The big story for the 2014 NFL season is that CBS will simulcast the first seven NFL Network Thursday Night Football telecasts. As a footnote, none of those seven matchups will feature the 49ers or the Raiders.
These broadcasts, which will air locally on KPIX channel 5, will kick off on September 11 with the Steelers at the Ravens. Other key matchups include the Giants at the Redskins in Week 4, the Jets at the Patriots in Week 7, and in the Thursday CBS finale, it’s the Chargers at the Broncos in Week 8.
This simulcast is a stunt to attract more viewers to Thursday games. The NFL hopes you’ll like what you see on Thursdays and upgrade your cable or satellite package to continue watching from Week 9 on when CBS bows out.
That includes Week 12 when the Raiders host the Chiefs in their only 2014 primetime national appearance, assuming the game sells enough tickets to lift a blackout. It’ll be carried locally on KGO channel 7, but you’ll need access to NFL Network to see the other six kickoffs, including Week 9’s Saints-Panthers contest.
As a condition of the NFL Network's Thursday expansion, package is required to feature as many squads as possible. Sure enough, each of the 14 matchups features different teams, each appearing only once.
The 49ers make their Thursday night bow on Thanksgiving, Week 13, hosting their arch-rivals, and Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks. However it’s not part of the NFL Network package, it’s on NBC, KNTV channel 11 locally.
NBC also has the season kickoff on Thursday September 4, with the Packers at the Seahawks in a rematch of the “Fail Mary” game, where replacement refs handed a Packers victory to the ‘Hawks.
As the marquee NFL package, NBC gets key matchups every week. The first four feature the Colts at the Broncos, the Bears at the 49ers, Steelers at Panthers, and Saints at Cowboys. New this year, the peacock can start flexing games starting with Week 5. That means it can switch contests, like Week 7’s matchup featuring the 49ers at the Broncos, if it deems the currently scheduled one not worthy.
Monday Night Football clashes can’t be switched, so ESPN is gambling it’s got some good matchups. As usual, it starts with a Week 1 doubleheader pitting the Giants at the Lions and the Chargers at the Cardinals.
Surprisingly, the 49ers will only have one MNF appearance, in Week 6 at the Rams. It’ll be carried locally on channel 5. Not surprisingly, the Raiders won’t be on MNF at all.
Finally, CBS and NFL Network will again team up for a Week 16 Saturday doubleheader that’ll feature the 49ers hosting the Chargers. The other matchup has the Eagles at the Redskins. One of them will kick off at 1:30 p.m. with the other at the better start time of 5 p.m., but we won’t know who goes first till we get closer to December.
So the 2014 national outlook has the 49ers involved in five primetime matchups, with the Raiders making only one. That seems about right.
Meanwhile, CBS will try to carry the ball over the goal line for the NFL Network in order to improve its popularity. Will Thursday contests on channel 5 entice you to keep tuning in after Week 8? The NFL says yes. What do you say?