Historically, Monday Night Football has been a major, high-profile event, worthy of attention from the entire football-watching world. ESPN, meanwhile, still treats it as a major, high-profile event, with plenty of pomp and a big-name broadcast team (that apparently takes months and months to assemble). But year after year, the games that wind up airing on Monday nights are not befitting of a major, high-profile event.
The New York Post’s Brian Costello reported Thursday morning that the 2018 Monday Night Football schedule will open September 10 with a matchup between the New York Jets and Detroit Lions in the first half of ESPN’s annual double-header.
To say that’s an unappealing matchup for the average fan is probably an understatement. The Jets last year finished 5-11, which was actually considered an over-performance, and their quarterback to start the season could very well be Josh McCown. The Lions were not quite as bad in 2017, finishing 9-7, but they’re a borderline playoff team at best, with no particular hook that would make them a must-watch in Week 1.
Even if the Jets draft and start a big-name rookie like Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield, it’s hard to imagine this matchup will wind up as one of the most interesting games of Week 1.
Obviously underwhelming games on Monday Night Football isn’t a new phenomenon. Last year’s season-opening double-header also began with a pair of teams (the Saints and Vikings) who had failed to make the playoffs the previous year, though in that case both teams wound up enjoying successful seasons. With Fox, CBS and NBC getting first dibs on top games, ESPN has been stuck with second-rate matchups on Monday Night Football since it began airing the franchise in 2006. Last year, the network lobbied hard for better games and wound up with a slightly better slate but certainly not an incredible one.
We’ll withhold judgment about the state of Monday Night Football until the full schedule comes out, but it’s not off to a great start.