Run to the Playoffs

infobox television
show_name = Run to the Playoffs

genre = Sports
runtime = 180 minutes+
starring = Bob Papa
Cris Collinsworth
Rich Eisen
Marshall Faulk
Steve Mariucci
Deion Sanders
Adam Schefter
Tom Hammond
country = United States
network = NFL Network
first_aired = November 23, 2006
last_aired = present
num_episodes =
imdb_id =
tv_com_id =

"Run to the Playoffs" is the brand name used by NFL Network for its schedule of live regular season telecasts of National Football League games on Thursday and Saturday nights.

The eight-game package debuted on November 23, 2006, with the Kansas City Chiefs handing the visiting Denver Broncos a 19–10 Thanksgiving defeat. All games kick off at 8 p.m. Eastern Time (ET). Five games aired on Thursday nights, the other three on Saturday nights. Each game would be called either "Thursday Night Football" or "Saturday Night Football", depending on the night on which it appears. This format carried over to the 2007 season. However in 2008 NFL Network will be eliminating all but one of the Saturday night games as well as starting their Thursday night package three weeks earlier. This is to accommodate the earlier schedule and the league's antitrust exemption, which prohibits Saturday games during college football season.

The game package is highly controversial and has led local NFL team markets to broadcast the games to non-subscribers. The controversy hit a new high in late 2007 when NBC and CBS both bought the broadcast rights from the NFL Network to air the New England Patriots' season finale, as they were 15-0 and vying to be the first team to finish the regular season with a perfect 16-0 record. The game was the first-ever three-network simulcast in NFL history, and first simulcast since NBC and CBS both aired Super Bowl I in 1967. [Associated Press. [ Pats-Giants to be first three-network simulcast in NFL history] "", 26 December 2007.]


The NFL Network's coverage was not the first time games were covered on Thursday or Saturday. Prior to the new contract, ESPN carried a handful of sporadic Thursday night games (usually those displaced from Sunday night) and the broadcast networks used to air several national games on Saturday afternoons (a practice which has since been discontinued).

TNT, ESPN and Versus (the former OLN) were reportedly interested in these games before they were awarded to NFL Network. Because the NFL owns the network, it did not pay a rights fee for the eight-game package. The other TV deals generated $3.735 billion per year over an eight-year period for CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, and DirecTV.

Bryant Gumbel served as play-by-play announcer from 2006 through 2007, resigning in early 2008. Cris Collinsworth is the color commentator. There is no sideline reporter, although Adam Schefter and Marshall Faulk of "NFL Total Access" have contributed from the field at various times. Dick Vermeil serves as color commentator for Saturday games.

Each game telecast is preceded by "NFL Total Access on Location." Rich Eisen, Steve Mariucci, Deion Sanders, and Faulk report live from the site of each game. Schefter contributes insider information, and Kara Henderson and Michelle Beisner also contribute. The show generally begins three hours before game time (5 p.m. ET). The same "Total Access" team hosts the halftime and postgame shows. In 2006, the sponsors were: Vonage (pregame), Wendy's (halftime), and Home Depot (postgame).

Games are shown in approximately 45 million cable and satellite households, and on broadcast stations in the media markets of the participating teams. The home-team broadcast is technically subject to the NFL's blackout rule. However, since the games in the package generally feature top-flight teams which sell out their home games, it is unlikely that games will be blacked out. These games can also be seen in Canada on TSN and in the United Kingdom on Sky Sports.

NFL Network also presented two preseason games before the 2006 season, using the staff that now works on this package. Spero Dedes was the play-by-play announcer, Sterling Sharpe was the analyst, and Kara Henderson was the sideline reporter.

Westwood One provides national radio broadcasts for the games, with Dick Enberg calling play-by-play, Dennis Green doing color, and Bonnie Bernstein on the sidelines for "Thursday Night Football", and Don Criqui and John Dockery as the play-by-play and color team for "Saturday Night Football".

Each of the games are advertised on NFL Network through an episode of Joe's Diner, which has Joe Montana and patrons in a fictional diner discuss issues surrounding the game in a humorous and original way. The end of the ads usually have a man turning a sign, revealing the NFL Network logo.

