Let’s rank 2023 Sunday Night Football slate: Best primetime NBC matchups for NFL season

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Posted at 12:53 PM, May 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-15 13:53:59-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs are currently scheduled for three games on NBC’s slate, which includes Sunday Night Football.

That, of course, includes the traditional opening-night game for the reigning Super Bowl champions, with the Chiefs hosting Detroit on Thursday, Sept. 7, to kick off the 2023 NFL season.

Right now, that’s the only “Sunday Night Football” contest slated for GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium as Kansas City’s remaining NBC primetime games are slated for the road — Oct. 1 at the New York Jets and Dec. 3 at Green Bay.

NBC can begin flexing games as early as Week 5, but that means two of the Chiefs’ three scheduled games — the opener against the Lions and Week 4 showdown at the Jets — already will be in the books.

But the Packers game could be a candidate to get flexed, especially if the Jordan Love era gets off to a slow start and Green Bay’s an afterthought in the AFC by December.

It’s in that spirit, we look at the 20 games announced for the NBC primetime football slate and rank ’em.

Week 18, which is always determined after the penultimate weekend wraps up based on the most-intriguing standalone matchup for the season finale, isn’t included here.

20. Week 11 — Minnesota at Denver, Nov. 19
The Bland QB Bowl: The Vikings may win a bad NFC North again and have a rising star in Justin Jefferson, while the Broncos should be better led by Sean Payton by default. But Kirk Cousins vs. Russell Wilson isn’t a sexy quarterback matchup.

19. Week 17 — Green Bay at Minnesota, Dec. 31
The Bland QB Bowl II: Clearly, I am biased against Cousins, but I’m also not convinced the Packers will be any good. This smells like a flex candidate waiting to happen.

18. Week 2 — Miami at New England, Sept. 17
The New England Still Matters Bowl: The Dolphins deserve the primetime limelight and the Patriots remain relevant nationally, but Mac Jones needs to make some serious strides to prove he can be a top-tier NFL starter. Will he show it in Week 2? Meh, I’m not counting on it.

17. Week 3 — Pittsburgh at Las Vegas, Sept. 24
The Once-Proud Franchises Bowl: It’s two teams with nationwide fan followings, but it also could be a defensive snoozefest with some bad offense on display in primetime.

16. Week 13 — Kansas City at Green Bay, Dec. 3
The Super Bowl I Rematch Bowl: This one sure seems like a flex candidate if the Jordan Love-led Packers fall flat as the post-Aaron Rodgers era opens in cheese country. The first Love vs. Mahomes matchup provided a 13-7 Chiefs win worthy of a nap.

15. Week 8 — Chicago at Los Angeles Chargers, Oct. 29
The Please Watch the Bears Bowl: Without being sold yet on Justin Fields, it’s hard to get too fired up for this one. But it could serve as a Bears home game and be a shootout, so it may at least be entertaining.

14. Thanksgiving — San Francisco at Seattle, Nov. 23
The Pacific Northwest-ish Bowl: Playoff rematches provide an automatic storyline and the game almost certainly will matter in the NFC West standings, especially if Geno Smith backs up his breakout 2023.

13. Week 16 — Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, Dec. 23 (Saturday at 3:30 p.m.)
The Blue-Collar Bowl: It seems like this game gets penciled into the SNF on NBC lineup every year. For good reason lately, given the Steelers’ consistent success and the Bengals’ meteoric rise since drafting Joe Burrow.

12. NFL opener — Detroit at Kansas City, Sept. 7
The Detroit Has Something to Prove Bowl: The Lions are going to be a trendy pick to win the NFC North and Dan Campbell has emerged as one of the biggest head-coaching characters in the NFL. He and the Motor City Kitties will be highly motivated to prove the Lions are done Lionsing for a while, but GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium will be electric and Patrick Mahomes > Jared Goff.

11. Week 15 — Baltimore at Jacksonville, Dec. 17
The I-95 Bowl: Arguably, this game should be even higher on the list. Lamar Jackson and Trevor Lawrence are big box-office draws for the NFL, but this is around the time of the season Jackson often shows signs of breaking down — along with the Ravens as a team.

10. Week 16 — Buffalo at Los Angeles Chargers, Dec. 23 (Saturday at 7 p.m., Peacock)
The Not Quite As Good As Mahomes Bowl II: It’s a real bummer that this game, one of the top QB matchups in the league, will be seen by a fraction of the audience it deserves. Josh Allen vs. Justin Herbert is appointment viewing, which is what NBC is counting on by making it streaming-only.

9. Week 10 — New York Jets at Las Vegas, Nov. 12
The Escape from Green Bay Bowl: Aaron Rodgers against Davante Adams.

8. Week 6 — New York Giants at Buffalo, Oct. 15
The Brian Dā-Bowl: Brian Daboll has some familiarity with the Bills, having coached there before leading the Giants to a somewhat stunning turnaround last season. Storylines like that are an easy sell for me.

7. Week 12 — Baltimore at Los Angeles Chargers, Nov. 26
The Offseason Champions Bowl: Can the Chargers contain Lamar Jackson and company? Can the Ravens (usually overrated) defense stop Justin Herbert and company? I’ll definitely tune in to find out.

6. Week 5 — Dallas at San Francisco, Oct. 8
The Don't Roast Dak Again Bowl: Another playoff rematch — and a chance for the Cowboys’ social-media team to throw QB Dak Prescott under the bus and run him over again. Both teams fancy themselves as NFC contenders, so it should be a close, tense clash.

5. Week 7 — Miami at Philadelphia, Oct. 22
The Shouldn't Have Tanked for Tua Bowl: Jalen Hurts went 48 picks after Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5 overall) in the 2020 NFL Draft, but he’s had a vastly superior career so far. Hurts played well enough to win Super Bowl LVII, but Patrick Mahomes played better. Is this a Super Bowl LVIII preview?

4. Week 1 — Dallas at New York Giants, Sept. 10
The Top-5 Media Markets Bowl: The second most-played SNF on NBC rivalry, the Cowboys and Giants are probably battling for second in the NFC East behind Philadelphia, but getting the 2023 season off to a strong start will be critical for both teams.

3. Week 9 — Buffalo at Cincinnati, Nov. 5
The Throwing Shade Bowl: The game that wasn’t last season. There will be a lot of Damar Hamlin stories and Bills-playoff-collapse stories written in the days leading up to this one. Among the biggest threats to the Chiefs’ AFC dynasty, the playoffs implications are rife in this one.

2. Week 14 — Philadelphia at Dallas, Dec. 10
The Obligated to Put It Primetime Every Year Bowl: The most-played SNF on NBC matchup of all-time, the Eagles and Cowboys clash as the de facto NFL game of the week for a record 16th time. The game also could go a long way toward settling the NFC East.

1. Week 4 — Kansas City at New York Jets, Oct. 1
Mahomes-Rodgers I (Finally): Four years ago, Patrick Mahomes suffered a knee injury and missed a showdown with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Two years ago, Rodgers contracted COVID-19 and missed a showdown with Mahomes and the Chiefs. Are we finally going to get the Mahomes-Rodgers matchup the NFL world deserves? Let’s hope so.