The first N.F.L. game held on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The option for TV networks to swap games. A franchise playing two international games in a single season. Teams having to begrudgingly play two Thursday Night Football games in one season.
Those are some of the big changes to the N.F.L.’s 2023 schedule, the first under the league’s new media rights contracts. Signed in 2021, the deals, collectively worth about $110 billion, take effect this season with games set to air across CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN and Amazon Prime Video. The N.F.L. also inked a seven-year deal with YouTube in December for the rights to stream out-of-market games for as much as $2.5 billion annually.
“It is, for all intents and purposes, a content provider for media,” Daniel Durbin, a communication professor at the University of Southern California, said of the N.F.L. “That’s where it makes its biggest money, and so it’s going to bend itself to serve that end above players, fans, coaches and even teams.”
The league released its full slate of games on Thursday night in a televised broadcast, but it leaked some matchups in the days leading up to the official reveal. Over the past decade, both NFL Network and ESPN have broadcast the schedule reveal in prime time, as the league has successfully turned off-season events such as the draft and the scouting combine into TV spectacles.
On Thursday morning, the N.F.L. announced the regular-season opener, set for Sept. 7, a Thursday: a contest between the Kansas City Chiefs, the reigning Super Bowl champions, and the Detroit Lions, who won eight of their final 10 games in 2022. Though four Lions players, including receiver Jameson Williams, were suspended last month for violating the N.F.L.’s gambling policy, the Lions are expected to contend for a playoff spot in the N.F.C.
The Jets were among the teams that posted a marquee matchup to social media on Wednesday, celebrating the announcement that the team would host the Black Friday game against the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 24. The game will be streamed on Amazon, which last year began broadcasting Thursday night games.
The Jets, behind their new quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, will face their longtime A.F.C. East rival on what is traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the year, the first time the N.F.L. has held a game on that day.
Rodgers’s first game for the Jets will be a “Monday Night Football” matchup against the Buffalo Bills in Week 1. It is one of five prime time games for the Jets in 2023 after the team only played in one last season.
Last season, for the first time, the N.F.L. broadcast three games on Christmas Day, which fell on a Sunday, and in doing so directly challenged the N.B.A. stronghold on that holiday’s TV lineup. With Christmas falling on a Monday this year, pro football has again stocked the schedule with three strong games that should draw viewers.
Kansas City will play the Las Vegas Raiders before the Giants face the reigning N.F.C. champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, in a rematch of last season’s divisional playoff round. The San Francisco 49ers will host the Baltimore Ravens in the evening game.
The N.F.L. will continue the decades-long tradition of the Lions and Dallas Cowboys hosting games on Thanksgiving. The Lions will face the Green Bay Packers and the Cowboys will play the Washington Commanders. In the evening game, the Seattle Seahawks will host the 49ers.
In another change brought on by the new media deals, the N.F.L. will gain more freedom to reslot games on different networks and change kickoff times with greater flexibility. Under the old media rights deals, Fox broadcast most N.F.C. road games and CBS aired most A.F.C. road games, but this season the N.FL. can place a game on any network regardless of conference.
Where “Monday Night Football” games had previously been locked in at the start of the season, ABC and ESPN can now ask the league to move a Sunday game to Monday if there is a more compelling matchup than what had been scheduled. Such a move can only be made between Weeks 12 and 17 of the 18-week regular season.
Three teams — the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints — will also play more than one Thursday night game this season other than on Thanksgiving, a change that has rankled some players. Patrick Mahomes, last season’s most valuable player and one of the most popular N.F.L. athletes, expressed his displeasure in a social media post in March.
In the past, players and coaches have been loath to play on Thursday nights because of the short turnaround between Sunday games and matchups that happen four days later. Fans and even Al Michaels, the lead broadcaster for Amazon, have complained about the poor quality of Thursday games.
“There isn’t anybody in our organization that doesn’t put our fans first,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in March. “Obviously, providing the best matchups for our fans is what we do. That’s part of what our scheduling has always focused on.”
The N.F.L. will play five international games, continuing the league’s expansion efforts overseas. Last season, it added a regular-season game in Germany for the first time, and it will return with two in 2023, when Miami faces Kansas City on Nov. 5 and the Indianapolis Colts challenge the New England Patriots on Nov. 12.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, who have played in London nearly every year since 2012, will become the first N.F.L. team to play two international games in a single season. The team’s owner, Shahid Khan, also owns the Premier League team Fulham F.C., and the Jaguars will use the soccer club’s training facility between playing the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 1 and facing the Bills on Oct. 8.
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