Some breaking news from the NFL Owners Meetings: It will be the Tennessee Titans, not the Ravens, who will draw the short straw of opening the season on Thursday Night’s kickoff in Pittsburgh as the Steelers hoist their sixth Super Bowl banner at Heinz Field.
There has been weeks of speculation that the Ravens would be the “preferred” opponent for the Steelers but the Ravens made it clear that they preferred to not play a nationally televised evening game in Pittsburgh for the fourth time in five years.
My sources tell me that it was a “competitive balance” issue more than being “afraid” to go to Pittsburgh, which the Ravens will do anyway at some point this season as they do every year. The Ravens thought it was unfair that the league has continually made them sit in a hotel stewing on the road all day and then being forced into short rest the following week.
The mandate from Ravens’ management was simple: we’ve gone up there enough for evening games so make them come down and play in Baltimore for a nighttime game for a change.
I don’t agree with the Ravens position, but as one team official told me: “You’re a fan. We’re trying to get an edge to WIN a game in Pittsburgh, not set ourselves up to make it tougher on ourselves. Going there and winning is hard enough but sitting in a hotel room all day on Monday and waiting for the game hasn’t been good for us.”
Here’s the NFL press release:
The NFL announced today its 2009 Kickoff Weekend primetime television schedule — including a Monday night “AFL 50th” doubleheader — and the Thanksgiving Day national TV tripleheader.
In a tradition that began in 2004, the Super Bowl champion annually hosts the NFL Thursday night season kickoff the following year. This September 10 at 8:30 PM ET on NBC, the Super Bowl XLIII champion Pittsburgh Steelers will host the AFC South champion Tennessee Titans, who had an NFL-best 13-3 record last season.
The Sunday night primetime game (8:30 PM ET) on NBC will feature a division matchup as the Green Bay Packers host the Chicago Bears. Green Bay and Chicago have won seven of the past eight NFC North titles.
On Monday night, September 14, ESPN will host a Monday Night Football doubleheader that will be part of the NFL’s celebration of the 50th anniversary season of the American Football League. The four clubs competing that night began playing in the inaugural 1960 AFL season. The first game (7:00 PM ET) will send the Buffalo Bills to Foxboro to visit the New England Patriots, the decade’s winningest team (102-42 since 2000). The MNF nightcap (10:15 PM ET) will be an AFC West battle as the Oakland Raiders host the three-time defending AFC West champion San Diego Chargers.
Continuing an innovation introduced in 2006, the NFL will serve up three nationally-televised games on Thanksgiving Day.
The early game (FOX, 12:30 PM ET) will be an NFC North meeting of the Green Bay Packers at the Detroit Lions. The second game (CBS, 4:15 PM ET) features the Oakland Raiders visiting the Dallas Cowboys in the Raiders’ first Thanksgiving game since 1970.
The Thanksgiving primetime game will be at 8:20 PM ET on NFL Network with the defending NFC East champion New York Giants visiting the Denver Broncos, marking the first Thanksgiving contest in Denver since 1963.
The announcement of the Kickoff Weekend and Thanksgiving games was made Monday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the NFL Annual Meeting in Dana Point, California.
The rest of the 2009 regular-season schedule will be completed and announced in April.