Weekend Watch – NFL Opening Week

The NFL launches into the first weekend of the regular season. The Patriots will host the Buffalo Bills in their opener Sunday at 1:00 PM on CBS.

For your Patriots coverage, the BSMW Game Day crew will have updates before, during and after the game, there is also a Football Outsiders column today from Bill Barnwell, looking at the performance of young quarterbacks (like JP Losman) during road games, and whether they do struggle as much as we might think they do. Get the rest of your Patriots coverage on the Patriots Daily Links page.

Check the view from the opposition on the pages of the Buffalo News and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. You can also check news and stories on the NFL on the New York Sports Pages.

A few resources for your weekend NFL viewing:

Here is the national distribution map for the CBS 1:00 PM NFL game on Sunday. Fox has a national doubleheader, though not in Boston because of broadcast rules. Here is the Fox 1:00 PM map and the Fox 4:00 PM map. Obviously all times are Eastern.

A BSMW reader has looked at the full NFL schedule for the season and gives his best educated guess as to which games we will be shown in the Boston market each week during the regular season. (No Drumlins)

He has a very nice breakdown of the broadcast guidelines for each week:

1. Either CBS (WBZ-4) or Fox (WFXT-25) will have a doubleheader each week.
2. The Patriots must always be on local TV by league rule.
3. If the Patriots play at home on Sunday afternoon, there must not be another game on TV at the same time, by league rule.
4. If the Patriots are on the road on a Sunday afternoon, Fox will not show a game in the same time slot, unless they have a doubleheader that day.
5. If the Patriots play in a national TV game (Sunday or Monday night) or have a bye, we will get the full slate of Sunday afternoon games without restriction.
6. Early in the season, networks usually send us out-of-market games involving divisional opponents. Later in the year they will send the game most likely to affect the playoff races if an AFC East team is not threatening the Patriots.
7. Fox usually sends us the Giants if unless they are blocked by one of the rules above.
8. The Giants and Jets never play at the same time, so one of their games will always be moved to either 4:00 or 8:15 once we get to the flex schedules.

I’ve read in a couple places that the NFL has mandated that ALL games this season be produced in HD. In the past CBS had traditionally only done the top three games, I believe. So there should be no worries about having to watch the Patriots in the old broadcast format. (UPDATE – I have been unable to confirm this. Other sites, including CBS Sports show only three HD games on that network.)

Here’s a look at a few of the weekly Patriots programs out there:

* Patriots All Access returns tonight (Friday) at 8:00 on WCVB channel 5. Host Mike Lynch will lead us through a segment on Rodney Harrison and his comeback from the devastating knee injury he suffered last season. All Access spent a day with him during his rehab this spring, and talks to the Safety about his joy at returning to the game he loves. Another segment will feature footage and sound from coach Bill Belichick, who was mic’d up during the preseason game with the Redskins.

* CBS4 Sports kicks off its Patriots coverage with New England Ford Patriots Kickoff, airing tonight (Friday), at 7:00 p.m. The one-hour special, hosted by CBS4 Sports Director Bob Lobel, will give fans a look at the upcoming season including Tom Brady’s thoughts in a one-on-one discussion. In addition, CBS4’s Steve Burton sits down with Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau.

* I watched FSN’s Football Block last night and came away pretty impressed with the new offering of Tweeter’s 4 Downs with Felger. I was skeptical coming in, mostly because I’ve been disappointed with a few things from Felger recently, but the show turned out better than expected. The highlight of the program was the Felger interview with Tom Brady. (Yes, Felger called him “Tommy” in the interview.) Brady had some very interesting comments on his situation and his view of the business side of football. At one point, he said:

“If everyone wanted to be the highest paid, if I wanted to be that, then we wouldn’t have a very deep team. I know in some ways it’s irresponsible as a player for me to say that, because sometimes I agree with the management. But I think we’re all in this together. We’re trying to build something special, and it’s not about who spends the most money. There are a lot of teams that spend a lot of money that don’t perform well. We consistently perform well.”

Brady also said that he re-signed with the Patriots because it’s the team he wants to play for, the coach he wants to play for, the guys he wants to play with, the stadium he wants to play in, the fans he wants to play for, and the area that he wants to live. He said with all that, it was worth it to him to take less money to retain all those other benefits. He also showed a mastery of X’s and O’s by diagramming a play and explaining all the options. If anyone ever questioned whether Brady “gets it”, this should’ve dispel any last doubts. (You can watch the interview on the FSN website at Cue It Up) The show featured a short panel discussion with Felger taking the lead and Ron Borges, Don Banks and Russ Francis providing the commentary. Borges was on his medication and behaved himself, and Francis wasn’t too far over the top in the other direction. Banks didn’t say a whole lot, but will likely be called upon to discuss more league-wide matters.

* The other FSN offering “New England Tailgate” hasn’t changed too much, with all the usual banter and jokes, but a nice segment had Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie breaking down some film of JP Losman and how the Bills are attempting to make the reads as simple as possible for the young quarterback. Host Glenn Ordway did his usual smooth job directing the show, but with the exception of the film segment, the program still feels a bit too much like an amateur cable access show.

