The Detroit Lions were granted two national appearances when the 2011 schedule was announced and earned one more through the Sunday Night Football flexible scheduling policy for a total of three. Now, having shown there is some substance to their style, the debate can start about how many national television appearances they will get in 2012.
To start the discussion we should take a look at the 2011 season. Here is the full tally of 2011 national television appearances by team sorted from most to least:
[note: The "other" category includes Thanksgiving and Thursday night games.]
A quick scan of the tally leads me to believe there are at least 2 teams that deserve to see an increase in national television appearances: Houston and San Francisco. The Patriots are likely to see at least a one game bump (remember, it was their game against the Colts that was bumped out of primetime for Lions-Saints) as will the Denver Broncos for the ratings if nothing else.
The Cowboys’ ridiculous seven showings on national television has nowhere to go but down (one would pray) while the Jaguars, Chargers, Dolphins, Buccaneers and Rams should make fewer appearances in 2012 as well.
So, where does that leave the Lions? It’s a little hard to say considering their three appearances is quite respectable. Given the fact that we know the Lions will have one national game on Thanksgiving Day, it isn’t far-fetched to think the Lions could make one more nationally televised game in 2012 than they did in 2011.
The schedule also works in the Lions favor. At least half the Lions schedule should be considered worthy of a national audience – four games against the Packers and Bears, home games against the Texans and Falcons and road games against the 49ers and Eagles. The Colts are also a candidate to be the Thanksgiving opponent so they could be a ninth possibility depending on the health of Peyton Manning.
It wouldn’t be any fun to go through this without making a prediction so here goes: the Lions will play the Colts on Thanksgiving, host one Sunday Night Football game and will play on the road once on Monday Night Football and once on the road on Sunday Night Football for a total of four game on national television.