one, against Pittsburgh.
NBC and the NFL can flex no more than two games to Sunday nights in Weeks 5 to 10 and an unlimited number of games in Weeks 11 to 18.
▪ NBC gets the Feb. 13 Super Bowl in Los Angeles in what is expected to be Al Michaels’ final game as the voice of the network’s NFL package. Mike Tirico’s contract reportedly assures that he will take over as NBC’s primary NFL play-by-play voice in 2022.
▪ Despite existing contracts, the association between CBS and the AFC and Fox and the NFC continue to weaken. For the past few years, a handful or more road games of AFC teams have ended up on Fox and a handful or more road games of NFC teams have aired on CBS as part of the league’s cross-flexing component designed to balance out the network schedules.
The number of AFC games on Fox and NFC games on CBS will increase this season. Two Dolphins games that would ordinarily air on CBS will instead air on Fox (Bills Sept. 19, Houston Nov. 7).
▪ The NFL must think disgruntled Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers will play for the Packers, who got five prime time games: Detroit, San Francisco, Arizona, Chicago, Minnesota.
▪ Dolphins-at-Bengals at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 29 will be CBS’ only preseason game… The Dolphins-Jaguars game on Oct. 17 in London will be a full national telecast on CBS at 9:30 a.m.
▪ For the first time, the NFL is permitting CBS and Fox to air double-headers on the first Sunday of the season - something they will continue to do on the final Sunday of the season, too.
On the season’s first Sunday (Sept. 12), CBS is expected to send Cleveland-Kansas City to the majority of the country at 4:25 p.m., with others getting Dolphins-Patriots at that time.
Fox has Packers-Saints and Broncos-Giants in its 4:25 p.m window, and the safe bet is that the game featuring Rodgers will go to the largest part of the country. The Packers have said they have no intention of trading Rodgers, who reportedly wants to play elsewhere. Denver has been mentioned as a likely potential suitor if the Packers change their mind and acquiesce to trading him.
▪ So far, only two network announcing changes have been disclosed: CBS (regrettably) did not renew No. 4 analyst Rich Gannon’s contract, and longtime Fox announcer Dick Stockton retired from broadcasting.
AROUND THE DIAL
▪ Kenny Mayne is out at ESPN after 27 years; the network offered him a 61 pay cut, and he declined, according to The Athletic.
Mayne stands among the most unique SportsCenter anchors in ESPN history; his dry wit, quirkiness and clever one-liners always distinguished his work.
He joins several other prominent broadcasters - Trey Wingo, Dan Le Batard and Mike Golic - who have left ESPN this year.
▪ Bally Sports Florida will carry all Panthers-Lightning first-round playoff games unless any are surprisingly on NBC. Announcers Steve Goldstein and Randy Moller haven’t traveled all year, but will travel to Tampa for the Panthers’ road games in the series.
Panthers games draw modest audiences, but viewership this season was its highest since 2003-04. BSF averaged a 0.5 rating, meaning 0.5 percent of all Miami-Fort Lauderdale homes with television sets watched games, on average. That equals 7852 homes per telecast - a 67 percent increase over last season.
▪ Considering the Lakers have accounted for 10 of the NBA’s 20 highest-rated non-Christmas games this season, the ultimate disaster for the NBA would be the scenario (albeit unlikely) of Los Angeles not advancing out of the play-in tournament.
A potential Lakers-Warriors 7-8 play-in game likely would be the most watched game of the season, entering the playoffs. TNT will carry both 7-8 play-in games on Tuesday.
Bally Sports Sun can carry any Heat first-round playoff games that aren’t on ABC. But TNT’s regular-season exclusivity prevented Bally from airing Heat games on Tuesday and Thursday this week.
Marv Albert and Reggie Miller call Heat-76ers on Thursday night. It could possibly be the final regular season game for the legendary Albert, who turns 80 next month; Albert and Turner haven’t said if he will return next season. Albert will call playoff games for TNT.
▪ Former Miami Hurricanes and big-leaguer F.P. Santangelo was removed - at least for now - from his role as Washington Nationals TV analyst while TV network MASN investigates a 31-year-old woman’s allegation, according to the Athletic, that the former infielder “made an unwanted advance several years ago, ignored her when she repeatedly told him to stop, and sexually assaulted her.” Santangelo has denied those allegations.
Fox Sports Florida spoke to Santangelo about the Marlins’ TV analyst job before Todd Hollandsworth was hired before the 2017 season.
▪ Quick stuff: Hulu has ordered a nine-part miniseries on the history of the Lakers, to debut in 2022.. Sinclair - which owns Bally Sports Florida and Sun and 17 other former Fox regional sports networks - is working on developing a direct-to-consumer app by the start of 2022 -- good news for subscribers to Dish Network, YouTube TV and Hulu. Those three providers don’t have carriage agreements with the Bally regional networks.
Here’s our Wednesday piece with details on Victor Oladipo, his injury and looming surgery.
Here’s my Wednesday piece on Tyler Herro’s renaissance.
Here’s the full Dolphins schedule.