· A rematch of last year's highest rated NFL regular season game between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots, which earned a 20.1. The Colts will also meet the Bears and Chargers on Sunday Night Football.
· Three appearances from the Super Bowl champion Giants (Redskins, Eagles, Cowboys).
· Six games involving the Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli, winners and MVPs of the last two Super Bowls. Eli and the Giants will open NBC's schedule on Thursday, Sept. 4, while Peyton and the Colts will play in the first Sunday Night Football contest on Sept. 7.
· Three appearances by the Patriots including a rematch against LaDainian Tomlinson and the San Diego Chargers, the team they eliminated the last two years in the playoffs. They also will play the Colts and Seahawks.
· Three games involving the Cowboys all against conference rivals (Packers, Redskins, Giants).
· A meeting between two of the NFL's most historic franchises as the Cowboys visit the Green Bay Packers and Lambeau Field.
· Four matchups among bitter NFC East rivals (Redskins-Giants; Giants-Eagles; Giants-Cowboys; Cowboys-Redskins).
· A rematch of last year's memorable playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
· The first "NBC Sunday Night Football" visit to Cleveland as the Browns host their archrival the Steelers.
"Looking at this schedule and all of the great stories that will unfold, I can't wait for the start of the season, and to build on the success of the last two years," said Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics. "In the first two seasons of 'NBC Sunday Night Football,' we created a new destination to reach viewers and changed what was 36 years of traditional viewing habits on Sunday and Monday nights. The NFL remains one of the most valuable properties in all of television. "
As evidence of the continuing shift in consumer behavior, last season "Sunday Night Football won 11 Sunday nights, up from nine in 2006. In just two years, there is now a five million viewer difference, 43 percent, between Sunday and Monday nights. Sunday Night Football was the No. 5 rated primetime show last year.
NBC's 2008 NFL schedule, with a complete breakdown of the matchups from NBC's John Madden and Cris Collinsworth:
("NBC Sunday Night Football" kickoff, 8:15 p.m. ET preceded by "Football Night in America," 7 p.m. ET)
Thursday, Sept. 4 – Washington Redskins at New York Giants*
Sunday, Sept. 7 – Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, Sept. 14 – Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
Sunday, Sept. 21 – Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers
Sunday, Sept. 28 – Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears
Sunday, Oct. 5 – Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, Oct. 12 – New England Patriots at San Diego Chargers
Sunday, Oct. 19 – Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, Oct. 26 – No game scheduled due to World Series Game 4 (FNIA airs 7-8 p.m.)
Sunday, Nov. 2 – New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, Nov. 9 – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, Nov. 16 – Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (Flex Week, Teams Subject to Change)
Sunday, Nov. 23 – Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers (Flex Week, Teams Subject to Change)
Sunday, Nov. 30 – Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (Flex Week, Teams Subject to Change)
Sunday, Dec. 7 – New England Patriots at Seattle Seahawks (Flex Week, Teams Subject to Change)
Sunday, Dec. 14 – New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (Flex Week, Teams Subject to Change)
Sunday, Dec. 21 – San Diego at Tampa Bay (Flex Week, Teams Subject to Change)
Sunday, Dec. 28 – (Flex Week, Teams TBA)
*7 p.m. ET start due to Republican National Convention
THURSDAY, SEPT. 4 – NFL KICKOFF 2008
Washington Redskins at New York Giants (Giants Stadium, E. Rutherford, N.J.)
Eli Manning and the Super Bowl champion Giants host their fierce division rival the Redskins in the debut for first year head coach Jim Zorn. Manning led the Giants to a 17-14 victory over the previously undefeated Patriots and was named Super Bowl XLII MVP.
Madden: "I like the idea of having the first game of the season opening up on a Thursday as a stand alone game. Now we have a real opening weekend with the World Champion New York Giants coming back home after the Super Bowl to start the season. That's pretty darn exciting."
Collinsworth: "I still think the most interesting rivalries in football are in the NFC East. What a baptism by fire for Jim Zorn. Giants Stadium will be rocking."
SUNDAY, SEPT. 7- WEEK ONE
Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts (Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.)
The Sunday Night Football schedule kicks off with a rematch from Super Bowl XLI as Peyton Manning and the Colts make their debut in their new stadium. Manning was the MVP of the Super Bowl versus the Bears.
Madden: "The Bears are always good on defense playing against the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning. This game was the Super Bowl just two years ago."
Collinsworth: "The Bears can apply the type of pressure that can really bother Peyton Manning."
SUNDAY, SEPT. 14 – WEEK TWO
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio)
The Cleveland Browns make only their second appearance on the league's premier primetime package in the last 13 years (2003 was last time since 1995) when they take on AFC North rival Steelers. Both teams finished with 10-6 records last season with the Steelers edging out the Browns for the division title by beating them twice.
