Prime-time games are a status symbol in the NFL. Coaches might not like them, but fans and players love them. It's a sign that their team matters. It's the big stage.
With NFL Network's "Thursday Night Football" schedule being extended in 2012, every NFL team is guaranteed at least one prime-time appearance. The maximum a team can be scheduled is five times, although that number can go up one game depending on flex scheduling late in the season. How many times a team is scheduled for prime time is a nice, clean look at the NFL.
These are the teams the NFL wants to sell. They are the teams that get television ratings and/or play games that matter. Here's a rundown of how many prime-time games each team will play in 2013:
The five-timers club
No huge surprises here. The Broncos have the most delicious schedule in the NFL, with incredible subplots week-after-week. (Manning Bowl, Manning returns to Indy, Manning-Tom Brady and Mike Shanahan back to Denver among them). ... Robert Griffin III makes the Redskins a huge draw once again. Four of their five prime-time games are after a Week 5 bye. ... The rise of the Falcons is a testament to the organization's newfound consistency, and a terrific schedule.
Four prime-time games
It's a mild surprise that the Cowboys didn't land five prime-time games, but they do have the national game on Thanksgiving Day. And they are prime candidates to get flexed into a fifth national game because they consistently draw better on television than any team. ... Andrew Luck's arrival raised the Colts from one prime-time game last year to four. The Seahawks also are much more of a "national" team.
Middle of the pack: Three prime-time games
I'm a little surprised the Chargers got so much love. The networks might regret that decision. ... The Dolphins' offseason spending spree and a promising young quarterback in Ryan Tannehill will get seen by more people in 2013.
We like you more than the minimum: Two prime-time games
The Jets and Eagles were truly national teams a year ago. That's no longer the case. I'm actually disappointed we won't see more of Eagles coach Chip Kelly's offense in prime time. The same is true for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
One prime-time game
Let's face it. This is how the league sees the bottom of the NFL. The only huge surprise on this list is the Lions. They were all over prime time last year and still have a lot of talent. The arrival of coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith on the Chiefs also didn't get networks excited.Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.