Kick Off the NFL Season with ESPN America

The Best in North American Sports All Day, Every Day
The extended lockout is in our rear-view mirror and with the pre-season thankfully having drawn to a close the kick-off to the 2011 NFL season has finally begun. If you are a football fan here in Prague, there is only one channel that will satisfy the craving for all the hard-hitting action you desire, and that channel is ESPN America. As the only channel in Europe and the Middle East exclusively dedicated to broadcasting North American sports, they will be bringing you 123 games this NFL season, from opening weekend right through to Super Bowl XLVI.

ESPN America launched full force into the 2011 season with an all-you-can-watch buffet of six live games September 8th to the 12th. It all started late night on Thursday Sept. 8th with a mouth watering  match-up between the defending champions, Green Bay Packers, and the previous year’s winners, the New Orleans Saints. Green Bay was looking to avoid the traditional post-championship hangover, but being the second youngest team in the league kept them fresh and hungry, beating the Saints 42 to 34. As usual, the NFL kicked off with a bang, and if seeing the game once wasn’t enough then remember that ESPN America always provides ample opportunity to catch the game again at a reasonable hour in the following days.

Although the opener provided an exciting first taste, the season truly kicked-off with a full slate of games on Sunday Sept 11, highlighted by a tripleheader of enticing live matchups exclusively on ESPN America. First up, we saw Baltimore quash Pittsburg 35-7, thanks in part to the Raven’s addition of WR Lee Evans over from Buffalo, teaming with last year’s big acquisition, WR Anquan Boldin, to provide QB Joe Flacco with the best tandem of targets he’s had in his short NFL career. With LB Ray Lewis still anchoring a defense that is as nasty as ever the only thing that might derail a stellar season could be new OL Bryant McKinnie recreating a “Love Boat”-type scandal like he had with the Vikings.

The second game of the tripleheader featured the New York Giants entering the nation’s Capital to take on the Washington Redskins, and coming away with a 28-14 loss. With meddling Redskins’ owner, Dan Snyder, still running the show, and the inept Rex Grossman under center, Giants’ fans should have been able to breathe easy in week one… but this is exactly the type of game that the Giants have come accustomed to blowing.
The final game of the tripleheader saw America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys, travel to New York to face the Jets. While the Jets walked away with a narrow victory of 27 to 24, most of the excitement was centered around a fan using an illegal Taser in the stadium – and on the anniversary of September 11th, no less.
ESPN America’s opening weekend coverage wrapped up on Sept 12 with a doubleheader on Monday Night Football, which saw a 38 to 24 win for the Pats.  New England hasn’t won a playoff game in three years, but reigning MVP Tom Brady is looking to lead his team to their fifth Super Bowl under his watch.

The final game of the weekend pit the Oakland Raiders against the Denver Broncos, with the Raiders coming out on top. The Raiders managed to sweep their divisional games last year but still somehow missed the playoffs, and it looks like the best thing the Broncos have going for them is their cheerleaders.

Although not featured on ESPN America’s opening weekend, both the Eagles and the Colts have interesting storylines surrounding them. On the back of the resurgence of QB Michael Vick, a number of top players have flocked to Philadelphia in search of a ring. The top free agent available, CB Nnamdi Asomugha, signed a below-market deal to team up with Vick, and he was joined by fellow top cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as well as DT Cullen Jenkins, the one-man wrecking ball in last year’s NFC title game. RB Ronnie Brown also came aboard, as did QB Vince Young, who will be Vick’s backup even though he had the fifth-highest QB rating when he went down with a thumb injury last year. Young recently called the Eagles a “dream team”, leading some to make comparisons to the NBA’s Miami Heat. Let’s wait for them to choke in the Super Bowl before signing off on that comparison.

In Indianapolis, panic has officially set in. Four-time MVP Peyton Manning, who has started 208 straight games dating back to his rookie season and was looking to lead the Colts into the postseason for an NFL-record 10th year in a row, will begin the season on the shelf. Having undergone neck surgery in May for the second time in 15 months, Manning will miss the beginning of the season and no one knows when he’ll be back, if at all. Manning’s injury has caused the Colts to reach into the retirement home for journeyman Kerry Collins, and has subjected the sports world to another torturous round of Brett Favre comeback stories.

If you are looking for a way to check out the NFL here, remember that ESPN America really is home to the sport in the Czech Republic, with a countdown calendar app built right into its Facebook page. Follow every game from now until the Superbowl final with up to 123 games this season, complete with the best authentic coverage and also available in HD. You know, if you consider yourself a fan of North American sports and you don’t already have ESPN America, or you don’t plan on calling your local cable provider to get it, then we are sorry to say that you may have to reconsider calling yourself a sports fan.

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