Madden: "The Steelers have a tough schedule this year, maybe the toughest schedule. The Browns have a very good offense and this is the year they can make that playoff move."
Collinsworth: "A lot of people are picking Cleveland as the team to beat in the AFC North. They got better in the offseason and look like one of the up and coming franchises in the NFL. Having played in the division with these two teams, I know how intense Pittsburgh-Cleveland is."
SUNDAY, SEPT. 21 – WEEK THREE
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers (Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.)
In what should be a fan favorite, two of the NFL's most popular and historic franchises clash with Aaron Rodgers taking over at quarterback for the retired Brett Favre. He'll face Tony Romo, coming off his second straight Pro Bowl appearance. The teams had identical 13-3 marks last season. In Week 13, the Cowboys defeated the Packers 37-27.
Madden: "Dallas-Green Bay. That's just football. What is Green Bay going to be without Brett Favre? Aaron Rodgers was a first round draft choice and now the world is going to find out about him."
Collinsworth: "When Rodgers came in against the Cowboys last year he gave them a big lift. Stylistically he may be a better fit for this offense than Brett Favre. The Packers have one of the most impressive young rosters in the league."
SUNDAY, SEPT. 28 – WEEK FOUR
Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears (Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.)
After missing the playoffs last season, both of these traditional NFC powerhouses look to establish themselves early in the season.
Madden: "I think the Eagles are going to be back and be a playoff team this year. Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago: This just sounds like a hitting game."
Collinsworth: "Even though Philly has not won a Super Bowl, year in and year out they are one of the most consistently good teams. This is an important year for Donovan McNabb."
SUNDAY OCT. 5 – WEEK FIVE
Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars (Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.)
David Garrard leads the Jags against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers in a rematch of last year's Wild Card game in which the Jags squandered an 18-point fourth quarter lead but kicked a late field goal to survive with a 31-29 victory.
Madden: "Another hitting game. Jacksonville came into Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers with David Garrard making a big fourth down run. The Steelers still have that taste in their mouth."
Collinsworth: "The Jaguars are one of my favorite teams to watch play. They have two tremendous backs and I'm a big fan of David Garrard."
SUNDAY, OCT. 12 – WEEK SIX
New England Patriots at San Diego Chargers (Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.)
The Patriots, led by QB Tom Brady, became the first NFL team to finish the regular season undefeated since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. The Patriots have eliminated the Chargers the last two years in the playoffs, including 21-12 in last year's AFC Championship Game, so San Diego will be thirsting for revenge. Last season, Tom Brady set the NFL single season record by throwing 50 touchdown passes, while his favorite target Randy Moss set the record by a receiver with 23.
Madden: "The Chargers thought they should have gotten the Patriots last year."
Collinsworth: "These are maybe the best two teams in football. You can't deny what the Patriots did last year and if not for their injuries, the Chargers may very well have been world champions."
SUNDAY, OCT. 19 – WEEK SEVEN
Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.)
The NFL's premier primetime package returns to Tampa for the fist time since 2003 when the NFC South Division champs host Matt Hasselbeck and the four-time defending NFC West Division champion Seahawks.
Collinsworth: "Mike Holmgren is looking for that grand farewell. Seattle's defense is as fast and talented as any."
SUNDAY, OCT. 28 – WEEK EIGHT
NO GAME (Note: World Series Game 5)
SUNDAY, NOV. 2 – WEEK NINE
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts (Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.)
In one of the NFL's most anticipated games every year, two future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks square off as Tom Brady and the Patriots travel to Indianapolis to take on Peyton Manning and the Colts. The Pats defeated the Colts 24-20 in Week 9 last season in the highest rated game of the regular season, earning a 20.1.
Madden: "In the last five years, this has been the top game of the year. You are talking about the two top quarterbacks in football, two great coaches and two good organizations. This is just 'The Game.'"
Collinsworth: "Each year this is the most anticipated game on the NFL schedule and as long as Brady and Manning are around, always will be."
SUNDAY, NOV. 9 – WEEK 10
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa.)
Two bitter NFC East rivals meet in the always hostile environment in Philly. Last season the Giants defeated the Eagles twice, including jump-starting their season by sacking Eagles QB Donovan McNabb 12 times in a September victory.
Madden: "The NFC East is always fun. Old-time football."
Collinsworth: "Of all the rivalries in the NFC East, this is the most intense. It feels like Yankees-Red Sox."
SUNDAY, NOV. 16 – WEEK 11
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (FedEx Field, Landover, Md.)
Sports Illustrated has called it the top rivalry in the NFL and "one of the greatest in sports." Last season the teams split their two games, each winning on their home field.
