The defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, marquee teams, storied rivalries and the NFL's most dynamic players highlight the NBC Sunday Night Football schedule as the league today announced its 2007 slate of games. Highlights of NBC's schedule include a matchup between two of the NFL's most popular and historic franchises, the Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears; rematches of three of the most memorable games in last season's playoffs as the San Diego Chargers visit the New England Patriots, the Seattle Seahawks host the Bears and the Colts visit the Baltimore Ravens; a potential AFC Championship preview between the Colts and the Chargers (Madden: "If you like offense with your coffee, you'll get it here."); up to four games among bitter NFC East rivals including a visit by the Cowboys to Philadelphia to play the Eagles; NBC Sunday Night Football's first trip to Lambeau Field as the Green Bay Packers host their division foe the Bears, in what could be a historic night for Brett Favre; and a Super Bowl XXXIX rematch between the Patriots and the Eagles.
"Looking at this schedule and all of the great stories that will unfold, I can't wait for kickoff, and to build on the success of last year," said Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics. "In the inaugural season of NBC Sunday Night Football, we saw a shift in viewer interest from Monday night to Sunday night. NBC Sunday Night Football created a new destination to reach viewers and changed what was 36 years of traditional viewing habits on Sunday and Monday nights. The NFL is one of the most valuable properties in all of television. In 2006, every network saw viewership increases, which speaks to the power of the NFL in this time of audience fragmentation."
NBC Sunday Night Football wrapped up its inaugural season averaging 17.5 million viewers, 1.2 million viewers better than ABC Monday Night Football in 2005 and the best viewership number for the network primetime NFL package in six years (18.5 million on ABC in 2000).
NBC's 2007 NFL Schedule:
(NBC Sunday Night Football kickoff, 8:15 p.m. ET preceded by "Football Night in America, 7 p.m. ET)
Thursday, Sept 6 - New Orleans at Indianapolis
Sunday, Sept. 9 - New York Giants at Dallas
Sunday, Sept. 16 - San Diego at New England
Sunday, Sept. 23 - Dallas at Chicago
Sunday, Sept. 30 - Philadelphia at New York Giants
Sunday, Oct. 7 - Chicago at Green Bay
Sunday, Oct. 14 - New Orleans at Seattle
Sunday, Oct. 21 - Pittsburgh at Denver
Sunday, Oct. 28 - No game scheduled due to World Series Game 5 (FNIA airs 7-8 p.m.)
Sunday, Nov. 4 - Dallas at Philadelphia
Sunday, Nov. 11 - Indianapolis at San Diego
Sunday, Nov. 18 - Chicago at Seattle (Flex Week, Teams Subject to Change)
Sunday, Nov. 25 - Philadelphia at New England (Flex Week, Teams Subject to Change)
Sunday, Dec. 2 - Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (Flex Week, Teams Subject to Change)
Sunday, Dec. 9 - Indianapolis at Baltimore (Flex Week, Teams Subject to Change)
Sunday, Dec. 16 - Washington at NY Giants (Flex Week, Teams Subject to Change)
Sunday, Dec. 23 - Tampa Bay at San Francisco (Flex Week, Teams Subject to Change)
Sunday, Dec. 30 - Kansas City at New York Jets (Flex Week, Teams Subject to Change)
The 2007 NFL schedule will utilize flexible scheduling in Weeks 11-17. In those weeks, the schedule will list the games tentatively scheduled for Sunday night on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, 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 move may be announced six days before the game. Flexible scheduling will ensure quality matchups on Sunday night in those weeks and give surprise teams a chance to play their way onto primetime.
As an indication of the success of the inaugural year of flex scheduling, three of the final four games on NBC achieved ratings more than 20 percent higher than the comparable games in 2005.
As previously announced, Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning and the defending Super Bowl champion Colts host Reggie Bush and the New Orleans Saints on the Thursday night "NFL Kickoff," Sept. 6. "NFL Kickoff Weekend" continues Sunday Night, Sept. 9 on NBC with a classic NFC East clash between the Giants and Cowboys at Texas Stadium.
A complete schedule breakdown including analysis from NBC's John Madden follows:
THURSDAY, SEPT. 6 - NFL KICKOFF 2007
New Orleans Saints at Indianapolis Colts (RCA Dome, Indianapolis, Ind.)
