Predicting the KC Chiefs primetime games for 2023
With the 2023 NFL Draft over, the next major event for Kansas City Chiefs fans is the release of the 2023 NFL regular season schedule. According to Adam Schefter, the schedule is expected to be unveiled on Thursday, May 11.
The opponents for the 17-game slate have been locked in place since the conclusion of the 2022 regular season. Here they are:
The list of home opponents for the Chiefs: Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears (reported to be played in Germany), Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles
The list of road opponents for the Chiefs: Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars
After securing a Super Bowl LVII victory, Kansas City is poised to receive the maximum five scheduled primetime games for the 2023 season, as has been the case for almost every season in the Patrick Mahomes era. Unfortunately, two of those five primetime games are now eligible to be scheduled for Thursday Night Football.
However, projecting the exact primetime matchups is more challenging than one would expect, as several factors come into play, including travel schedules, other primetime games, and stadium availability.
Last year, many Kansas City fans expected the games against the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals to be played in primetime. Instead, the Tennessee Titans came to town on Sunday Night Football, and the Week 11 matchup at the Chargers was flexed back to Sunday Night Football. Additionally, while the Chiefs were initially scheduled to play all three divisional rivals in primetime, their Week 14 game in Denver was flexed to 3:05.
The Chiefs are expected to play their first game of the NFL season at home on Thursday, September 7th. However, there is a scheduling conflict as the Kansas City Royals also have a home game scheduled at Kauffman Stadium at 1:10 PM that day. The Royals have previously moved a home game in 2020 for similar reasons, although that change was ultimately unnecessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of now, no official announcement has been made, so there is a chance that the Chiefs may open their season on Sunday, September 10th instead.
Even if the Chiefs play on the debut game of the 2023 NFL season, it is unlikely that they will be exempt from playing on Thursday Night Football again. In 2017 and 2020, they also played on a Thursday despite opening the NFL season on a Thursday.
Assuming the Chiefs receive the maximum number of five primetime window games, which opponents could they face in those matchups and which time slots could they square off in?
Note: These projections will not include any games with the potential to be flexed into primetime.
Los Angeles Chargers
Coming into this exercise, the only opponent I was 100% confident the Chiefs would face in primetime at some point in the regular season is Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers. The NFL loves divisional matchups, plus Herbert and Patrick Mahomes are two of the truly elite quarterbacks in the sport.
In the past two seasons, the Chiefs and Chargers have faced off in primetime on three occasions, including one flexed game. All three of these games have been highly entertaining, particularly the two matches held at SoFi Stadium.
The two rivals faced off on Thursday Night Football both in 2021 and 2022, so I’m expecting that we’ll see either a Sunday or Monday Night Football bout, but I’m not ruling anything out.
Of the five teams listed, the Broncos are the team that I have the least confidence in. Although I was also considering the Raiders, ultimately I chose the Broncos. I have a feeling that the NFL might try to reignite the Broncos-Chiefs “rivalry” after the hiring of Sean Payton in Denver.
If this game is scheduled for primetime, my projection is that it would be on Thursday Night Football.
While some people may be surprised to see Jacksonville on this list, it’s really not that unexpected. With the addition of Doug Pederson as head coach and the emergence of young star Trevor Lawrence, the Jaguars seem to be a team on the rise. This could mean more primetime games for the franchise, and who better to host under the lights in Duval than Patrick Mahomes and the reigning Super Bowl champions?
I could envision this game being scheduled for any prime time slot. Additionally, it wouldn’t be surprising if the NFL chose to schedule this game for the late window slot during CBS’ doubleheader week.
Not much needs to be said here. A fifth amazing matchup in three seasons. Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes. A rematch of the past two AFC Championships in the same building where they took place. What’s not to love?
It wouldn’t be surprising if CBS wanted to protect this game, but the NFL may choose to make it the kickoff game of the season.
Again, not much to add here. A Super Bowl LVII rematch. Two amazing football teams. Andy Reid squaring off against his former team. Another Kelce Bowl. The two MVP front runners from 2022.
It makes sense to have this open the NFL season but the NFL hasn’t always opted to do that. They did so in 2016 (after Super Bowl 50 featuring the Panthers and Broncos) but not in 2017 (after Super Bowl LI between the Falcons and Patriots). This could open the season or the NFL may opt to place the game on Sunday Night Football in a traditionally “slow” week for ratings or FOX may not want to give it up. Anything is on the table here.
Just missed the cut
Tyreek Hill’s return to KC and the clash of two high-powered offenses make this a game that the NFL would want to maximize viewership for.
New York Jets
Aaron Rodgers vs. Patrick Mahomes. Will it finally happen? This screams like a primetime game but the NFL may opt to place in a late afternoon slot, as it did last year.
It’s highly unlikely that the NFL would schedule both the Bills-Chiefs and Bengals-Chiefs matchups in primetime, and it’s likely that CBS will get one of them. Personally, I think the Bengals-Chiefs matchup would be a better choice for primetime as Cincinnati is a stronger team than Buffalo.
The Vikings and Chiefs have two of the most exciting offenses in the NFL. With Justin Jefferson emerging as one of the brightest young stars in the league, this matchup promises to be an exciting one. Fun fact: Patrick Mahomes has never played or beaten the Minnesota Vikings, making this game a chance for him to go 31 for 31 on national television.
New England Patriots
Andy Reid vs. Bill Belichick. JuJu Smith-Schuster returns to Arrowhead for the first time since winning Super Bowl LVII.
Las Vegas Raiders
Between Las Vegas and Denver, I chose Denver. While the NFL initially scheduled three primetime games for the Chiefs against AFC West teams last year, the disappointing seasons of the non-Kansas City teams may reduce the likelihood of it happening again.