The 'Monday Night Football' Doubleheader is Back

Monday Night Football
Monday Night Football / George Rose/GettyImages

The 2021 NFL season was the first in years that did not feature a Monday Night Football doubleheader in Week 1. This was a change welcomed with open arms. The back half of the doubleheader on MNF suffers tremendously as far as viewership goes due to how late the game runs and, in recent years, hasn't been worth watching anyway. It got to the point that many opinion articles were posted on many sites, including the one you're on right now, demanding the NFL abolish the doubleheader outright.

It worked out pretty well last year, mostly because the first MNF game of the season was an absolute barnburner between the Baltimore Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders that ended deep in overtime on a walkoff touchdown. But the league is not done experimenting. Sports Business Journal reported on Wednesday that the 2022 season would reintroduce a doubleheader on Monday Night Football-- but with a twist. Per SBJ:

When ESPN’s new NFL deal kicks in for the 2023 season, ABC will carry three “Monday Night Football” games each year. This year, during what the league and network are calling a “bridge season” that will sync up the contracts, ABC will carry one as sort of a quasi-doubleheader.

Here’s how it will work: One of the networks, either ABC or ESPN, will start its game early, probably around 7 p.m. ET. The other network will start its game later, after 8 p.m. ET. That means that the games will run side-by-side for at least a couple of hours. The NFL hasn’t yet decided when to schedule these games, but ESPN expects them to be within the first four weeks of the season.

This is a solution born more of out necessity than the NFL's desire to have multiple games on Monday night. But it will, if anything, be an interesting experiment.

It's fairly easy to predict what will happen if one game is bad. Attention will be largely turned to the game that is good, regardless of what network. If both games are bad, it'll be pretty close to an even split. But if both games are good? ABC will probably win out ratings-wise but ESPN put up big numbers all last year with their MNF broadcast and have the ManningCast to offer.

It is doubtful the NFL will try this again unless both games get huge numbers, which is largely reliant on the quality of the game. But having the two matchups overlap is definitely a better strategy than having the second game start after 10 p.m. Eastern.