Madden: "Back-to-back NFC East rivalry games. Big games in the regular season, those to me are always the best."
Collinsworth: "The Cowboys are a team that has a lot going for it and will play with a chip on their shoulder because of last year's disappointment."
SUNDAY, NOV. 23 – WEEK 12
Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers (Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.)
Another AFC playoff rematch pits two of the league's marquee stars, LaDanian Tomlinson and Peyton Manning, on two of the NFL's most powerful offenses. The Chargers beat the Colts twice last season – 23-21 in Week 10 of the regular season and then 28-24 in the AFC Divisional playoffs.
Madden: "Is San Diego going to step up to be in the mix with New England and Indianapolis?"
Collinsworth: "If there's one team that has Manning's number it's San Diego. They're sort of his achilles heel."
SUNDAY, NOV. 30 – WEEK 13
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minn.)
Another division rivalry game as dynamic second-year running back Adrian Peterson squares off against Bears stalwart LB Brian Urlacher. Last season in just his eighth game as a pro, Peterson set the NFL's single game rushing record with 296 against the Chargers.
Madden: "Adrian Peterson after one year is one of the top backs in football. If they can get some passing to go with his running he is going to have a bigger year this year than he did last year."
Collinsworth: "Peterson is one of the great talents in the game and the most exciting player to watch."
SUNDAY, DEC. 7 – WEEK 14
New England Patriots at Seattle Seahawks (Qwest Field, Seattle, Wash.)
The always raucous 12th man in Seattle will make things challenging for Brady and the Patriots. This game is expected to have major playoff implications for both teams.
Madden: "Mike Holmgren, one of the top coaches in football is in his last season. He has one more year in Seattle and he thinks it's going to be a pretty good one."
Collinsworth: "These are two of the best teams in the NFL over the past five or six seasons. They have contrasting styles which makes for a better football game. Matt Hasselbeck is on the cusp of being an elite quarterback and a win over Tom Brady would go a long way."
SUNDAY, DEC. 14 – WEEK 15
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas)
Another bitter NFC East game as Tony Romo and the Cowboys seek to avenge last season's playoff loss to the Giants.
Madden: "Giants at Dallas, that sounds like a championship game. Two great young quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Tony Romo. It has all those things that sound awfully good."
Collinsworth: "It's hard to imagine this rivalry getting even more intense but after last year, it is. There is no one in Dallas who believed the Giants were going to walk into Dallas and beat the Cowboys last year."
SUNDAY, DEC. 21 – WEEK 16
San Diego Chargers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.)
A matchup between two of last season's division winners. Rivers will face one of the NFL's best secondaries led by Ronde Barber.
Collinsworth: "Two teams with top-notch defenses but I don't know another team in the league that has as much talent on both sides of the ball as the Chargers."
SUNDAY, DEC. 28 – WEEK 17
Teams to be announced by NFL at least six days prior.
The season again will utilize "flexible scheduling," in Weeks 11-17.
In Weeks 11-16, the schedule lists the games tentatively set for "NBC Sunday Night Football." Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday Night Football, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game will be moved to an afternoon start time. Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights.
A flexible scheduling move will be announced at least 12 days before the game. For Week 17, the change will be announced no later than six days before the game. The schedule does not list a Sunday night game in Week 17, but an afternoon game with playoff implications will be moved to that time slot to conclude the season.
Flexible scheduling will ensure quality matchups on Sunday night in those weeks and give "surprise" teams a chance to play their way onto primetime.
"NBC SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL" & "FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA":
"NBC Sunday Night Football" the premier primetime game of the week, is preceded by the "Football Night in America" studio show, which kicks off NBC's regular season coverage each Sunday at 7 p.m. ET. NBC has assembled the most honored broadcast team ever: Joining Al Michaels, the commentator called "TV's best play-by-play announcer" by the Associated Press, and John Madden, the most honored NFL broadcaster of all time with 15 Emmy Awards, are Bob Costas, the most honored studio host of all time with 19 Emmy Awards, who hosts NBC's "Football Night in America" studio show alongside co-host Cris Collinsworth, the most honored studio analyst in history with eight Emmy Awards; co-host Keith Olbermann, named one of the Top Ten Most Powerful People in TV News for 2007 by Television Week; and analysts Tiki Barber, a three-time NFL Pro Bowler for the New York Giants, and Jerome Bettis, one of the most popular players in recent NFL history. "NBC Sunday Night Football" coverage also includes sideline and feature reporter Andrea Kremer, whom the Los Angeles Times has called "the best TV interviewer in the business of covering the NFL." Peter King, who covers the NFL for Sports Illustrated and is considered one of the country's foremost NFL reporters, serves as a reporter for the "Football Night in America" studio show.