Jets ‘owe us one’: NFL explains prime-time slate

Sports

The New York Jets landed a record number of prime-time games over the first three months of the 2024 season because the appeal of four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers was too great to ignore, the NFL acknowledged Thursday.

“Yes, it’s an awful lot of prime-time games early in the season, but, obviously, I feel like Jets kind of owe us one,” Mike North, the NFL’s vice president of broadcast planning, said on a video conference with reporters.

The Jets have six night games in the first 11 weeks, the most for any team since the 1970 merger, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The NFL and its TV networks went big on the Jets last season — five games in prime time — but it backfired when Rodgers suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in Week 1.

“When we had this conversation a year ago, we were — all of us — all-in on the Jets, and for that guy to last four plays was disheartening for many of us,” North said. “I feel like we could run it back, and certainly our broadcast partners, when they came to us early in the process talking about what storylines they want to focus on early in the season, obviously Aaron Rodgers’ return was a key one for everybody.”

North said the Jets were a “feisty” team even without Rodgers — they finished 7-10 — adding that they improved their roster this offseason. The 40-year-old quarterback, eight months removed from surgery, is healthy and participating in offseason drills with no restrictions, according to the Jets.

The Jets have two games on Monday night (ESPN/ABC), two games on Sunday night (NBC) and two games on Thursday night (Prime Video). They open the “Monday Night Football” schedule, facing the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 9. They could get more prime-time dates on the back end of the season because of flex scheduling, North said.

“Hopefully, he stays healthy and, hopefully, they’re relevant,” North said.

In other schedule/TV-related developments, the NFL said it will have two games in 2025 on Christmas Day, which lands on a Thursday. There will be a Netflix game in the afternoon and a Prime game in the evening, according to the league.

Netflix is streaming two games this Christmas, which falls on a Wednesday — the Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans. Netflix will also stream at least one game in 2026 as part of the three-year deal announced Wednesday.

Commenting of the 2024 schedule, Hans Schroeder, the NFL executive vice president of media distribution, said the league is excited about the broadcasting debut of Tom Brady, the new lead analyst for Fox Sports. The seven-time Super Bowl champion also is attempting to buy a minority stake in the Las Vegas Raiders, raising the question of a possible conflict of interest.

Schroeder said there are no restrictions on which games Brady can work.

“Right now, Tom’s not an owner of the Raiders, and as we go into this year, Tom’s able to call any game on the schedule,” he said.

The league officials also addressed some of the quirks in this year’s schedule. For instance, the Steelers and Chicago Bears don’t begin their divisional play until Week 11, finishing the schedule with six of their final eight games against AFC North and NFC North teams, respectively. That wasn’t intentional, North said.

“It feels like a college basketball schedule with the nonconference games first,” North said. “It wasn’t intentional, but also again, wasn’t necessarily something that we looked at and thought was unfair.”

North said it’s “probably something we’ll take a look at moving forward. But, again, [it’s] not necessarily a disqualifier.”

One schedule variable that wasn’t considered, despite some wild internet conjecture, was making sure Travis Kelce and the Chiefs had a game scheduled close in location to one of the tour spots for Taylor Swift.

“I saw a lot of conspiracy theorists talking about Kansas City at Buffalo middle of the season, right when Taylor’s playing Toronto,” North said. “That one definitely did not hit our radar screen.”

Neither game on Christmas Day is in prime time. Steelers-Chiefs begins at 1 p.m., followed by Ravens-Texans at 4:30 p.m. That decision was made from market research and with the international audience in mind.

“We had initially sort of talked about maybe replicating what we do on divisional and championship [games] and looking at a 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.-type kick,” Schroeder said. “We got a lot of feedback from the market — even before we get into the Netflix view on global — that on Christmas Day, for those that celebrate that holiday, you get into post 8 p.m., you get into dinners, you get into some travel, you get into some other things.

“… Then layering on Netflix’s view, with the global-first mentality going to that 1 p.m. time would be the right window for us, another game at 4:30 p.m. that day for our fans everywhere. We thought that was the right window to solve for.”

ESPN’s Brooke Pryor and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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