NFL RedZone Previews, Part 4: The Prime Time Players

NFL RedZone Previews, Part 4: The Prime Time Players

You'll see them early and often — bing! — because they make the cash register go ca-ching!

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The NFL’s television partners don’t necessarily take the best teams in the league for the most primetime games. They take the teams that are going to get the biggest audiences and make the networks the most money.

That means there are a few teams, which, if they’re anywhere close to good — or close to contending for the top spot in an awful division — are going to be constantly present in night games.

The good news for RedZone viewers is that we don’t have to endure as much Dallas Cowboys football as we otherwise might. And apparently TV execs didn’t get the memo that Drew Brees retired.

So, for the final part of Deadspin’s NFL preview for RedZone viewers, we get the teams that will be most often teased as coming up on Sunday Night or Monday Night Football. These are, as decided by NBC and ESPN, this year’s marquee teams. These are the Prime Time Players.

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2 / 10

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

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Non-RedZone games: 9/26 vs. Packers, 10/24 vs. Colts, 11/15 vs. Rams, 12/5 at Seahawks, 12/23 at Titans

Vegas O/U: 10.5 wins

Does that make sense? Uhhhh… the 49ers won six games last year. Sure, they’re getting Jimmy Garoppolo back, but he’s not even guaranteed to be the starter for the whole season because the 49ers drafted Trey Lance. Also, they lost defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to the Jets, and the head coach, Kyle Shanahan, is developing himself a really nice reputation as a fraud. And yet, when you see a line this much higher than you think it should be, it makes you hesitate.

Best fantasy player: TE George Kittle

Vibes: We’re all pretty familiar with what Jimmy G is capable of at this point, so it feels like a waiting game for Lance. There’s enough talent in the receiving corps to do damage, but somebody’s got to get those guys the ball. It’s pretty obviously not a Super Bowl team, and when you were in the Super Bowl two years ago, that kinda sucks to go into the season with.

TL;DR: Setting up to be one of the most disappointing teams in the league. Again.

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3 / 10

DALLAS COWBOYS

DALLAS COWBOYS

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Non-RedZone games: 9/9 at Buccaneers, 9/27 vs. Eagles, 10/31 at Vikings, 11/25 vs. Raiders, 12/2 at Saints, 12/26 vs. Football Team

Vegas O/U: 9.5 wins

Does that make sense? Sure. The number should really be 8.5, making the question whether or not the Cowboys have a winning record, but America’s Team is going to draw more enthusiastic bettors who just want to root for their team, and voila, the line goes up to 9.5. If they’re any good, they’ll probably get there. The NFC East does stink, after all.

Best fantasy player: RB Ezekiel Elliott

Vibes: Expectations well beyond what the team is actually capable of. It’s the Cowboys. They’re still owned by Jerry Jones. This will forever be the case. There’s some reason for it this time with Dak Prescott back at quarterback, but to go so far as to believe that Dallas is good? Well, even if they are, Mike McCarthy is still the coach. Sorry.

TL;DR: They’ll win the division or have a losing record. Maybe both.

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4 / 10

GREEN BAY PACKERS

GREEN BAY PACKERS

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Non-RedZone games: 9/20 vs. Lions, 9/26 at 49ers, 10/28 at Cardinals, 12/12 vs. Bears, 1/2 vs. Vikings

Vegas O/U: 10 or 10.5 wins

Does that make sense? It’s maybe a little low? Trying to be conservative while looking at their schedule, I gave the Packers 11 wins. They’ve won 13 games in each of Matt LaFleur’s first two seasons as head coach. Aaron Rodgers is still there, and got the front office to bring back some pals. But over-under numbers rarely go deep into double digits. So you take the over and hope they don’t have a rash of injuries or something.

Best fantasy player: QB Aaron Rodgers

Vibes: The future Hall of Fame quarterback who won a Super Bowl early in his Packers career is still chasing a second one, 11 years later. This was also the story of Green Bay in 2007, and they went to the NFC title game and lost in overtime to the Giants and Tom Coughlin’s frozen face. Rodgers got to sit on a hopefully heated bench for that one. Now it’s Jordan Love who’s biding his time. Time doesn’t march on in Wisconsin, it just cycles, like grass through a cow’s four stomachs.

TL;DR: The Packers have won seven of the last 10 NFC North titles. It should be eight of 11 by the end of this season.

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5 / 10

LOS ANGELES RAMS

LOS ANGELES RAMS

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Non-RedZone games: 9/12 vs. Bears, 10/7 at Seahawks, 11/7 vs. Titans, 11/15 at 49ers, 12/13 at Cardinals

Vegas O/U: 9.5 or 10.5 wins

Does that make sense? So, the last time Matthew Stafford won double-digit games in a season was 2014. Of course, he’s been with the Lions his whole career up until now, so you know how that goes. Stafford’s acquisition is really emblematic of everything about the Rams these days: it could go really well, or it could be an unmitigated disaster, and it feels like the chances of each are about equal.

