Tonight’s game marks the first national prime-time appearance for the Raiders in 2017. It will be a spot they see several times this year. That’s no accident.
At first glance, the Raiders vs. Redskins seems like just another nondescript matchup among the 256 regular-season games contested each year in the 32-team National Football League. Dig deeper to discern much, much more about what the schedule-makers think of the Raiders’ rebirth and reemergence to prominence and must-see TV.
Once the winningest franchise by percentage in all of pro sports and a media darling with unprecedented success as a Monday Night Football staple, the Raiders have been about as public as a Hillary email in recent years, barely barging onto the national scene as part of a doubleheader game, never mind assuming the role of prime-time player.
Tune in to NBC at 5:30 p.m. Sunday (or join Las Vegas Raiders Report at the Crowbar, 6851 W. Flamingo Road) and you’ll get a glimpse at how vastly the team’s stature has ascended in the minds of those who matter most – the people who market the league.
It will be “Back to the Future” when Oakland and its big-screen performers take center stage against the Redskins at FedExField in Landover, Md. The intriguing interleague game will mark the first of five times the Raiders will assume the role of leading actor this season — nearly twice the total of the past two years combined, and the maximum allowed by the league.
…the Raiders have been about as public as Hillary’s email in recent years, barely barging onto the national scene as part of a doubleheader game, never mind assuming the role of prime-time player.
The Raiders had only one prime-time game in 2015, and just two last year. With five nationally televised night games this season — plus four national doubleheader games in living color — it’s fitting that no team will gain greater exposure than the one that will soon move to the Entertainment Capital of the World. Don’t think the NFL hasn’t thought of that . . .
Perhaps no one will be better rewarded by the Raiders this season than four people you’ve probably never heard of — Howard Katz, Michael North, Blake Jones and Charlotte Carey.
The four league executives oversee the designation of times and locations of the games once computers at league headquarters spew out evaluation of data designed to establish the fairest and most equitable schedule possible. Essentially, when it comes time to raise the curtain, it’s up to Katz, senior vice president of broadcasting; North, senior director of broadcasting; Jones, director of broadcasting; and Carey, manager of broadcasting, to choose the dates, times and locations.
With Chiefs at Oakland, Thursday, Oct. 19; Raiders at Miami, Sunday, Nov. 5; Cowboys at Oakland, Sunday, Dec. 17; and Raiders at Philadelphia, Monday, Dec. 25 (milk and cookies for Santa!), you’ll get more than Pittsburgh, Packers and Patriots in 2017. For all the glory local Fox 5 will enjoy in Southern Nevada as the Raiders’ official television network, more than half of the team’s games will be seen elsewhere when the sun goes down, i.e., CBS, NBC, ESPN and the NFL Network.
Before NFL broadcast execs dissected the data to determine who, what and where deserved top billing, massive motherboards considered the following:
- Each team will play the other three teams in its division twice – once at home and once on the road, accounting for six of its 16-game schedule;
- Each team will play teams in another division from its conference on a rotating basis, ensuring it will face each division in its conference every three years;
- Each team will play one game against each of four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating basis, meaning it will play every team from every division in the other conference every four years;
- Each team will play two games against opponents from the two remaining divisions in its conference depending on results of the previous season. For example, a first-place team will play against other first-place finishers from the other two divisions.
The intangible factors in need of review in trying to satisfy everybody – or anybody – are unimaginable. Included are the fans, the teams, bye weeks, travel, the networks and conflicting events. The league is so
cognizant of who it casts in starring roles, it instituted “flex” scheduling in 2006 to ensure that the best and most meaningful matchups at the end of the season are broadcast to the largest audiences.
That means prime time — like Sunday night in the nation’s capitol — as if there’s not enough must-see TV going on in D.C.
Or, maybe because there is.