17 April 2012
The 2012 NFL schedule has been released, including the nationally televised matchups, and the Detroit Lions are all over it. It's been a decade and a half, but the Lions have finally regained relevancy in the eyes of the NFL and the TV networks.
One year after returning to regular season prime time for the first time in a decade (appearing twice, once each on MNF and SNF), the Lions are scheduled for 4 prime time games this coming season. When you include the annual Thanksgiving Day tilt, the Lions will be part of 5 nationally televised games in 2012.
If you are wondering if the Lions have ever been on the national TV schedule as much as they will be in 2012, the answer is...it's been a long, long time, but yes. But you have to go back to the tail end of the Barry Sanders era.
Since the NFL expanded their schedule to include Monday Night Football in 1970, 2012 is only the 4th time (1990, 1994 and 1998 being the others) the Lions will play in 5 nationally televised games in a season. Though the Lions did play 4 prime time games in 1998. To be honest, I didn't remember, but there wasn't a decade long drought on my mind at the time, either. I was obviously taking the Lions playing the occasional game in prime time for granted back in the day, it being out of the realm of my imagination I would only see one regular season prime time game between 1999 and 2010 (The infamous MNF blowout against the Rams in 2001).
Those ugly days of being ignored have finally passed. The Lions, for lack of a batter word, count.
At exactly 7PM, the Detroit Lions fired off a press release focusing on the nationally televised games:
Detroit’s first prime time game occurs in Week 2 when the Lions travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers, who claimed the NFC West last season, on NBC’s Sunday Night Football (9/16; 8:30 p.m.; NBC). The Lions return to SNF after appearing on NBC’s prime time game for the first time last season when the NFL flexed the team’s game at New Orleans (12/4/11) into the Sunday night prime time slot. The Lions also played in prime time on NBC during last year’s playoff game at New Orleans (1/7/12).
The Lions prime time game in Week 2 is the club’s earliest prime time game in any season since it opened the 1991 season at Washington during a Sunday night TNT telecast.
In 2011, the Lions returned to MNF for the first time in 10 years when they defeated Chicago at Ford Field (10/10/11) in front of a record crowd. This year, ESPN will once again feature the Lions on MNF.
In Week 7, the Lions travel to Chicago to play the Bears on MNF (10/22; 8:30 p.m.; ESPN). It is the Lions’ first-ever prime time game at Soldier Field. Detroit has previously played Chicago five times on MNF and twice on SNF, but all seven prime time games occurred at home.
The schedule features the Lions’ 73rd Thanksgiving Day Classic (11/22; 12:30 p.m.; CBS) vs. the Houston Texans, who won the AFC South division last season. This year’s game marks the first time the Lions will play the Texans on Thanksgiving and the third time in the series. The teams have split the first two games with each home team claiming victories.
Their next prime time game is set for Week 14 when they face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on SNF (12/9/12; 8:30 p.m.; NBC). This year’s meeting is the sixth prime time game between the two clubs since 1970 and first since they played on Sunday night December 11, 2005. The Lions have played three previous games (11/1/71, 11/2/97 and 12/11/05) at Green Bay on prime time television.
Detroit’s fourth prime time game features an ESPN MNF broadcast on Saturday night as the Lions host the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field in Week 16 (12/22/12; 8:30 p.m.; ESPN). The Lions have played the Falcons only one previous time in prime time, which dates back to the team’s meeting October 1, 1973.
Things have definitely changed in Detroit.
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