The start of the NFL season marks, among many other things, the return of Peyton and Eli Manning to our television screens. The ManningCast on ESPN was a roaring success last season. Fans greatly enjoyed the insight of the two former quarterbacks, especially their aggravated reactions to poor decision-making, and the guest appearances helped keep games entertaining even if competitiveness waned into the second half.
On Thursday, ESPN released the ManningCast schedule for the 2022 season. And the Manning brothers may be in line to watch some not-so-great football.
Man. Out of all those games, only the Week 15 matchup between the defending champion Los Angeles Rams and Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers is guaranteed to be quality, competitive football. Everything else looks a bit lopsided from here.
Now, it is important to acknowledge a few things. First, it isn't anybody's fault that the Mannings ended up with a handful of potentially poor games. It's just the way the schedule worked out. Second, things can change drastically. We don't know for sure how the season will unfold. That Week 13 Tampa Bay-New Orleans game could end up being very important as far as the NFC South goes. The Patriots and the Cardinals may be battling for their playoff lives in Week 14. Even if there is poor play on the screen, the stakes will make any game exciting.
On the flip side, over half the teams listed above either aren't supposed to be good or have a very good chance of underperforming. We've all heard about how bad the Patriots' offense has looked and Mac Jones will be evaluated by the Mannings twice. The Bears are going to be brutally bad, as are the Giants. Nobody has any idea how the Trey Lance thing is going to work out in San Francisco. The Browns aren't going to put up much of a fight in Week 8, four weeks before their starting QB returns. The Saints are the biggest wildcard on here in their first season without Sean Payton since 2005.
If it all goes as bad as it could and most of these games end up either boring, blowouts, or both, then it's a blessing for ESPN that they have the Mannings. Watching two mediocre teams face off is the perfect medium for fans to enjoy everything the ManningCast has to offer. It's when the game matters that fans tend to shift to a more traditional broadcast experience.
Ideally, I am wrong and all these games are at least competitive, even if not particularly good football. In fact, that may be the best-case scenario. The best parts of the ManningCast is watching both Peyton and Eli tear their hair out at inexplicable quarterbacking decision and reacting like fans to the wild twists and turns of the game. Just because a team is bad doesn't mean they can't make a game interesting.
But for those who love to watch the Mannings break down the X's and O's of elite quarterback play, it may be a tough year.