The 2023 schedule will be the first one that wipes out the traditional connection between CBS and the AFC, and Fox and the NFC. Sort of. Maybe.
During last year’s media conference call regarding the crafting of the 2022 regular-season schedule, NFL executive Mike North said that, come 2023, the fairly new dynamic of cross-flexing games among the Sunday afternoon networks would become irrelevant.
“I think all you guys know, when the new media deals kick in, the notion of an AFC team on the road, that game’s a CBS game, or an NFC team on the road, that game belongs to Fox, that’s gone next year,” North said. “That no longer exists. All games are jump balls, all games are free agents.”
That’s a broad statement — all games are jump balls, all games are free agents. But there apparently will be limitations to the otherwise unlimited breadth of the “all games are jump balls, all games are free agents” remark.
Fox executive Michael Mulvihill recently said on Twitter that, even though any given game is eligible to appear on any network, “Fox/NFC and CBS/AFC still have appearance minimums per team that keep the traditional conference affiliations relevant.” Mulvihill added that he “expect[s] to see a lot of misunderstanding on this point.”
Yeah. For good reason. “All games are jump balls, all games are free agents.”
If there’s any misunderstanding, the league created it and/or allowed it to exist. “All games are jump balls, all games are free agents” should have been preceded or followed by “subject to appearance minimums per team that keep the traditional conference affiliations relevant.”
Along those same lines, and perhaps not surprisingly given Mulvihill’s tweet, Drew Magary of Defector.com reports that, for the playoffs, the traditional relationships apply. NFC playoffs on Fox, AFC playoffs on CBS. (Subject, of course, to the games that slide to NBC or ABC/ESPN.)
For the 2023 regular-season schedule, the assignment of games should help clear up any misunderstandings. To the extent any misunderstandings linger into Friday, there will be another media conference call during which the concept of appearance minimums that will keep the traditional conference affiliations relevant will be addressed.