‘There’s nothing like Sunday nights’: What CT-based NBC Sports expects for 2023 NFL season

Ahead of the 2023 NFL season, which kicks off Thursday, the Sunday night show is looking to extend its record-breaking run as the most-watched prime-time television program for the past 12 years. With an on-air lineup that quickly gelled last season and a number of compelling narratives to cover this season, the SNF team says it’s confident the show will continue to resonate.  

“There’s nothing like Sunday nights,” Mike Tirico, who is returning for his second season as SNF’s play-by-play announcer and 18th consecutive season calling NFL prime-time games, said during a media conference call last week. “There’s a juice and an energy to it that is unmistakable, and it’s a privilege to be a part of this package.”

The regular season will kick off Thursday night when the defending Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, host the Detroit Lions. 

“Kansas City is one of the great stadiums to come in to do a game anywhere. Everybody always talks about you smell the barbecue, and you see the people. But there’s just such a passion for what’s happening with the Kansas City Chiefs,” game analyst Cris Collinsworth, who is entering his 15th season in the SNF booth and one of nine inductees this year into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame, said during last week’s call. “It’s different. It’s not Green Bay or it’s not one of those kind of cities where you just can feel it, (such as) Buffalo. It’s not exactly that. But it’s a fan base that has really seen the absolute best of football at the highest level. Their level of knowledge in discussions, at the hotel or driving around town and meeting people, is incredibly high.” 

Three days later, in the season’s opening Sunday night contest, the New York Giants will take on one of their NFC East division rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants aim to build on the progress of last season, when they reached the divisional playoff round. It marked their post-season appearance since 2016.   

“Giants-Cowboys never lacks for sizzle,” Tirico said. “And I think with what we’ve had in this off-season from both sides, it’s ratcheted up one more notch.”  

The Giants’ visit to the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 15 will also be an SNF game. 

The New York Jets, who also play their home games at MetLife Stadium, are looking to end the longest active playoff drought in the NFL. Their last playoff appearance was in 2010. The Jets have pinned their hopes for a revival in large part on their marquee off-season signing, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who won one Super Bowl and four MVP awards during his 18 seasons with the Green Bay Packers. 

“He’s brought a ton of energy and excitement to New York,” Melissa Stark, who is returning for her fifth full season as an NFL sideline reporter and second in that role for SNF, said on the call. “I live in the Jersey area, and I’ve known a lot of disgruntled and sad Jets fans through the years, and he’s brought hope.” 

There are two Jets games on the SNF schedule: the Oct. 1 matchup with the Chiefs and the Nov. 12 contest with the Las Vegas Raiders.  

Among other topics discussed during the conference call, the SNF team weighed in on whether teams were devaluing running backs, a debate stoked after several top rushers were released or not resigned by their teams in the offseason

“It’s probably one (issue) that should be addressed in collective bargaining because of the fact that they’re a very unique group that has a small window,” Collinsworth, who was a wide receiver playing all eight of his seasons in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals during the 1980s, said in response to a question from Hearst Connecticut Media. “So if they’re a first-round draft pick and you can tag them for a couple years at this lower-end price, basically a running back can run out his entire career without them being able to take a shot at that big-money second contract or third contract that some players get.” 

Tirico said that while “terrific” running backs remain a staple of the NFL and crucial contributors in fantasy football leagues, he understood why teams had become reluctant to make long-term commitments to rushers. 

“Think about how many running backs have been great in the last 10 years in year eight, nine and 10 of their careers,” Tirico said. “There just haven’t been that many. So economically for (general managers), you understand, and if your team invests a lot of long-term money in a running back, as a fan you’d probably be one of the first to call your local sports talk station and complain that this GM isn’t giving us the flexibility to win like other guys. So that system has just kind of caught up to the running backs.”

Similar Posts