Nine Playoff Rematches, Christmas Games on Netflix

The NFL’s annual schedule release, which features enticing playoff rematches, made waves with the announcement that its Christmas Day doubleheader will be streamed live on Netflix, marking the company’s biggest foray into live sports.

The league only has two games on the docket Christmas Day compared to its tripleheader last year—the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs will visit the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens head to Houston to face the Texans. Also, since Christmas falls on a Wednesday, that means that there will be NFL games on that day of the week for only the third time since 1946.

Clearly, the NFL was more than willing to buck convention and play on a Wednesday after seeing the massive out-of-home ratings from last year’s tripleheader. Yet the league also sees value in creating exclusive events for streamers as it’s done for Amazon’s Prime Video and Comcast/NBC’s Peacock.

The prior Wednesday games were in 2012 when the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants moved their Thursday night affair a day earlier to accommodate President Barack Obama’s address during the Democratic National Convention, and in 2020 when AFC North rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh were forced to reschedule due to COVID outbreaks at the height of the pandemic.

The Christmas games are not the only streaming exclusives, though the only major streamer not invited to the party is Paramount+. In addition to Year 3 of Thursday Night Football on Prime Video, Peacock has the NFL’s first game in South America when the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles begin their seasons in São Paulo, Brazil, on Sept. 6, ESPN+ gets the Los Angeles Chargers/Arizona Cardinals Monday Night Football Week 7 game on Oct. 21, and Amazon gets the Las Vegas Raiders playing the Chiefs for its Black Friday game on Nov. 29.

It’s also not often that the NFL’s scheduling format, which involves rotating divisions every year, guarantees a rematch of the previous year’s Super Bowl. And this year, not only will fans enjoy one for the second year in a row, but they will see rematches of all four divisional round games and both conference championships.

The year of the playoff rematch starts on Sept. 5 with the annual Kickoff Game on NBC. The Chiefs will raise their fourth title banner at Arrowhead Stadium against the Ravens, whom they defeated in January’s AFC Championship Game.

The champs will also play in a 2024 Super Bowl rematch when they visit the San Francisco 49ers on Week 7 (Oct. 20). This marks just the 10th time in the modern era that the previous year’s Super Bowl participants face of in the subsequent regular season, with champions winning six of the previous nine matchups (although Kansas City lost to Philadelphia last year). And in what has taken the Tom Brady/Peyton Manning quarterback rivalry spot in the NFL’s scheduling, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will travel to Buffalo to play Josh Allen and the Bills on Week 11 (Nov. 17) in a redux of their divisional round battle.

Additionally, the 49ers will run back last season’s NFC title game when they host the Detroit Lions on Week 17 (Dec. 30). Other playoff repeats will be Tampa Bay/Detroit on Week 2 (Sept. 15), San Francisco/Green Bay on Week 12 (Nov. 24), and the aforementioned Ravens/Texans tilt on Christmas.

In addition to the previously announced Brazil game, there will be a total of five games played outside of the United States in the league’s annual International Series. The NFL will take over London for three weeks in October—Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets meet up with the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5, top-overall pick Caleb Williams and the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars duel in Week 6, and the Jags’ residency continues against the New England Patriots in Week 7. The international slate ends in Week 10 when the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers play in Munich, Germany, on Nov. 10. The London and Munich games will be broadcast exclusively on the NFL Network.

The Thanksgiving games will have the Bears going to Detroit to face the Lions on CBS, the Giants playing the Cowboys on FOX and the Miami Dolphins visiting Green Bay on NBC/Peacock.

While there have always been some fun and games with the schedule drop, it was serious business for the marketing and sales divisions for each of the 32 NFL teams. Franchises generally sell more single-game tickets on this day than any other, and Marissa Daly, the vice president and general manager for the Los Angeles Rams’ studios, said in an interview with Sportico, “It’s the Super Bowl of ticketing but also the Super Bowl for social media teams.”

Super Bowl LIX itself, which takes place in New Orleans on Feb. 9, 2025, is in 270 days.

Read more about the business of sports on our sister site, Sportico.

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