Game announcers


(NFL Network)
* Cris Collinsworth: Thursday color analyst (2006–present)
* Rich Eisen: Pre-game host (2006–present)
* Marshall Faulk: Pre-game analyst; Saturday color analyst (2006–present)
* Bryant Gumbel: Play-by-play (2006–2007)
* Bob Papa: Play-by-play (2008–present)
* Tom Hammond: Substitute play-by-play (2006–present)
* Steve Mariucci: Pre-game analyst (2006–present)
* Deion Sanders: Pre-game analyst; Saturday color analyst (2006–present)
* Adam Schefter: Sideline reporter (2006–present)
* Dick Vermeil: Saturday color analyst (2006)
* Harry Kalas: Sponsorship announcer (2006–present)


(Westwood One)
* Bonnie Bernstein: Sideline reporter
* Dick Enberg: Play-by-play (Thursday night)
* Dennis Green: Color analyst (Thursday night, 2007)
* John Dockery: Color analyst (Saturday night, 2007)
* Don Criqui: Play-by-play (Saturday night, 2007)
* Sam Wyche: Color analyst (Thursday night, 2006)


Digital on-screen graphics

When the games started showing on NFL Network in 2006, a red score banner that spanned the top of the TV screen was used. The team logos were in oval shapes, like most NFL Network programs used since the start of the 2006 NFL season, and with their respective scores next to the ovals. During the Texas Bowl, and the Insight Bowl, the score banner was gold, instead of red.

In 2007, the on screen graphics went to a complete overhaul, they now use an ESPN Monday Night Football like scoreboard, and it was located at the middle of the top of the screen. The the team logos in ovals were kept; with the visiting team's logo and their respective score or on the left side, and the home team's logo and score are on the opposite side. In the middle, we see a red background, with the game clock in white, yellow bars to indicate quarter, and the NFL Network logo at the bottom. When a touchdown is scored, the scoring teams side opens, and a light goes through, revealing "TOUCHDOWN" in white in the team's color background. The side closes, and what appears to be a black graphic "wipes" away the score, thus changing it. Like in 2006, the scoreboard got a change in color, during bowl coverage, except that the red area was light orange.

2007 season

At the end of the 2006 season, NFLN ran a free preview of the network, from December 24 through December 30 2006, which ended at kickoff of the New York Giants-Washington Redskins game. The broadcast was unnecessary in the target market of the New York tri-state area because it was available on a local television station in the area. (The NYC area did not carry the free preview week outside of the Texas Bowl game, which was the only way local college football fans could watch Rutgers play in the game.)

During the offseason, the network hoped to reach carriage agreements with Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, and other cable television providers that were at odds with the network over carriage. But that time came and went with no new agreements. In fact, fewer households were available than in the previous year due to the downgrading of the service by Comcast to a specialty tier.

The 2007 season opener was again on Thanksgiving night, November 22, 2007. That night, the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Falcons, 34-13.

None of the games featured two division teams playing against each other, in contrast to 2006, in which seven of the eight games fit this description. [ [ NFL Network Games ] ]

NFL Network also carried two preseason games: the AFC-NFC Hall of Fame Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New Orleans Saints on August 5, 2007, and the Washington Redskins at the Tennessee Titans on August 11.

The pre-game show was broken up into two parts. Part one (5-6 p.m. ET, except for the opener, which was 6:30-7 p.m.) now originated in the network's studio in Culver City, California (near Los Angeles). The commentators there were Fran Charles, Rod Woodson, and Jamie Dukes. The stadium crew came in at 6 p.m. ET; for the opener, that portion began at 7 p.m. Finally, Sears replaced Vonage as the presenting sponsor.

On the radio side, Westwood One named former coach Dennis Green as the 2007 analyst on Thursday night games alongside Dick Enberg. [ [ Thursday Night Football on Westwood One ] ]

In December 2007, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry wrote a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking for the league to settle their differences in time for the New England Patriots-New York Giants game on December 29 that was broadcast on "Saturday Night Football". Kerry urged for a solution to be decided upon in time so that Americans can witness "a historic event." [Reiss, Mike. [ Kerry presses on NFL Network] "The Boston Globe", 6 December 2007.] The game turned out to be the Patriots' record-sealing win that made them the first team to finish the regular season with a perfect record since 1972.

On December 26, the NFL announced that the Patriots-Giants game would be seen on free broadcast TV nationwide in a simulcast between the NFL Network, NBC and CBS, the first simulcast of a game since Super Bowl I. WCVB-TV in Boston, WMUR-TV in Manchester, NH, and WWOR-TV in New York would still carry the game under the original arrangement in their broadcast areas; in Boston this meant that all three of the Big Three network affiliates (WCVB and WMUR are both affiliated with ABC) would carry the game [ [ Patriots-Giants broadcast to be available nationwide] ] .

