Saturday, December 23rd, 2023


“Two days before Christmas, how fitting is this – Rudolph is on the field!” – Ahmed Fareed on Steelers starting QB Mason Rudolph

“All I can think of are the words of the great Michael Scott of The Office – ‘Oh, how the turntables have turned.’” – Todd Blackledge on Steelers’ and Bengals’ recent performances

“I think they’re contenders. You have to respect the run game, the quarterback and the play-action pass.” – Rodney Harrison in the Bills

Special Edition of Football Night in America Airs Tonight Leading into Bills-Chargers Immediately Following Conclusion of Bengals-Steelers

STAMFORD, Conn. – Dec. 23, 2023 – NBC Sports’ Football Night in America previewed the Week 16 NFL schedule leading into today’s NFL holiday doubleheader, beginning with this afternoon’s Bengals-Steelers game on NBC and Peacock, followed by tonight’s first-ever Peacock exclusive NFL regular-season game between the Bills and Chargers.

Ahmed Fareed hosted FNIA from NBC Sports’ Studio 1 in Stamford, Conn. He was joined by former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, three-time Super Bowl champion Devin McCourty, former NFL quarterback Chris Simms, fantasy sports industry pioneer Matthew Berry, and NFL Insider Mike Florio. Steve Kornacki was also in the studio to break down playoff scenarios. A special edition of Football Night in America will air tonight on NBC and Peacock immediately following the conclusion of Bengals-Steelers, leading into Bills-Chargers. Maria Taylor is on parental leave.

Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy and two-time Super Bowl winner Rodney Harrison joined co-host Jac Collinsworth to preview Bills-Chargers from SoFi Stadium. Eagle and Blackledge previewed Bengals-Steelers on-field in Pittsburgh and Tappen interviewed Bengals coach Zac Taylor and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst), Melissa Stark (sideline reporter), and Terry McAulay (rules analyst) will have the call for Bills-Chargers tonight exclusively on Peacock.

Noah Eagle (play-by-play) and Todd Blackledge (analyst), Kathryn Tappen (sideline reporter) and McAulay have the call of Bengals-Steelers this afternoon from Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Pre-game coverage also included:


Following are highlights from this afternoon’s Football Night in America on NBC and Peacock:


Fareed on QB Mason Rudolph: “Two days before Christmas, how fitting is this – Rudolph is on the field!”

Blackledge on the Steelers: “All I can think of are the words of the great Michael Scott of The Office – ‘Oh, how the turntables have turned.’ A month ago, the Steelers left the field 7-4, they had just put up their best offensive numbers of the season and were coming home for back-to-back winnable home games…now on a three-game losing streak, a third-string quarterback and they’re fighting for their playoff lives.”

Dungy on future of head coach Mike Tomlin: “I played there, I coached there, I know how the Rooneys think. They’ve had three coaches in 45 years and never fired a coach in that time. Here’s what Mr. Rooney would think – ‘I could go out and get somebody who’s 51 years old and taken two teams to the Super Bowl, he knows my team, he knows my city – wait that’s who I have already.’ That is what’s going to happen in Pittsburgh.”

Simms on Steelers’ defensive struggles: “There’s nothing they really do well. Man-to-man, they don’t stop the run, they’re not great at zone…I think Teryl Austin and Mike Tomlin are doing a phenomenal job covering a lot of holes because I look at this defense and I go, ‘What do you expect?’ Some of these guys are not starting-caliber NFL defensive players. They’ve got Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Cam Heyward is at the end of his career…they need a total rebuilding of that defense talent-wise and it’s ‘Strugglesville’ for Pittsburgh on defense.”


Simms on WR Tee Higgins: “Get the ball to No. 5…he’s a No. 1 talent, he’s one of those guys who can beat you deep, throw it up and 50-50 balls are more like 70-30 with him…they can’t play man-to-man defense in Pittsburgh.”

Harrison: “I’m really excited about Trey Hendrickson. He is their best player on defense. He plays both the pass and run with the same enthusiasm. His job tonight – supply constant pressure.”

Harrison: “I am a big fan of their secondary. They’re young guys that are very talented, not a lot of money being spent in the secondary right now, but these guys are going to be good in the future.”

