Monday Night Football, R.I.P.

It's been years since NFL Monday Night Football was a social force, but for years it has been a reliable institution -- the one big national game each week that everybody watched. The league, in setting up its schedule, reserved what it thought would be choice matchups for Monday night. This ended a year ago when a new TV contract made Sunday nights the marquee game on NBC, while ESPN was given Monday leftovers.

The past month has shown how far the Monday nighter has fallen as compelling TV. Throw out Green Bay's overtime win at Denver and the margin of victory the past five weeks has been 21, 22, 31 and 24 points. Last night, San Francisco gained six first downs; a week ago, Baltimore got five. I can't wait for Atlanta-New Orleans late in the season.

While there can be dogs on Sunday night, NBC gets a flexible schedule the last seven weeks, ensuring games that are at least meaningful; this week we get unbeaten New England at streaking Buffalo instead of Chicago-Seattle. And NBC at least has announcers that don't have me reaching for the mute like I do on Monday night. What had always been an enjoyable last night of football and a great way to start the week is now just another game. -Jim Buzinski

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