SNF full of must-watch matchups in 2023 NFL season
Mike Florio and Chris Simms run through the 2023 Sunday Night Football schedule and highlight the games they're looking forward to most.
MIKE FLORIO: There it is, and there they all are in their glory. Sunday Night Football, it's like 118 days away. I know that because every day somebody feels compelled to tell us how many days until football season starts. And I always do the old man "get off my lawn" rant of don't count your life away. Enjoy every single day as it comes.
September will be here before you know it, and indeed it will, and it starts with the Lions at the Chiefs, then that weekend, Sunday night, the Cowboys at the Giants.
CHRIS SIMMS: The G-Men.
MIKE FLORIO: There was a period of time when it was not. Dolphins at Patriots, another great one. And then we get toward the Chiefs at Jets. We talked about that one earlier. Just a lot of great games on Sunday Night Football, as always.
The NFL-- it's not like-- it's not like-- look, the NFL has a very strong incentive to have strong and attractive primetime games on broadcast TV, Sunday night, Monday night. And Sunday night is the only broadcast three letter network for those games. It's primarily a cable package on Monday, and it's a streaming package on Thursday.
So it's in the NFL's interest to put great games there, and they always have, and they always will. Those are great games and a great spot to get a big audience and some great games to come. Chris, there's going to be great storylines every week, and then there's the flexing possibility for the back end, depending upon how the season goes. And we always know on paper it looks one way. Once we start going one week at a time, one game at a time, it's going to unfold very differently.
CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah, well, that's right, but you know, like, early season schedule, we can feel comfortable with that. And that's where, I mean, I look at those first seven weeks and just go, wow. I mean, we got the Chiefs twice out of the first four weeks there. We got the Cowboys twice out of the first five weeks.
The Giants, two out of the first six weeks, right? We got that marquee Cowboys-49ers game in week five. There's just-- I couldn't-- I couldn't be more pumped about our schedule, really. I mean, that first weekend is exciting, and everything else along with it there early on in the year definitely looks like it's-- we're guaranteed of some good matchups there, at least early on.
MIKE FLORIO: Well, I mean, there is-- not that I would refrain from saying good Lord if there was--
CHRIS SIMMS: Steelers at Raiders is the only one that you look at to go--
MIKE FLORIO: Why? But why would you even-- yep, that one's even close, but it's Steelers-Raiders.
CHRIS SIMMS: I know. That's what I'm saying.
MIKE FLORIO: Steelers-Raiders is always a good game.
CHRIS SIMMS: Right. It's two-- it's a great rivalry. It's a same mantra in two different organizations. No, I'm with you. I'm just saying that's the one that you might look at and go, it doesn't quite have the same type of team or star power there. But yeah, for me and you, traditional NFL people, yeah, Steelers at Raiders is freaking awesome.
MIKE FLORIO: The week six game, the Giants at the Bills, the Brian Daboll homecoming back to Buffalo.
CHRIS SIMMS: Battle in New York.
MIKE FLORIO: That's the time of the year where one or both of those teams could be getting a little desperate depending upon what happens. And we're going to talk later about this Giants schedule. Maybe John Mara shouldn't have complained so much about late season Thursday night flexing. We'll talk about that later in the program.
But they may be getting closer and closer to the end of the road, as it relates to how many losses you can rack up before you're just done. But that's got intrigue because Daboll knows Josh Allen, coached Josh Allen to very high degrees of success, trying to do the same thing with Daniel Jones, trying to replicate the performance last year that made him Coach of the Year. And as John Mara said, you can quickly go from Bono to Bozo. This is going to be one of the efforts to avoid going to Bozo when they go to Buffalo week six, Sunday night.
CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah. No, you're right. There's a personal aspect there, right? Joe Schoen, the GM, he's also from Buffalo. So there's that to go into that. They're doing a lot of things in a similar fashion there, with maybe a little bit of a New England twist that Brian Daboll has back in his history there.
But yeah, the Giants are one of those teams that was in the playoffs last year, but you certainly look at this year and go, wait, can they do it again? I know they improved their team a little bit, but I think-- I don't think I'm being unfair to say they exceeded expectations and maybe even exceeded the talent on their roster last year.
And now they got a little bit of a tougher schedule and they're in primetime games. They're definitely one of the teams that I have an eye on or put a little star next due to go, team that was in playoffs last year, not sure they're a definite playoff caliber team again. Yeah, so I certainly see some of the things you're talking about there in week six.