Peyton Manning and the champion Colts host Reggie Bush and the New Orleans Saints, who played their first-ever Conference title game last season, falling to the Bears. Manning led the Colts to his first Super Bowl victory last season, defeating Chicago 29-17, and was named Super Bowl MVP.
Madden: "It's always great to have the first game of the season. It's not only the opening game, it's the only game. It's a great tradition that is beginning - when you win the Super Bowl, you get a lot of things and hosting the opening game in front of your fans is one of them. The Super Bowl champs deserve to play in a special game."
SUNDAY, SEPT. 9 - WEEK ONE
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas)
The Cowboys, who suffered a devastating 21-20 Wild Card playoff loss last season to the Seattle Seahawks, host their NFC East rivals, the Giants, in the first NBC Sunday Night Football matchup of the season. The Cowboys, with Pro Bowler Tony Romo now entrenched at QB, look to rebound from their surprise early-round playoff exit while the Giants, who fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 23-20 in a Wild Card playoff, hope that QB Eli Manning continues to progress.
Madden: "Any time the Cowboys play a division rival at home, it's big. The Giants going into Texas Stadium for a big game is a great way to kick off 'Sunday Night Football.'"
SUNDAY, SEPT. 16 - WEEK TWO
San Diego Chargers at New England Patriots (Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.)
The Chargers, led by NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, seek to avenge a heartbreaking playoff loss to the Patriots in last year's Divisional Playoff. Tomlinson last season set the NFL's single season touchdown mark.
Madden: "A lot of people thought San Diego was the best team last year even after losing to New England. The Patriots, who were already good, improved themselves more than any other team in the offseason. These are two of the three best teams in the AFC."
SUNDAY, SEPT. 23 - WEEK THREE
Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears (Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.)
In what should be a fan favorite, two of the NFL's most popular and historic franchises clash for only the second time in the last nine years. Pro Bowl QB Tony Romo, who rode an emotional roller coaster last year, going from backup to starter to hero to goat, looks to put last season's heartbreaking loss behind him against one of the NFL's best defenses.
Madden: "The Cowboys have all the motivation in the world in this game. I think Dallas felt they would have beaten the Bears and gone to the Super Bowl if they had gotten by Seattle."
SUNDAY, SEPT. 30 - WEEK FOUR
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.)
Division rivals square off in a rematch of last year's NFC Wild Card Game won by the Eagles 23-20. The teams met for three thrilling games times last season, with all the games decided in the fourth quarter or overtime. In week two, Eli Manning rallied the Giants from a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat the Eagles in overtime. In week 15, QB Jeff Garcia, subbing for the injured Donovan McNabb, led the Eagles to a come-from-behind victory.
Madden: "Philadelphia is a team that's always competitive and if Donovan McNabb stays healthy they can beat anyone. For the Giants, it's not all about Eli. He needs help at running back with Tiki gone and from his defense."
SUNDAY OCT. 7 - WEEK FIVE
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.)
The defending NFC champion Bears visit their geographical and division rival at legendary Lambeau Field with the potential for history to be made. Brett Favre (414) ranks second behind Dan Marino (420) for most touchdown passes in a career, trailing by just six. This could be the game he breaks the record. Will this be Favre's final primetime network appearance?
Madden: "This game has tradition written all over it. If you're a fan of football, this is something really special -- Brett Favre, Lambeau Field. These are the games you look forward to."
SUNDAY, OCT. 14 - WEEK SIX
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (Qwest Field, Seattle, Wash.)
Offense, offense and more offense. New Orleans QB Drew Brees and RB Reggie Bush look to outscore Seattle's dynamic tandem of RB Shaun Alexander and QB Matt Hasselbeck, both coming off injury-marred seasons. New Orleans will have to deal with the always raucous crowd at Qwest Field, which gives the Seahawks one of the NFL's biggest home field advantages.
Madden: "If Hasselbeck and Alexander stay healthy, Seattle can be very, very good. New Orleans may have been a surprise team at the beginning of last season but they are a real good team. They are the real deal. "
SUNDAY, OCT. 21 - WEEK SEVEN
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos (INVESCO Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.)
