A lot of us associate Sunday Night Football with NBC, as there was a major turnover in networks during the 80s when it was on ESPN up until 2006. You also might remember NFL on TNT during the 90s, but the networks had a tough time sorting out what worked the best. ESPN Sunday Night Football aired first on November 8th 1987, and then concluded on January 1st, 2006 before turning over to NBC. ESPN Sunday Night Football was called by names like Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann, Paul Macguire, and Suzy Kolber. The first Sunday Night Football game on EASPN was the Patriots at the Giants, which the Giants won 17-10. The last game was the Rams against the Cowboys, which the Rams won 21-10. We can also point back to the classic Joe Namath sideline interview, where he wanted to kiss Suzy Kolber and said he didn’t care about the team’s struggles.
From 1990 to 1997 the NFL Sunday Night games were split between ESPN and TNT, which TNT took the first half of the schedule, leaving ESPN the second half. There was often much conflict with the World Series during October, which is why scheduling and programming is the way it is now. While it was a short stint, and not a successful one, this shaped up ESPN to make some moves. They ended up settling on Sunday Night Baseball, and acquired the rights to Monday Night Football from ABC.
Sunday Night Football on NBC is relatively new, and their contract took over the opening NFL game to the season which is technically on a Thursday each year, alongside the Thanksgiving Night game, which is also on a Thursday. NBC was also rewarded a few Super Bowl games and playoff games as the networks would rotate around more there. In 2006, the Dolphins faced the Steelers for the opening game of the 2006 season, which marked the first game called by the NBC network. Sunday Night Football has a major advantage over the rest of the schedule primetime games. They have flex scheduling, as the Sunday Night games are going to be likely the best game of the week. Towards the second half of the season, those matchups might change due to injuries and records, which means the NFL will flex the best game to their position.
We have seen a lot of classic games be played on Sunday Night Football, and looking over the last 15 years since NBC took over, they had one of the best starts as Eli Manning and Peyton Manning squared off being the first ever brothers to face each other on Sunday Night. The Colts ended up stealing that game 26-21. In 2007, the Patriots played the Giants in a close win that was 38-35. Little did we know at the time, this was going to be a preview of the Super Bowl, where the Giants ended up getting their revenge. The Patriots have had a few great games on Sunday Night Football, but in 2012 the Ravens got the best of them beating them 31-30. This was also a year Baltimore went on to win the super bowl.
In 2011, the Saints were not expecting a limited Colts team at the beginning of the year, but the Saints ended up scoring 62 points, winning the game 62-7, which is the largest margin of victory in Sunday Night Football history. There were a couple of other excellent games that year with the Ravens beating the Steelers 23-20, and the Giants beating the Cowboys in a thriller, 37-34. In 2014, the Cowboys and Giants played a back and forth game, but this also featured one of the best catches of all-time with Odell Beckham Jr doing his one-handed catch while falling behind. Dallas came from behind in that game, and Tony Romo put on a show.
The 2006 battle between the Patriots and Colts was a fun one, as any time Brady squared off against Manning it was going to be a primetime game, or a playoff game. Tom Brady had one of his worst games, throwing four interceptions, and this was a year the Colts also bested the Patriots in the playoffs and went onto win the super bowl, which was Peyton Manning’s first. A meeting later in 2013 was impressive, as the Patriots were down 24-0 at the half, and forced overtime 31-31. The Patriots ended up winning 34-31.
The opening night of the NFL season is always considered a Sunday Night game, despite being played on Thursday. It features the super bowl winning team, and that is the case again here as the Chiefs take on the Texans at home. The first game at the new Los Angeles Rams stadium is going to be within the same week as the Cowboys come into SoFi Stadium looking to make it a tough opening for the Rams in their new year. The New England Patriots are scheduled for a few primetime games, and while they will be competitive, hard to see them being an entertaining team to watch. In Week 2 they travel to Seattle for the Sunday Night game.
In Week 3 we get a premium quarterback matchup with the Saints and the Packers. Aaron Rodgers will travel to New Orleans to take on Drew Brees. This will be a battle of NFC powerhouses looking to make an early statement. In Week 4, Philadelphia travels out west to take on the 49ers, who have two Sunday Night games within the next three weeks. Both of those games will be at home, as they will face the Rams just a few weeks later. In between is a game between the Seahawks and the Vikings, as we see NFC teams dominating the home schedule here for Sunday Night.
The Las Vegas Raiders get a rare Sunday Night game as they will host Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Raiders moving to Vegas and Tom Brady’s move to Tampa is the likely cause of this game being a primetime game. After that we are used to a lot of typical NFC East battles with the Cowboys, and that is the case as they travel to Philadelphia on the first of November. The first meeting of Brees and Brady is not a primetime game, but the second one in Tampa will be. Baltimore travels to New England in the middle of November for a Sunday night game, but these Patriots games don’t have the same punch as they used to.
Another Las Vegas primetime game, but Pat Mahomes comes into Vegas this time. It is tough to see Las Vegas facing two premium offenses on their primetime games given they have a defense that will have a tough time stopping them. The Thanksgiving primetime game is scheduled for the NBC crew, and this is a division battle between the Ravens and the Steelers. Over the last few weeks we have a division rivalry with the Bears going to Green Bay. The Chiefs also face off against Denver at home. The Bills-Steelers game in December could be a defensive battle, but the 49ers and Cowboys in Week 15 is going to be the headlining game.
The Packers and Titans is scheduled for Week 16, but could be flexed out, which is a reminder these games can change. The flex scheduling as mentioned above is one of the major advantages, because we have seen teams crumble with injuries and also not be as good as advertised, which makes the primetime matchups less appealing if they are still scheduled. That is why the NFL will flex specific games in its place. We also won’t see the Week 17 game on Sunday Night Football scheduled usually until close to that week. They often will pick the game with the highest playoff implications.
There are 19 Sunday Night Football games this year, and you might be wondering how that is possible. That is because two are scheduled Thursday games, but count as Sunday Night Football programming. Week 17 will also have a flexed game.
Sunday Night Football is on NBC, which gives a chance for those to watch a primetime game on their local TV channel. Sunday Night Football has always been on NBC throughout its history and has not changed channels in that span.
The NBC Sports team has a crew of Al Ml Michaels, who does play-by-play. Chris Collinsworth is the analyst, while Michel Tafoya is the sideline reporter. You will also see Bob Costas and Mike Tirico as part of the Sunday Night Football crew.
Sunday Night Football starts at 8:20 PM Eastern Time, with kick off starting shortly after. Every Sunday Night Football game starts at the same time throughout the year and there are no doubleheaders like Monday Night Football in Week 1.
An average football game is going to last just a shade over three hours, despite the game being only 60 minutes. Factoring in halftime and commercial breaks, Sunday Night Football usually will end a little after 11 PM Eastern Time.
The first Sunday Night Football Game played was between the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 7th, 2006. The Steelers won the game 28-17, which marked NBC’s take over of Sunday Night Football.
The opening game of each season is taken on by the Sunday Night Football broadcast and programming team. Which is counted as a Sunday Night game. it is on September 10th, between the Chiefs and Texans at 8:20 PM Eastern Time.