Best fantasy player: QB Matthew Stafford

Vibes: Have the Rams had any vibes since they moved back to Los Angeles? They’ve been to a Super Bowl as the back-in-L.A. Rams, and had one of the best regular-season games in recent memory against Kansas City a couple of years ago, and it still feels like they barely exist, even though they’re in primetime games constantly. And it’s not like they’re the Chargers: people in Los Angeles do seem to care about the Rams. There’s just not a real identity to them.

TL;DR: Got through this without mentioning or arguing about the presumed genius head coach.

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6 / 10

BALTIMORE RAVENS

BALTIMORE RAVENS

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Non-RedZone games: 9/13 at Raiders, 9/19 vs. Kansas City, 10/11 vs. Colts, 11/11 at Dolphins, 11/28 vs. Browns

Vegas O/U: 11 or 11.5 wins

Does that make sense? Yeah, they’re really, really good. The AFC North is difficult, for sure, but the Ravens managed to get some friendly scheduling with matchups like the Lions being one of their road games and their clash with the Rams being in Baltimore in January.

Best fantasy player: QB Lamar Jackson

Vibes: Jackson has been the Ravens’ leading rusher each of the last two seasons, each of which have resulted in a trip to the divisional round. J.K. Dobbins is a good running back to go with Jackson, the receivers are good, and the defense would contend to be the best in a franchise’s history that isn’t the Ravens. The four games with Cleveland and Pittsburgh will decide the division.

TL;DR: Protect Lamar Jackson at all costs.

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7 / 10

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

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Non-RedZone games: 10/25 at Seahawks, 11/25 vs. Bills, 12/2 vs. Cowboys, 12/19 at Buccaneers, 12/27 vs. Dolphins

Vegas O/U: 8.5 or 9 wins

Does that make sense? Well, Jameis Winston barely played last year. What do you expect from him? How do you quantify that, and put it in the context of the Drew Brees era being over in New Orleans? The number here is a big ol’ shrug of the shoulders from the bookmakers, and rightly so.

Best fantasy player: RB Alvin Kamara

Vibes: It’s legitimately hilarious that Winston winds up being the starting quarterback after Taysom Hill got a four-year, $140 million contract with the idea that he’d be something more than the Kordell Stewart of this generation. Winston is a better QB than his reputation, and they still have Kamara. A good team, but without Brees, it doesn’t feel like a Super Bowl contender anymore.

TL;DR: Easily underestimated. Also easily overestimated, as seen by how often they’re in prime time.

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8 / 10

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

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Non-RedZone games: 10/7 vs. Rams, 10/17 at Steelers, 10/25 vs. Saints, 11/29 at Football Team, 12/5 vs. 49ers

Vegas O/U: 10 or 10.5 wins

Does that make sense? Since Pete Carroll’s first two seasons in Seattle, when the Seahawks went 7-9 (including one division title), there’s been only on year, 2017, when they didn’t win double digits. This year might get off to a slow start, but the back end of the schedule is hysterically bad and there’s no reason to believe that Seattle is about to take a huge dip.

Best fantasy player: WR D.K. Metcalf

Vibes: Was that Super Bowl really eight years ago? It doesn’t feel like that long ago. Russell Wilson is about to turn 33? Matt Stafford’s age? Really? Where does the time go? Maybe need to hurry up and get back to the big one if there’s going to be another one in this era of Seahawks football.

TL;DR: Still really good, everyone knows the deal.

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9 / 10

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

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Non-RedZone games: 10/17 vs. Seahawks, 11/8 vs. Bears, 11/21 at Chargers, 12/9 at Vikings, 1/3 vs. Browns

Vegas O/U: 8.5 wins

Does that make sense? It would’ve made sense last year, when Ben Roethlisberger was coming back after a year lost to injury. Yes, he’s 39, and not what he once was, but still took Pittsburgh to an 11-0 start last year. Yes, the stretch run was ugly, culminating in giving up 48 points at home to the Browns in the playoffs, but even with a tough schedule, nine wins shouldn’t be a heavy lift?

Best fantasy player: RB Najee Harris

Vibes: Super Bowl or bust. The usual. And if they lose Week 1 at Buffalo, it’ll be the sky is falling and time to fire Mike Tomlin and all kinds of stupid stuff until they come home and throttle the Raiders.

TL;DR: A lot of talk and a lot of expectations and a heap of disappointment waiting when it’s all over.

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10 / 10