A rematch of the January 2006 AFC Championship Game, won by the eventual Super Bowl champion Steelers in a huge upset at Mile High. QB Ben Roethlisberger looks to recapture the form from his rookie season when he led Pittsburgh to a championship. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan expects to reap the benefits from last year's move to rookie QB Jay Cutler.
Madden: "Even though they're not in the same division, this is still a rivalry game. And games in Denver, with that crowd and that atmosphere, especially at night, always feel like big games."
SUNDAY, OCT. 28
NO GAME (Note: World Series Game 5)
SUNDAY, NOV. 4 - WEEK NINE
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa.)
The Cowboys controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens returns to Philly to face his former teammates and a hostile crowd in a key division matchup.
Madden: "The NFC East always has the best rivalry games and they're always meaningful games. There's not a dominant team so any team can win the division."
SUNDAY, NOV. 11 - WEEK 10
Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers (Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.)
Two AFC powerhouses, featuring Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning and the dynamic all purpose back, league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, clash in a potential AFC Championship preview.
Madden: "If you like offense with your coffee, you'll get it here. You know Peyton's going to throw it all over the yard and LT has the potential to run wild."
SUNDAY, NOV. 18 - WEEK 11
Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks (Qwest Field, Seattle, Wash.)
Another revenge game on NBC's schedule. Seattle seeks retribution for last year's overtime loss to the Bears in the Divisional Playoffs as defending NFC champions. Bears LB Brian Urlacher looks to shutdown the always dangerous RB Shaun Alexander.
Madden: "It's a rematch of one of last year's great games."
SUNDAY, NOV. 25 - WEEK 12
Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots (Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.)
A rematch of Super Bowl XLI in 2005 won by the Pats 24-21 featuring two of the NFL's top quarterbacks in the Patriots' Tom Brady and the Eagles' Donovan McNabb. Both teams look to get back to the big game and this late season test could have major playoff implications.
Madden: "These are two tough teams that are well coached and do a lot of things on defense to confuse you. But it it'll probably come down to Brady and McNabb."
SUNDAY, DEC. 2 - WEEK 13
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Fierce division rivals with something to prove. The Bengals and Carson Palmer look to return to the playoffs after a one-year absence. In the 2006 postseason they lost to the Steelers in a game in which Palmer suffered a severe leg injury early in the first quarter. The Steelers would go on to win the Super Bowl but failed to make the playoffs last year.
Madden: "Both of these teams have a chance to be one of the really good teams in the NFL."
SUNDAY, DEC. 9 - WEEK 14
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens (M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.)
Baltimore and its fans thirst for revenge against Indianapolis, 15-6 victors in a Division Playoff Game, despite the Ravens not allowing the Colts potent offense into the end zone. Hard feelings remain for Baltimore fans, jilted when the Colts departed under the cover of night for Indianapolis in March of 1984. LB Ray Lewis leads a Ravens defense that is always one of the NFL's best.
Madden: "The Colts put up big numbers against everyone but I don't think that will be the case against Baltimore. I am always impressed by their defense."
SUNDAY, DEC. 16 - WEEK 15
Washington Redskins at New York Giants (Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.)
Last season, the Giants beat their archrival the Redskins in the last week of the season to qualify for the playoffs. Tiki Barber rushed for 234 yards in the finale but has since retired and joined NBC's "Football Night in America" studio team.
Madden: "An NFC East game this late in the season, you expect it to have playoff implications."
SUNDAY, DEC. 23 - WEEK 16
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers (Monster Park, San Francisco, Calif.)
The 49ers challenged for a playoff berth last season and boast one of the league's best young quarterbacks in Alex Smith and best running backs in Frank Gore.
Madden: "I like the 49ers quarterback, I like Gore but it's about how much their defense improves."
SUNDAY, DEC. 30 - WEEK 17
Kansas City Chiefs at New York Jets (Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.)
Chiefs coach Herm Edwards returns to face his former team. Both the Jets and Chiefs reached the playoffs last year, the Chiefs led by star RB Larry Johnson and the Jets by QB Chad Pennington, who made a successful return from major shoulder surgery.
Madden: "With this being the last game of the year and both teams making the playoffs last year, this has a chance to be a very important game."
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