* Due to the financial state of the station, WB56 will not be carrying the Patriots Football Weekly TV show this season. The guys just found out last week that the show will not be carried this season by the station. They’re currently looking for another home, but might not be on the air this year except for their Patriots.com Internet radio show which airs Tuesday-Friday from Noon until 2:00 PM.

The Red Sox take on the Royals in decidedly underwhelming weekend series at Fenway Park. Keep up with the stories, coverage and blogs on the Red Sox Daily Links page.

If you’re looking for a College Football TV schedule, this is the best one I’ve found so far.

National Sports Media Columns

New England

David Scott looks at NBC’s opening night, USA’s US Open Coverage, and reviewed the local NFL previews. Susan Bickelhaupt looks at Chris Berman’s role changing and expanding on ESPN’s NFL coverage. John Molori had a look at NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” producer Fred Gaudelli, as well as FOX’s “cop out” in naming Joe Buck pregame host. Andrew Neff talks to Maine’s Gary Tanguay about the success of FSN New England’s Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight. He also reports on a couple of Maine radio stations picking up the New York Giants broadcasts for the benefit of the old time Giants fans in the region.

New York

Phil Mushnick looks at the NCAA’s efforts to speed up college football. He uses a good illustration of a restaurant with complaints of slow service to make his point of how poorly the NCAA has handled the situation. Richard Sandomir has a look at how the NFL really squeezed as much as they could from ESPN for Monday Night Football, mostly because they knew that the cable network was making a ton of money off of the league. Sandomir also had a look at NBC getting back into the NFL game, as last night’s Steelers/Dolphins broadcast marked the return of the league to the network for the first time since 1998. Andrew Marchand reports on Steve Phillips getting a new five year deal from ESPN, and also looks at a shakeup in ESPN’s NBA coverage. Marchand’s Memo of the Week is to Eric Mangini, where he advises the Jets rookie coach that he’d better win, or the media is going to shred him because of his non-cooperation with them. Neil Best talks to Cris Collinsworth about the mess that the NFL dodged by not firing or sanctioning Bryant Gumbel for his preseason remarks. We’ll be seeing a lot of Collinsworth on different outlets this season, but the analyst insists there will be no conflict. Bob Raissman has a look at the testy relationship between the NFL network carriers and even the league, with rumors of secret edicts being handed down by the NFL to force FOX to be off the air by 7:30 so that they don’t take viewers away from NBC’s pregame show.

More Eastern Columns

Michael Hiestand examines some of the big storylines in the broadcast world for his NFL season. Aaron Bracy looks at NBC promising to outdo the old ESPN NFL Primetime with it’s new Football Night in America Sunday evening studio show. Bracy also had a look on Thursday at Ron Jaworksi and Dick Vermeil reuniting, this time in the booth to call the second game of ESPN’s Monday night doubleheader. Bracy promises some media updates on his blog this weekend as well. Laura Nachman has Sports Talk 950-AM morning drive host Gregg Henson trying to build the station while dealing with a few “real world” issues as well. Jim Williams has a quick look at what Washington D.C. viewers can expect for NFL coverage. Chris Zelkovich reports on how this year’s Canadian Open could be the last one that is actually produced by Canadians.

South

Jim Sarni looks at the Marlins announcers being careful during Anibal Sanchez’s no-hitter not to jinx it for the rookie. He also has a very thorough look at the NFL offerings and options from the various networks and outlets. Barry Horn profiled Curt Menefee, who will handle the halftime and postgame hosting duties for the NFL on FOX this season while Joe Buck hosts the pregame show and then calls the game. Menefee will also handle the pregame shows when Buck is away for three weeks doing the MLB postseason. Barry Jackson has a look at the networks squaring off over flexible scheduling, as well as FOX having to give a fan a new truck as a result of a poorly executed joke by announcers Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa. Dave Darling rounds up all the changes that NFL viewers can expect this season with old faces in new places and new faces in different time slots and networks. David Barron has Lee Corso weighing on on Texas/Ohio State.

Mid-America

Bob Wolfley reports on how a Phil Simms interview on satellite radio influenced Brett Favre in terms of his decision to return to the Packers for another season. Roger Brown has Boomer Esiason down on the Browns. Judd Zulgad looks at the NFL broadcast wars heating up, as well as Bert Blyleven’s five game suspension from Twins radio for use of “a couple of naughty words” during a pregame show. Ed Sherman looks at the lineup shuffles in the broadcast world that are common when television contracts change hands. Teddy Greenstein thinks Rick Morrissey is too harsh on Notre Dame.

California

Larry Stewart looks at TiVo and CBS Sportsline teaming up for the benefit of fantasy football team owners. Stewart also wasn’t impressed with NBC’s incessant self-promotion last night. Tom Hoffarth has Tony Kornheiser a bit uncomfortable and skeptical about his role on Monday Night Football. John Maffei looks at the Chargers and Padres getting the national spotlight shined on them this weekend ESPN. Michael Lev has some friendly advice in an open letter to new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Topics include the NFL in Los Angeles, commercials, and TD celebrations. Jim Carlise goes into the KNBC’s new sports programe changes around the NFL broadcast world and also has a look at “The Challenge.” Jay Posner peruses the NFL broadcast lineup and also has a network-by-network preview.