The 7 worst prime-time games on the 2020 NFL schedule, from 2x Bears (why?) to Dolphins vs. Jaguars



The NFL does its best to give us the most compelling matchups in its prime-time schedule for “Thursday Night Football,” “Sunday Night Football” and “Monday Night Football.” But because of the league’s need to be fair and force some teams under the lights, the 2020 NFL schedule once again has some questionable night games in terms of national general appeal.

There’s no issue with the league putting the past two dazzling NFL MVP quarterbacks in prime time many times, no matter whom they’re playing. Patrick Mahomes and the reigning Super Bowl champions play at night in five of their 16 games, a number matched by Lamar Jackson and the Ravens when you include Thanksgiving.

The league also was justified in giving both the NFC-winning 49ers and Tom Brady’s Buccaneers five prime-time games each. There are several of the usual powerhouse matchups between two playoff contenders with Super Bowl aspirations, most appropriately on NBC’s premier SNF package.

But in stark contrast, some of the 48 prime-time games don’t sound good at all on paper with questionable storylines. While SNF looks loaded (with one exception), per usual the bookends of TNF on Fox/NFL Network and MNF on ESPN have the bigger share of potential duds.

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NFL schedule 2020: The 7 worst prime-time games

Titans at Broncos, Week 1, “Monday Night Football” (Sept. 14, 10:10 p.m. ET)

Look, Tennessee was amazing in its wild-card run to the AFC championship. Ryan Tannehill was rewarded well for turning around the Titans season. On the other side, Denver is a team on the rise with a promising second-year QB in Drew Lock.

The Steelers-Giants is a pretty interesting opening to the doubleheader with Ben Roethlisberger’s return to duel Daniel Jones. But it seems wrong to not have the Raiders in Las Vegas, the 49ers in San Francisco or the Seahawks in Seattle as a preferred late opening West Coast team. Titans-Broncos looks slapped together as it no real hook outside of the fan bases needing to wait so long to see their teams kick off the season. Mike Vrabel’s team vs. Vic Fangio’s team feels like an ugly grind and not an offensive show.

Dolphins at Jaguars, Week 3, “Thursday Night Football” (Sept. 24, 8:20 p.m. ET)

This might set up as a Florida battle between Tua Tagovailoa and Gardner Minshew, but given the earliness, it very well could be Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Fitzmagic and beard vs. Minshew’s Mania and mustache. Unless you love teal or aqua or either of these bottom-feeding rebuilding teams in the AFC, this is one you could skip and just track how DeVante Parker and D.J. Chark did for your fantasy teams later.

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Bears at Rams, Week 7, “Monday Night Football” (Oct. 26, 8:15 p.m. ET)

The Rams do not deserve five prime-time games. We get it how the NFL badly wants to see Los Angeles and that wacky new logo, but Sean McVay’s team isn’t nearly as sexy offensively or defensively as it was two years ago during the NFC championship run.

We also have no idea whether it will be Nick Foles against one of his former teams or Mitchell Trubisky playing QB for Chicago. But we know Jared Goff will be his counterpart against a tough Bears defense. The teams’ status as the final NFC wild-card contenders from 2019 carries little luster into a midseason matchup.

Falcons at Panthers, Week 8, “Thursday Night Football” (Oct. 29, 8:20 p.m. ET)

There’s the Saints-Buccaneers matchups between Drew Brees and Brady that will determine who wins the NFC South. Then there are these matchups between Matt Ryan and Teddy Bridgewater to determine who finishes third in the division.

This game could be very nice from a fantasy football perspective with Todd Gurley, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. You can start Ryan and stream Bridgewater. But then again, you can check the box score later to know how well you did vs. watching a high-offense, low-defense affair that has little reality impact on the season.

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Packers at Bears, Week 12, “Sunday Night Football” (Nov. 29, 8:20 p.m. ET)

The NFL loves its long-time natural rivalries, especially in the NFC North. But that doesn’t mean we need to be subjected to them when one team is really good and elite at QB and the other is deciding between Foles and Trubisky.

This is also supposed to be the premier package of SNF. There’s no way Chicago will be contending for the division this late in the season and somehow, Green Bay vs. Minnesota didn’t make it to prime time once anywhere instead. This is the kind of late-season game for which flex scheduling was invented, but unfortunately, given it’s Thanksgiving weekend with the Ravens-Steelers set for Thursday, the Chiefs-Buccaneers locked into Sunday afternoon and Seahawks-Eagles slated for Monday, there might not be any better alternatives.

Patriots at Rams, Week 14, “Thursday Night Football” (Dec. 3, 8:20 p.m. ET)

The Patriots deserve their five prime-timers minus Brady because they’ve earned that marquee-team right with Bill Belichick for several years running. They also play the 49ers, Seahawks, Ravens and Bills, which are night-worthy. The Jets in Week 9 on MNF is a little questionable, but then again, Sam Darnold “seeing ghosts” and Belichick vs. Adam Gase sounds weirdly fun again.

So New England still has Jarrett Stidham at QB and seeing him vs. Goff doesn’t feel nearly as good as the Super Bowl 53 rematch billing. Let’s also remember that game was a low-scoring dud until Brady and Rob Gronkowski, no longer Patriots, made it exciting at the end.

Steelers at Bengals, Week 15, “Monday Night Football” (Dec. 21, 8:15 p.m. ET)

Here’s another thing the NFL likes to do: Put the black and blue AFC North division games in prime time hoping for some total chaos. We’ve seen it here involving several players over several games. We saw it again with the Myles Garrett-Mason Rudolph ugliness when the Steelers played at the Browns on Thursday night in November last season.

The NFL got more subdued in showcasing the Browns in prime time, as their night games, not surprisingly are in the division elsewhere against the Bengals and Ravens. The Steelers also host the Ravens in the Thanksgiving closer.

Adding this one is a stretch, given the healthier Steelers are bound to be much better than the rebuilding Bengals this late in the season. Strictly on-field wise, this was an unnecessary prime-time game, especially in hoping for the worst vs. the best.





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