Monday, February 09, 2009

Getting ready for 2009:
Regular season opener

In a blog posting of his own James Walker of ESPN.com has speculated that the Steelers may host the Baltimore Ravens in the Thursday, September 10, 2009 kickoff of the NFL regular season. Anything is possible, but such a matchup is far from a sure thing.

The current format (i.e. the Super Bowl champion opens the season on a Thursday evening) began in 2004 (according to a NFL.com article) and here is how those previous opening nights have been scheduled:
  • 2004: Indianapolis v. New England
  • 2005: Oakland v. New England
  • 2006: Miami v. Pittsburgh
  • 2007: New Orleans v. Indianapolis
  • 2008: Washington v. New York Giants
This past season was the first time division rivals had met in the season opener. Three times a non-divisional conference opponent was scheduled, and once a non-conference opponent was scheduled. With that in mind it seems more probable that the league would go with the non-divisional, conference opponent ~ we think a San Diego v. Pittsburgh matchup would appeal to the folks at NBC. Of course, how many times would we see video of LenDale White desecrating a Terrible Towel if Tennessee opened their season in Pittsburgh on September 10th?

If the league chooses to go outside of the AFC, a Green Bay v. Pittsburgh matchup has a certain football traditionalists appeal, as would watching Adrian Peterson rush against the league's best defense (in 2008), with new quarterback Matt Cassell under center, as Minnesota makes their scheduled visit to Pittsburgh.

All of this is to say that television is going to have a prominent role in playing that opening game, and Baltimore v. Pittsburgh for the fourth time in less than a year may not have the same draw nationwide as it does to fans of those two teams. In one final note on this, since 1996 the Steelers have opened against the Ravens three times (1998 @ Baltimore, 2000 in Pittsburgh, 2003 in Pittsburgh).

Also, last year we calculated strength of schedule ourselves; and apparently intent on not being beaten by the news-breaking dynamo that is Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic, ESPN has done it for us this year. Thank you!

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