How deep have the Colts plummeted on the NFL landscape in 2011? Consider this: the NFL has typically scheduled the Pats-Colts game to take place late in the season for the last decade to insure that it happens during the fall television ratings sweeps; it has annually been one of the most, if not the most anticipated and viewed games of the year.
Then came the 2011 Indianapolis Colts season.
This game has not only been flexed out of prime time and pushed back beyond a late afternoon slot to an early start, but it is actually bordering on being the least distributed and least viewed game of the week.
Next Sunday’s Pats-Colts game will be televised by the eight CBS stations in New England that broadcast every Patriots game, and the five Indiana stations that broadcast every Colts game. That’s it. No more. Zero neutral markets. By comparison, there are more stations airing the Titans-Bills, or the Ravens-Browns games. The Rams-49ers and Panthers-Bucs games will be seen by a comparable number of viewers.
Consider the announcers for this game. Nantz and Simms? Not a chance. Gumbel and Dierdorf? No way; though Pats fans should be relieved that they are spared of the choice of hearing Dierdorf in back-to-back weeks, or muting the game – though a superior alternative is to simply disconnect the center speaker of your home theater system (trust me; try it out next week.)
No this game has rapidly descended from being the most hyped and anticipated game of the year to just another forgettable game announced by over the hill basketball guy Marv Albert and his ex-jock partner Rich Gannon.
This is no slight on the Patriots, who are 8-3 and playing a brand of football that should draw plenty of viewers locally and nationally, be they die-hard NFL fans or casual followers of the game. This rapid change is all on Bill Polian and the Indianapolis Colts, whose epic one-year downfall is approaching historical infamy.
As a Pats fan I am enjoying a bit of schadenfreude in witnessing Polian’s empire crumble, but as an NFL fan I feel like I have been gipped out of a dramatic experience that I have come to expect and enjoy immensely every year. I find myself unprepared for the harsh reality that not only do we get to watch the Manning-Brady rivalry renewed this year, but the fact is that we may never see it again at all, and even if we do it is unlikely to ever approach the level of intensity that we had come to expect.
As for the other games this week, the primary early game on CBS will be Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (Nantz/Simms); the main early game on Fox will be Atlanta at Houston (Albert, Johnston); and the Fox doubleheader game on late will be the Packers at Giants (Buck, Aikman), which was a lot more alluring a couple of weeks ago then it does now after the Giants’ last few games. Thursday night is Philly at Seattle; Sunday night is Detroit at New Orleans, which should be very interesting; and then Monday night is a letdown with San Diego at Jacksonville.