A beefier NFL regular season will make ESPN's package even more appealing as the Monday Night Football doubleheader in Week 1 appears to be extinct, Peter King reports in his column this morning.
Looks like ESPN will lose the second game of the week-one Monday night doubleheader but gain a hugely valuable property this season: the week 18 Saturday doubleheader on Jan. 8, 2022. What a trade. In the last five years, the Monday night week one nightcap had a string of forgettable matchups: Tennessee-Denver, Denver-Oakland, Rams-Oakland, Chargers-Denver, Rams-San Francisco (pre-either team being good) with relatively poor ratings. Now, ESPN is likely to have one Monday night game in week one at the normal MNF gametime of 8:15 p.m. ET, with a doubleheader to kick off week 18.
Allow me to speak for virtually everyone and wish the nightcap, which debuted in 2006, a hasty good riddance as it's crushed in that trash compactor thing from Star Wars. Few things have better exemplified indifference for the actual fan than starting a game at 10:15 p.m. ET on Monday night knowing full well it would finish around the time James Corden was debuting a new Carpool Karaoke.
The NFL is likely to put two games with playoff implications in the ESPN doubleheader in Week 18, which is obviously far superior to anything Week 1 has to offer. This is a nice little cherry on top of Disney's delicious new rights package, which puts them back in the Super Bowl rotation.
Looking forward, whomever gets the assignment for the second game of this doubleheader will be getting an incredible opportunity. Competition for the No. 1 and No. 2 booths at the network is pretty crowded already and the guaranteed allure of a postseason-deciding broadcast and great ratings is sure to make it even more competitive.