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Patriots back to five primetime games; Titans, Colts on the rise

Mac Jones' emergence and playoff appearance last season have made the Patriots once again a draw for the NFLGetty Images

The Patriots are "back to being prime-time darlings" this season with a league-max five games under the lights, according to Karen Guregian of the BOSTON HERALD. That comes after a "brief hiatus" of just four primetime games in '21. Between their playoff appearance last season and the emergence of QB Mac Jones, the Patriots are "once again a draw" for the league. It seems the NFL is banking on Jones' "appeal to the masses," as he has to have "been the prime catalyst" for the Patriots' slate (BOSTON HERALD, 5/13). Meanwhile, in Tampa, Rick Stroud writes no player "moves the ratings needle" like Tom Brady, and the Bucs were "rewarded with five prime-time games," including one at the Cardinals on Christmas night (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 5/13).

L.A. STORY: In L.A., Jeff Miller notes the Chargers will play at least five games in primetime, as the league is "betting heavily that this will be a bunch worth watching all season." Even before the full schedule was released, the Chargers were "set to be part of NFL television history." Their previously announced Week 2 date at the Chiefs will be the "first game shown exclusively on Amazon Prime Video" (L.A. TIMES, 5/13). Meanwhile, also in L.A., Kevin Modesti notes the Rams facing the Bills at SoFi Stadium in the NFL season opener on Thursday, Sept. 8 also marks an "immediate return" to the site of the Super Bowl victory for Bills LB Von Miller. The Rams' primetime games, in addition to the opener against the Bills, include a Monday night game at the 49ers on Oct. 3, a Thursday night game against the Raiders on Dec. 8, a Monday night game at the Packers on Dec. 19, and a Sunday night game against the Chargers on New Year’s Day in which the Rams will "be the visiting team at SoFi Stadium" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/13).

GETTING THEIR DUE: In Nashville, Gentry Estes notes after "years of complaining about noon kickoffs in low-interest spots," the Titans are "beginning to see their success reflected in the NFL's scheduling." They will "play at least four prime-time games" in '22, with "some really juicy matchups among them" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 5/13). In Indianapolis, Joel Erickson notes after "plenty of justified griping and complaining," the Colts have two primetime home games this season. Maybe the NFL is "finally acknowledging it has screwed Jim Irsay, the Colts and the city of Indianapolis far too many times over the last decade or so, and it’s finally trying to make amends." The Colts have "been stiffed on prime time home games for more than a decade" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/13).

ON THE ASCENT: In Cincinnati, Kelsey Conway notes the Bengals' schedule is "packed full of prime-time games," as the team "earned their five appearances on national television." The five games "set a franchise record for most primetime games awarded" to the Bengals (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/13). In West Palm Beach, Hal Habib writes the return of former Dolphins coach and current Steelers assistant coach Brian Flores to Hard Rock Stadium "proved too tempting for NBC to pass up," so the Dolphins' home game against the Steelers on Oct. 23 will "mark the Dolphins’ return to 'Sunday Night Football' after a four-year absence." The Dolphins' other primetime assignment is at the Bengals on Sept. 29 on Amazon Prime Video (PALM BEACH POST, 5/13).

WHY ARE THEY THERE? CBSSPORTS.com's Jason La Canfora wrote of the 12 teams that will appear a maximum of five times in prime time, he anticipates "America getting sick of watching a couple of them -- Cowboys and Patriots -- soon enough." The Patriots play Thanksgiving at the Vikings then again the following Thursday (Bills) and the following Monday night (Cardinals) and then on a Sunday night (Raiders). La Canfora: "Good grief. Overkill" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/12).

AND THEN THERE ARE THE JETS: On Long Island, Al Iannazzone writes the Jets "still aren’t must-see TV." They "only have one prime-time game," Thursday night, Dec. 22 at home against the Jaguars. It is the Jets’ home finale (NEWSDAY, 5/13).

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