The Packers will appear in at least four prime-time games this coming season. As many already know, the Vikings will come to Lambeau Field on Sept. 8 in an ESPN Monday Night Football clash (6 p.m. CT kickoff), and the Cowboys will visit on Sept. 21 for NBC's Sunday Night Football (7:15 p.m. CT). Later in the season, the Packers will travel to New Orleans (Nov. 24, 7:03 p.m.) and Chicago (Dec. 22, 7:30 p.m.) for additional Monday night games.
Two more games – at Seattle on FOX (Oct. 12) and at home against the Colts on CBS (Oct. 19) – will be nationally televised too. Both of those kickoffs are scheduled for 3:15 p.m.
The league could choose further to "flex" any one of five of the last seven games on the Packers' schedule, thus moving it from a regional afternoon broadcast to a Sunday night viewing slot on NBC. Should that happen, the Packers would set a team record for most prime-time appearances in one season. Several seasons during the Favre era they appeared four times in prime-time, but never five.
Really, Favre had been the driving force behind the Packers' national and prime-time appearances over the past couple of decades. The NFL and national media's love affair with him was perhaps bigger than any other player in the history of the league. Just think back to how Packers' games were hyped and then covered. They were all about Favre, Favre and more Favre - just like the magazine stands in Green Bay right now.
Maybe, just maybe, though, the 2008 Packers' schedule is an indication that there is life after The Legend. The NFL has stuck with the Packers as a main attraction, and the Packers are moving decisively forward amidst talk of Favre un-retiring.
Of course winning most of their games last year and having a national treasure of a stadium are a great combination to attract television ratings and no doubt played into the NFL's planning. The Packers are coming off a 14-4 season with a young team and Lambeau Field has never been more of a must-see destination. What network could turn that down, even for say a game in Chicago or New York?
There also seems to be intrigue building from the local level for the start of the Aaron Rodgers era. By the time the regular season is here, the national talk should be less and less about Favre and more about Rodgers finally getting a chance to play.
All in all, Packers' fans have to be both excited and surprised that the Packers will play under the game's brightest lights for almost half of their games in 2008. For in a television-money-is everything world, small-town Green Bay has become the most unlikely big player – and the NFL is hoping it can stay that way.