NFC POWERHOUSES BEARS & GIANTS BATTLE ON 'NBC SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL' IN FIRST-EVER 'FLEX GAME'
NBC's Madden on Bears-Giants: "Both of these teams have a pretty good chance to be the team that plays in the last game of the year."
NEW YORK � November 8, 2006 � Longtime rivals the Chicago Bears (7-1) and the New York Giants (6-2) battle for NFC supremacy in the first-ever NFL "flex game" on "NBC Sunday Night Football," Sunday at 8:15 p.m. ET from Giants Stadium, presented in high definition. NBC's coverage kicks off at 7 p.m. ET with the "Football Night in America" studio show, a complete recap of the top stories in the NFL, with highlights, analysis and reports from around the league.
Al Michaels (play-by-play), John Madden (analyst) and Andrea Kremer (sideline reporter) will call all the action. Bob Costas (host) and Cris Collinsworth (co-host), analysts Sterling Sharpe and Jerome "The Bus" Bettis, and reporter Peter King of Sports Illustrated, comprise the "Football Night in America" studio team.
"These are the two best teams in the NFC, but at the halfway point, I'd say the Giants are playing the best," said Madden. "I'm a big one on the way a game sounds -- Chicago Bears, New York Giants, that just sounds like the NFL. That sounds like history. Those are the kinds of games that you really want when you get to this part of the schedule. Both of these teams have a pretty good chance to be the team that plays in the last game of the year."
The NFL this season is implementing for the first time in its history a primetime "flexible scheduling" element on Sundays in Weeks 10-15 and in Week 17 to ensure quality matchups with playoff implications in those weeks and give surprise teams a chance to play their way onto Sunday Night. The NFL will announce the flex game no later than 12 days prior, except for Week 17, which will be announced no later than six days before, to ensure that the final regular season Sunday Night game has playoff implications.
"After 17 years of producing these primetime games, it's great not to have my fingers crossed, and have my mother go say novenas," said Fred Gaudelli, producer, "NBC Sunday Night Football." "The rest of the season we'll have compelling games, unlike the 17 other seasons I've produced, especially last year, the last five Mondays of the season. It's great to have flexible scheduling. It's great to be able to put on compelling games."
Led by 2005 AP Defensive Player of the Year LB Brian Urlacher, the Bears have reemerged as "Monsters of the Midway" in surging to a 7-1 mark. Chicago has dominated both on offense and defense, leading the NFC in scoring (234) while allowing the fewest points in the conference (100).
The streaking Giants have won five games in a row and have opened up a two-game cushion in the NFC East led by the running of Tiki Barber, who will make perhaps his last network primetime appearance, and the continued development of third-year QB Eli Manning.
The Giants-Bears rivalry dates back to 1925 with the Bears holding a 26-17-2 regular season advantage. The teams last met in 2004 in New York, a 28-21 Bears victory.
The Bears and Giants have played only twice when each team was 6- 2 or better, with the Giants winning the NFL Championship both times:
Nov. 25, 1956 at Yankee Stadium. The Bears entered the game 7-1, the Giants 6-2 and the teams played to a 17-17 tie. The Giants held a 17-0 lead in the third quarter but the Bears had two 50-plus yard touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to tie it. The teams met in the NFL Championship game later that year, a 47-7 New York victory.
Nov. 27, 1927 at the Polo Grounds. The Bears were 7-2-1, the Giants 8-1-1 entering the contest, which the Giants won 13-7. The Giants went on to win the NFL Championship.
"NBC SNF" AVERAGING 17.8 MILLION VIEWERS; UP 11% FROM '05 ABC MNF
Sunday night's "NBC Sunday Night Football" AFC battle between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots averaged 21.98 million viewers, 33 percent higher than the comparable "ABC MNF" game in 2005 (16.5 million for Ravens-Steelers on 10/31/05) and one percent higher than the identical matchup on ABC in 2005 (21.86 million for Colts-Patriots on 11/7/05), according to Nielsen Media Research.
Sunday night's "SNF" (8:21-11:31 p.m. ET) drew a 13.9 household rating and 22 share. Only three primetime NFL games in the past five years have rated higher than the Colts-Patriots matchup (14.8 for Steelers-Colts on ABC 11/28/05; 14.3 for Indianapolis-New York Giants on NBC 9/10/06; 14.3 for Indianapolis-New England on ABC 11/7/05).
"NBC Sunday Night Football" is averaging 17.8 million viewers through nine games, 11 percent better than "ABC MNF" though nine games (16 million) and is averaging an 11.4/18, up eight percent (10.6/18).
"FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA" STUDIO
The "Football Night in America" studio, just down the hall from the famed Studio 8H, home of "Saturday Night Live," was built in the former studio home of first the Philco Television Playhouse (1948-1955) and later for game shows Concentration (1958-1973) and Jeopardy (1964-1975), and talk shows Donahue (1984-1996) and The Rosie O'Donnell Show (1996-2002), and shares the "SNL" control room for the football season. The "Football Night" set was designed and built by Jeremy Conway, the former set designer for "Sex in the City." Two 103" high definition Panasonic plasma screen televisions � roughly the size of a queen-size mattress � are two of the set innovations.
"NBC SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL"
"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. The unprecedented six-year NFL deal includes innovative flexible scheduling and continues through the 2011 season with Super Bowls in 2009 and 2012. 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 will host NBC's "Football Night in America" studio show alongside co-host Cris Collinsworth, the most honored studio analyst in history with six Emmy Awards; and analysts Sterling Sharpe, a five-time Pro Bowler 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.
NBC'S REMAINING 2006 NFL SCHEDULE
(Sunday coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET with "Football Night in America" studio show)
Sunday, Nov. 12 � Chicago at New York Giants*
Sunday, Nov. 19 � San Diego at Denver*
*Flexible Scheduling Weeks 10-15
Monday, Dec. 25 (Christmas Day) � Philadelphia at Dallas
Flexible Scheduling Week 17