What if the ascendant New York Jets of 2009 crash in 2010? What if Ben Roethlisberger gets traded? What if Brett Favre (gulp) doesn’t stay unretired yet again?
The NFL has released its schedule and five clubs, the San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jets, are slated to play in five primetime games in the 2010 campaign, the Dick Ebersol flex schedule rule notwithstanding.
The ‘Boys are America’s Team. The runner-up Colts have Peyton Manning. The Chargers are always on the cusp, even with Norv Turner at the helm. The Steelers have won more Super Bowls than any team.
But the J-E-T-S?
Sure, last year’s club took to Rex Ryan, like Buddy’s son did to buffets before he had his tummy tied. Sure, they were tighter than receivers banished to “Revis Island.” Sure, the rookie QB played like Mark “Sanchise” during the club’s surprising run to the AFC title game. Sure, they’ve added talent (tainted or otherwise) in the form of LT, Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes.
But the J-E-T-S?
The team that hasn’t tasted the Super Bowl since before the merger. The franchise whose biggest star remains the signal-caller who put a strong rush on Suzy Kolber. Woody Johnson’s group, which wound up on the wrong side of a Roger Goodell’s private coin flip. The squad that has found ways to break its fans hearts repeatedly over the past 41 years.
The Jets will interact with the Ocho Cinqos on NFL Network in the nightcap of the league’s Turkey Day tripleheader. They’ll engage the Dolphins in Miami with new BFF and DE Jason Taylor on NBC’s Sunday Night Football in Week 3. And they have a trio of Monday Nighters, including ESPN’s season-opener against the Baltimore Ravens, where Ryan preyed with Ray Lewis and Co. as defensive coordinator, on Sept. 13. There’s also a Week 13 visit with the HC of NEP and Mr. Giselle in Gillette Stadium.
Plus, there’s the Week 5 play date with the Minnesota Vikings at the new Meadowlands. Think Fireman Ed and friends are going to whisper sweet nothings in Favre’s helmet earhole. ESPN shouldn’t get too close with the boom mics that night.
The worldwide leader and the all of the NFL’s other carriers for that matter won’t come too close to approaching their stellar Nielsen records from last season if Favre doesn’t fare them well in 2010. The Thursday Sept. 9 season-opener on NBC — a rematch between the New Orleans ‘Who Dem Super Bowl champion’ Saints, who were bestowed with gridiron grace by a fatal Favrian faux pas at the Superdome in the NFC title tilt — certainly loses much of its luster if Drew Brees is matched up against Tavaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfells.
But if the old gunslinger ain’t shot just yet, the combination of No. 4 and the No. 1 DMA should top ESPN’s MNF ratings in the upcoming campaign. If not Team Bristol will look to the previously alluded-to Jets-Pats clash and the Oct. 27 ‘Boys-New York Giants contest for its biggest Nielsen scores (way back on Oct 23, 2006 that NFC East match-up drew 16 million viewers, then ESPN’s top audience).
As for Roethlisberger, who has been suspended by Goodell for not conducting ways to keep little Ben in uniform, he is now the subject of trade rumors. Depending on whether he misses six or more contests or remains in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger could scuttle the Steelers season, as well as three potentially top-notch games for NBC — Week 8 versus New Orleans, Week 10 against the Pats and a Week-13 battle with the Ravens.
A stumbling Steelers squad also works against MNF during Week 9 versus Cincinnati and NFL Network on Dec. 23, when the Carolina Panthers invade Heinz Field.
In addition to having Time Warner Cable, Charter, Cablevision and Suddenlink join its distribution roster, the league’s in-house network needs a contending Pittsburgh to help its schedule, which ends with Dallas at Arizona on Christmas night, conclude on a strong Nielsen note.