¹ - The Packers' media market is made up of both the Green Bay and Milwaukee DMAs. WJMN, a WFRV satellite in the Marquette/Escanaba market was originally not allowed to carry the game [ [ NFL TV dispute strikes the UP] ] (though they carried an NFL Network Packer game the year before), but the network allowed them to at the last minute [ [ Escanaba station to get Packers-Dallas game, too] ] .


*In 2007, none of the eight scheduled games featured two members of the same division playing each other. By comparison, seven of the eight games in 2006 were intra-divisional.
*When the schedule was originally announced, Peyton Manning (Colts) and Michael Vick (Falcons) were expected to be the respective starting quarterbacks, making the matchup attractive for the NFLN opener. However, as the investigation of Vick's involvement in dogfighting became known, NFLN pulled Vick from the game's promotional advertisement and replaced him with Warrick Dunn. Since then, Vick has pleaded guilty, sentenced to a federal prison term, and been suspended indefinitely from the league.
*Gumbel missed the December 13 game between the Broncos and the Texans because of a strep throat. Tom Hammond, who called the Kansas City Chiefs–Indianapolis Colts wild card game in January 2007 with Collinsworth, filled in. [ [ Awful Announcing: Gumbel To Miss Thursday Night Game ] ]
*Gumbel returned the following Saturday night, but Collinsworth missed the December 15 game, to save a possible long flight back from the West Coast to New York for "Football Night in America". Marshall Faulk and Deion Sanders filled in as analysts, just as they did in a 2006 game when Dick Vermeil had to leave the booth early due to laryngitis.
*Faulk and Sanders joined Gumbel again for the December 20 game. That night, Faulk's uniform number was retired by the St. Louis Rams, for which he played from 1999 to 2006.
*Pregame coverage for the December 29 game was expanded to six hours. The first three hours were sponsored by Gillette, which also is the naming rights sponsor of Gillette Stadium, the Patriots' home field.

2008 season

The 2008 season will feature a change in scheduling. The eight games allotted to NFL Network will now be spread over seven weeks instead of six, will start on Week 10 (November 6) instead of Thanksgiving, and will not air a game during Week 17. Furthermore, instead of five Thursday and three Saturday games as has been the case the past two years, the 2008 season will feature seven Thursday games and only one Saturday night game.

Another change was the resignation of Bryant Gumbel as play-by-play announcer. [ [ Awful Announcing: Gumbel Leaving The NFL Network ] ] He was replaced by Bob Papa. [ [ Watchdog ] ]

All game times 8:15 p.m. Eastern Time. Orange background indicates Saturday.

Additional note

The Cowboys-Ravens game is the last ever scheduled home game for the Cowboys at Texas Stadium; the venue has been the team's home since 1971.


The move to air games on the NFL Network has been criticized for the following reasons:
*Moving Thursday and Saturday night games to NFL Network has caused problems in the scheduling of other night games. In the past, Thursday and Saturday were used as overflow in the event that a Sunday night or Monday night game was not possible (for instance, the World Series, the final week of the season or Christmas Eve) so that the respective broadcaster could be compensated. The new television contract with NFL Network eliminated that leeway, which has especially impacted Monday night. In 2007, not only did ESPN have to air a doubleheader on Week 1 to compensate for the lack of a game in Week 17, but the league also had to play a game on Christmas Eve, a day when the league has historically avoided playing in prime time.
*The games are not available on many cable systems (excluding those shown over-the-air in home markets), including Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and Charter Communications. Others (like Comcast and Cox Communications) make the service available only on expanded-service or digital tiers. Some exceptions are Northeastern Pennsylvania's Service Electric; that system added the network in 2006 on the normal tier. Also, some carriers that show all other NFL Network programs, such as Knology, aren't carrying "Run to the Playoffs" because NFLN charges additional fees per subscriber for the rights.
*Gumbel's role was thought to be in jeopardy in late August 2006 after he made a commentary on his HBO program, "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel", in which he accused NFL Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw of being a lap dog of outgoing commissioner Paul Tagliabue and the NFL. [ [ - Gumbel's remarks strike ill chord with Tagliabue ] ] The controversy died down quickly and Gumbel was in the booth when the package began.
*Boston's ABC affiliate, WCVB had been granted exclusive rights to broadcast the historic Patriots-Giants game on December 29, 2007 during the summer of 2007. But in a last minute move by the NFL Network, coverage was also granted nationally to CBS and NBC, meaning that all of the "Big Three" network affiliates in Boston broadcast the game. The NFL Network was criticized for this move by WCVB on-air personalities Ed Harding and Mike Lynch.Fact|date=April 2008


ee also

*NBC Sunday Night Football
*Monday Night Football (ESPN)

External links

* [ NFL Network story]

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