McCourty: “What I love about Jake Browning is that he’s confident and he knows what the defense is in…he’s not just taking what’s easy, he’s taking what the read is telling him to do and it’s leading to good football.”

Simms on the Bengals: “They’re showing that they’re more than just Joe Burrow…they are tough, gritty, and battle-tested and we’re seeing that right now.”


Harrison on offensive improvement: “How long have we been asking for them to run the football? It opens up the offense. It takes pressure off of Josh Allen and it helps him avoid taking those big hits…I think they’re contenders, right below the Baltimore Ravens. You have to respect the run game, the quarterback and the play-action pass.”

Dungy on Joe Brady replacing Ken Dorsey as offensive coordinator: “I’m not normally a fan of midseason coaching changes, but this one has changed the mindset of this team. They believe they can win games being physical and they proved it last week against the Cowboys.”


Simms: “They’ve got one of the crown jewels in all of football right now with Justin Herbert. We’re in awe of his talents. I would say, ‘Let’s hire an offensive head coach. Let’s go all-in on that department.’”

McCourty: “The biggest thing to me is getting a leader of men…you need a guy who can come in and lead. This team that we watched take the field last week didn’t have much effort and didn’t believe in what they were doing. They need to find that coach that when he comes into the room, they want to run through the wall.”

Dungy: “They need a dominant personality either as the coach or the general manager. I would recommend getting a veteran, polished general manager. I’m going to give you a thought Spanos family – Bill Polian. He has put together three Super Bowl winning teams – hire him and let him hire your next coach.”


Kornacki on the Seahawks: “The Seahawks are knocking on the door. Just to put into perspective how much Monday night’s win (vs. Philadelphia) changed the trajectory of their season…they’ve got three games left and it’s a very manageable three-game stretch. Win these three games and they would need either the Vikings or Rams to lose just one game.”

Kornacki on the Buccaneers: “Besides the Rams themselves on Thursday night, there was no bigger winner coming out of that game than the Bucs…it’s very simple for them in terms of making the playoffs. Three games left – just win two of three, any combination, they win the division and make the playoffs.”

Kornacki on the Jaguars: “If the Jags lose again, they could be in some real trouble…the Jags, Texans and Colts are all 8-6 and the Jags have all of the tiebreakers. But if they lose to the Bucs and either the Colts or Texans win, they leapfrog the Jags. We take a team that we were talking about just a couple of weeks ago as a No. 1 seed that is suddenly out of first place in the division and a big question mark to even make the playoffs.”


Simms on the offense and QB Brock Purdy: “The offense is on fire, the weapons galore. Deebo (Samuel), (Christian) McCaffrey, (George) Kittle, (Brandon) Aiyuk – they’re incredible and he is running this offense like Joe Montana used to run it.”


Simms: “Here’s my big thing with the Ravens – run the ball. Stop justifying Lamar Jackson’s contract…first-round receivers, Odell Beckham Jr.’s contract…take a lesson out of the playbook of the 49ers. They have the QB in Purdy who has thrown it less than everybody else in football and they have the most explosive offense in football.”


Simms: “They said, ‘To hell with the run game, we’re going to play through Baker Mayfield’s right arm.’ And that’s what they’ve been doing lately. He’s got weapons with Rachaad White in the backfield, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin…they are about throwing the ball down the field and Baker is carrying that team.”


Simms: “I love what they’re doing with Joe Flacco but let’s rein it in a little bit. He’s throwing it 45 times a game…you’ve got a Super Bowl-caliber defense in Cleveland. It’s okay to punt the ball every once in a while, throw the ball away…Kevin Stefanski, just rein it in a little.”


McCourty: “This offense and Jalen Hurts have to step up. They showed up last year by making the big plays in the big moments. Last week they had a chance to end the game against the Seahawks and they couldn’t do it.”


McCourty on matchup vs. Cowboys: “This team needs to build its confidence. They need a win at home against the Dallas Cowboys to believe that they really are the best team in the AFC.”


Garrett: “My Airing of the Grievances is with the Atlanta Falcons. They have three Top 10 picks in their skill game – Bijan Robinson, Kyle Pitts and Drake London. Make these guys tired on Sunday night. Wear them out. Don’t take them out of the game. Make it all go through them. If they do that, I think they have a chance down the stretch.”

Football Night in America