This one isn’t really news, because it was announced a long time ago. But with the 2023 schedule release only three days away, it makes sense to focus on the most dramatic shift that will be seen in the official slate of 272 games.
For the first time ever, no network will be tied to any Sunday afternoon games. No network is tied to any of the 1:00 p.m. ET and 4:05 p.m./4:25 p.m. ET games.
For years, CBS was the default network for the NFC, with NBC handling the AFC games. Then, in 1994, Fox stole the NFC package from CBS. Four years later, CBS took the AFC package from NBC.
Now, there is no “package” for either network. What started as periodic cross-flexing will become open season.
That will only intensify the jockeying and politicking that occurs as the networks compete for as many of the best games as possible. Fox, for example, no longer has a stranglehold on the Cowboys, and CBS can no longer lay claim to the Chiefs or the Patriots (or, for at least this year, the Jets).
Under the old rules, CBS had all Sunday afternoon games involving two AFC teams — and any interconference games in which the AFC team was the visitor. Fox had all Sunday afternoon games involving two NFC teams, along with any interconference games with the NFC team on the road.
As noted by Peter King in Monday’s Football Morning in America column, the change is complicating the process of crafting the schedule. With the AFC currently the far more competitive of the conferences, it’s coming at a perfect time for Fox, which gladly will give up its stranglehold on NFC games for a big slice of the AFC pie.
And it will become a fascinating wrinkle when the time comes to examine the schedule and see whether it’s a 50-50 split, or whether there is still evidence in the assignment of games that the NFC skews toward Fox, and the AFC to CBS.