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.