MIKE FLORIO: Given that it's also a rematch of Super Bowl 25, do you think that the Giants will have Jeff Hostetler come in to speak to the team? With or without shaving cream in his shoes?
CHRIS SIMMS: Maybe. We bring Jeff Hostetler and we bring Scott Norwood, that's what we do, a double whammy there. I think that's what we do, just to make the Bills feel the pressure. But yeah, I mean, the Bills, that right there with the Giants and the Battle of New York a little bit. And then a few weeks after that NBC, we're going to have the game of, like, the most crazy thing we saw in my NFL life last year with the Bills at the Bengals again. We're going back to the scene of, like, Damar Hamlin and all that. So we got some great stories in that first half of the year.
MIKE FLORIO: With Damar Hamlin quite possibly playing. I mean, he's cleared. He's coming back. He's ready to go. He could be on the field.
He and Tee Higgins have become close friends. They spent a lot of time away from the field. Higgins was the one who took a ridiculous and stupid asinine amount of blame from some in the media who thought that it was him dropping his helmet that caused the condition, commotio cordis. They've kind of decided that's what it is by exclusion of all the other potential causes that caused the heart to stop of Damar Hamlin, which is just ridiculous to blame it on Higgins.
But just the layers, and the levels, and the storylines, and we finally get to see those two-- those teams square off in Cincinnati. We saw it in Buffalo in the playoffs last year, and it didn't go well for the Bills. We finally get to see those two teams in Cincinnati.
And then the following week, it's, oh, Aaron Rodgers again. And yeah, it's Las Vegas, it's the Raiders. Who knows how good they're going to be or not good, but it's a chance to watch Aaron Rodgers playing for the New York Jets in a standalone capacity. So it doesn't matter who they're playing.
This is one of their not difficult games, and it got pulled to primetime. They've got plenty of difficult games in primetime. This is at least one that they should be able to go out and win. At the risk of doing the, that's a win, that's a loss. I think it's safe to say, even now with middle of the season to go until we have Jets at Raiders, safe to say the Jets will be a healthy 8, 9-point favorite in that one and probably cover whatever the spread is. But it'll be fun to see Aaron Rodgers and his teammates in that setting.
CHRIS SIMMS: What? You're setting an 8 or 9-point spread for a week 10 game? What? Look at you.
MIKE FLORIO: Yes.
CHRIS SIMMS: OK, all right there, Jimmy the Shark over here.
MIKE FLORIO: I don't know what I'm talking about when it comes to spreads. I have no idea.
CHRIS SIMMS: I know.
MIKE FLORIO: I have no idea. Yesterday I said-- yesterday I said, the Lions will be about 4 and 1/2 point underdogs to the Chiefs, and it was already 7. So I don't know what I'm talking about.
CHRIS SIMMS: OK, good. Yeah, well, I mean, we knew that anyways. All right, so, wait, here's some other things, personal level, personal life here, right? Last year, we had to do the Thanksgiving pregame show, even though it was a 30-minute pregame show and people were watching the game before anyways, we still had to do it.
So didn't we? No, Thanksgiving? No, maybe we didn't. You're right. I'm wrong. Dammit, I'm wrong. OK, wait, wait, I'm wrong, I'm wrong. I'm thinking of the wrong holiday.
But I always go to the holidays because I want to look, right? Then we don't have a Christmas game. I couldn't believe that. That's where I was like super excited yesterday. I went, wait, we don't have to work on Christmas Eve or Christmas? So I was super pumped about that.
Our week 16 game goes to a Saturday at 4:30, Bengals at Steelers. That was certainly a positive in the Chris Simms personal life category.
MIKE FLORIO: Well, yeah, that worked out pretty well, I guess. I hadn't even locked on to that because I've got the modern technology, even though I'm going to be traveling up most of the year this season, I assume, since I was doing it more and more at the end of the year last year. I'd like to think I still get a dispensation on Christmas, but I don't need it this year if we don't have a game on Christmas Eve. And obviously, we don't on Christmas Day.
But that Steelers-Bengals game, December 23, boy, that's enough-- that's four games. See, the Steelers do not like these evening home games. Art Rooney has politiced in the past four none of them, if they can avoid it. They've now got three night games this year at home, and then they've got this 4:30 PM Eastern game on the 23rd of December, which is basically a night game. When it's late December, it's going to be dark five minutes into the game.
