On Thursday evening, the National Football League officially unveiled its 2013 schedule (all 256 games), including the 17 prime time games that will be played on ESPN’s Monday Night Football this fall.
Before Mike Tirico could add the games to his day planner, MNF’s play-by-play voice spoke with Front Row about the schedule and what he’s looking forward to most during the 44th season of sports television’s signature series.
His initial reaction to the MNF schedule
When I look at the schedule, it shows what we’re excited about this year in the NFL — the number of strong teams in the NFC, which clearly has the balance of power. I’m looking forward to seeing the teams who are going to have to battle it out. Playoff spots are going to be at a premium in the NFC because of the depth of teams.
On the Eagles-Redskins MNF opener (Sept. 9)
Even if there is no RG III [Robert Griffin III], and even if it wasn’t the first game for new head coach Chip Kelly, it’s the Eagles and the Redskins. All of us who have been through some of those games know how much that means and how many special Monday night games those teams have had against each other. You add those factors in, especially with the Redskins having made the playoffs last year, we know the excitement is going to be so sky high in D.C.
On Raiders-Broncos game (Sept. 23) in Week 3
It will be nice to see Peyton Manning in Denver. We saw him a couple of times on the road last year. I’m looking forward to seeing that excitement and enthusiasm that has everyone electrified out there in the Rockies. And, nothing brings out the best in the Raiders like their rivals in the AFC West. This is a Monday night on national TV and an opportunity to show there are steps being taken to bring back some of that Raider mystique.
On games that jump out to him in the first half of the season
Miami-New Orleans (Sept. 30). I’m really interested to see Sean Payton back with the Saints, and Miami was so aggressive in the offseason. The other one is Minnesota at the Giants (Oct. 21). What Adrian Peterson did last year was extraordinary. This is the big stage to play the Giants — at the Super Bowl site — on Monday night.
On starting the second half of the season with the Bears at Packers (Nov. 4)
We can already smell the bratwurst. There’s nothing like a game in Green Bay and we stay close to the stadium. You can walk right across the parking lot to the game and back and it’s so much fun to be there. Hopefully it will be cold and those two teams will be where we expect them to be, battling each other in the NFC North.
On the Cowboys-Bears game (Dec. 9) in Week 14
I’m excited to see our Dallas game come later in the year and at Chicago. You know one, and likely both, will be right in the thick of the playoff race in the NFC, either to win their divisions or for the wild card. To be in Chicago in December, which we’ve done a couple of times over our seven years, we know the Bears crowd is always good. For some reason, it’s even better in the winter and when it’s a big game.
On the late season MNF games he’s looking most forward to
Certainly the games involving San Francisco. We have the opportunity to see them go to Washington (Nov. 25), and we assume RG III will be back. And to end the season with a rematch of the NFC Championship game (vs. Atlanta, Dec. 23) will be just great. And knowing it’s the last game in the regular season at Candlestick [Park] will certainly add a lot to it. Candlestick through the years has given us so many great Monday night memories with more games played there than any other venue in the history of MNF.
We know that [ESPN Monday Night Countdown analyst] Steve Young will be there with us, and I’m sure you will get Jerry Rice and so many other of the 49ers greats that night. Knowing the way the Niners do it, and the fact that they have such a great sense of history, I’m sure that will be a fond farewell for Candlestick and to the 49ers great glory days there. There’s no more proper place to do that than on Monday Night Football.
On his favorite cities to visit for MNF
For me, the favorite trip without a doubt is a short one to go 45 minutes away (from his Ann Arbor home) and have a game in Detroit. I get to have my family there and all those things.
Through the years, going to Lambeau [Field] just feels so special. There’s really no place like it in all of the NFL. The stadium, although remodeled, still has the essence of the same place that was there a half century ago. The connection of Packer fans and the team is as unique and as strong a bond as you have in sports. So, just to get up to Green Bay, and everything’s quaint and comfortable and friendly, and to experience a Packers game on a Monday night, to me that still warms your heart.
The other place is New Orleans because of our connection in Year 1, the first year after Katrina. Anytime I see “at New Orleans” on our MNF schedule, I feel good about going back and seeing all those good folks.
On what else he’s looking forward to about the 2013 schedule
I like the way it plays out because we will get our Christmas shopping done on the trip out to Seattle and going to Chicago. That lays perfectly in the schedule in early December, right after Thanksgiving. Can’t help but hit Nordstrom in Seattle, one of the great department stores, and walk Michigan Avenue in Chicago those back-to-back weeks.