NFL Announces Plans to Bring Playoffs to ‘Monday Night Football’

by Suzanne Halliburton
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We’re thinking Outsiders will enjoy this NFL news. There will be a playoff game designated for Monday Night Football.

So find your best queso recipe and start icing the beer, there’s another NFL game to cheer. Super Wild Card Weekend now stretches through Monday. Is it too early to call in sick for Tuesday?

Here’s what the NFL is doing. Last season, the one impacted so much by the Covid-19 pandemic, did feature one positive. The league added a sixth wildcard game. The schedule made for hours and hours of football action on Saturday and Sunday, with three games each day.

With the 2021 plan, the NFL will go with two games Saturday, three on Sunday and one on Monday night.

So why the change? Well, Monday Night Football has been a party night for decades. Pete Rozelle, a big-thinking NFL commissioner, pushed for a prime-time game back in the 1960s. He finally got Mondays scheduled throughout the 1970 season. In 1971, ABC settled on an announcing lineup of Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford and “Dandy” Don Meredith. And a pop cultural phenomenon was born.

The NFL thought about scheduling a wildcard game for a Monday night last season. But the game would’ve overlapped with college football’s playoffs. There’s no such conflict in 2021 since the league decided to extend the regular schedule to 18 weeks and 17 games per team.

So why move a playoff game to Monday Night? What’s the big deal? Here’s why. The NFL dominates in prime time. There now are primetime games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday.

Green Bay played host to the Detroit Lions this past Monday. The audience totaled 13.8 million on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Desportes and streaming. It was the second most-watched week two Monday night game since 2014. Most of the Monday Night games are broadcast on ESPN, which is a cable channel. There are weeks when ABC will telecast the games in primetime. ABC featured New Orleans versus Las Vegas in week two last year. That game was the most-watched Monday game of 2020.

Plus, ESPN broadened its Monday night coverage by adding a show with Peyton and Eli Manning. It’s a simulcast on ESPN2. You can watch with the Manning brothers by listening to them call plays, tell stories and interviewing their football friends. The first show drew a meager audience of 800,000. But this Monday’s simulcast enjoyed a numbers spike, with 1.9 million viewers.

The NFL kicked off its season on Thursday primetime, with NBC showing defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay playing host to Dallas. The dramatic Buccaneers win was a ratings boon. It was the most-watched opener since 2015 with a total audience of more than 26 million. Meanwhile, this past Sunday night game (Kansas City-Baltimore) drew more than 20 million viewers.

So yes, it makes big money sense for a playoff game on Monday Night Football. And you’ve got plenty of time to plan your viewing party. The NFL hasn’t even decided which network gets the Monday night playoff spot.

Plus, remember that Tampa Bay won its first playoff game during 2020 Wild Card weekend.

Outsider.com