So be careful what you ask for if you're an NFL team because sometimes you're going to get the exact opposite. But that will still be a great game, Bengals-Steelers. I mean, it's always a great game when the Bengals go to Pittsburgh.
CHRIS SIMMS: Definitely. I would think, hey, that's a weekend that everybody's got a long weekend. I could see where the working man on Thursday night, or Sunday night, or Monday night, it's hard to go, wait, I'm going to stay there, and have beers, and stay at the game til 1:00 in the morning and get home around then and get up and go to work, to where that could be tough for the lunch pail crowd, for sure. I hear that.
So hopefully this fits the right way. But I'm super excited about that. Our schedule is awesome. There's two things that are not great about our schedule.
I specifically look at week 11 and week 17. Those two weeks right there, eh, we could have done better in those games, week 11 and week 17. But I'll deal with them for now.
Can you see them, old man? Can you see week 11 and week 17? Do you got to squint a little harder there? Do you know what I'm talking about? You get my joke yet?
MIKE FLORIO: Yeah, I get your joke. The week 17 game could be flexed out.
CHRIS SIMMS: Oh, good. That's right. That's all I wanted to hear. I hope we flex out of that crap. I don't want to hear you and the Vikings talk.
MIKE FLORIO: So there is-- I was confused for a second. There is a Christmas Eve game. It's just another NFL Network game, like last year, when it was the Raiders at the Steelers. It's going to be the Patriots at the Broncos on Christmas Eve, 8:15 PM Eastern, NFL Network.
See, they used to avoid that. They used to avoid, or at least minimize, Christmas. They would avoid a Christmas Eve night game. They've now realized, all these people are together in houses all across the country. Let's give them something to watch on TV. Even if they're not paying the same level of attention that they would for a normal standalone primetime game, it's on TV, they're all home. Inevitably one of the people is going to be a football fan.
That's the thing, you get 20 people in a house, anywhere between 10 and 20 depending upon the size of the family. At least one is going to be enough of a football fan to commandeer the remote and put the game on. The NFL has figured that out.
It's been that way forever with Thanksgiving. They figured it out now for Christmas Eve, they figured it out for Christmas Day. And I'm amazed it took that long for them to figure it out.
CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah. Well, yeah. Yeah, it's Christmas Eve, right? I mean, we got pretty much a full slate there, right? So I think that's--
MIKE FLORIO: Right, but I mean the night game.
CHRIS SIMMS: I know, the night game.
MIKE FLORIO: It's a Sunday. So, it's-- but they used to-- they used to-- when Christmas Eve was a Sunday, they used to not have a night game. There used to be, no. They would do the game the next day or just stay away from that altogether. They've now realized, Sunday night, just because it's Christmas Eve, all is calm, all is bright. They're still going to be the one guy in the family that says, give me the remote, I'm putting the game on.
CHRIS SIMMS: Well, I know. I know. Yeah, that's right. You think about it, and yeah, that's going to be my house. And sorry, Jimmy, Jimmy, are you going to get every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings, sorry, you're going to lose out on that one. There's a football game on that night. I can't watch you there.
But of course. And I thought that was probably part of the reason. It's probably not the best ratings altogether, like you're saying, for Christmas Eve. But still, nonetheless, like you're saying, it's still going to do a huge rating, and people love football in this country. I'm loving the holidays football mix, as long as I don't have to work too much during it, I'm all for it.
MIKE FLORIO: And just a point that I didn't even realize because they only wake me up for the unimportant meetings, the December 23rd double header, 4:30 PM Eastern, NBC, Bengals-Steelers. The 8:00 o'clock game that night is Peacock, exclusive Peacock, Bills at Chargers. And that's the first that Peacock has had an exclusive game.
ESPN Plus has had a couple. They had the I think it was the Broncos-Jaguars, Let's Ride London game last year, exclusive ESPN Plus. So exclusive Peacock on the 23rd, 8:00 Eastern, that's significant. And it's Bills-Chargers, that's not an insignificant game.
CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah, it's definitely not an insignificant game, let alone with those two quarterbacks. I mean, I don't even care what their records are, it's like tune in to watch which guy is going to throw a more crazy laser beam across the field in Allen and Herbert. So I'm with you there.
Yeah, that's awesome. I didn't realize that either, Mike. I'm not going to lie. I didn't realize that was on Peacock either. But either way, yeah, that's a good Saturday for NBC and the two games we got.