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Monday, March 23, 2009
NFC South prime-time shutout is only temporary

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The NFC South got shut out when the NFL announced its prime-time schedule for Week 1 and Thanksgiving Day.

In fact, my NFC West colleague Mike Sando, a master of charts, has a great chart that shows that the NFC South and NFC West are the only divisions without a team making an appearance in any of those games.

But I think this blackout in prime time is only temporary -- at least for the NFC South, anyway. When the regular-season schedule comes out, probably in April, I think you'll see the NFC South getting a fair amount of choice air time.

Despite the way they lost to Arizona in the playoffs, the Panthers still were a 12-4 team last season and could be something similar next season. I'm guessing they get two or three prime-time games.

I'll guess New Orleans will get something similar. Drew Brees and that offense have some appeal and could make some night games very entertaining.

I'm also thinking (and hearing some rumbles) that you're going to get a healthy dose of the Falcons in prime time. Don't be surprised if the Falcons also draw two or three of these games. As long as Matt Ryan doesn't have a sophomore slump, he can draw a lot of viewers.

The wild card in all this might be Tampa Bay. The league usually tries to project good matchups for these games, but the Bucs -- with all their change -- are a hard team to read. They might be good and they might not. You're not going to see pewter all over prime-time television, but I'll guess the Bucs will get at least one night game.