USFL’s plan to keep growing after first season

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Peter King is on vacation until July 18, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today’s guest is Paul Burmeister, a play-by-play voice and studio host for NBC Sports.

After what we’ve seen with alternative spring leagues in the recent past, making it to this point is no small task. Job well done.

But making it to season two in a better place will require development. Being a better league for the players and coaches, as well as having a better product on television, will require strategic fixes and enhancements.

Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: The XFL will debut next winter. Who knows what kind of quality it will have out of the gates. But in the abstract, it’s hard to imagine two spring leagues thriving, let alone surviving.

So I reflected on year one with Johnston, with the goal of learning where growth is most needed for year two. Four topics emerged:

Longer Training Camp

Training camp was incredibly brief by preseason football standards. It lasted only two weeks, and wasn’t preceded by any form of OTAs or minicamps. That’s not nearly enough time for any facet of the game to develop, especially the one that most everyone wants to see the most: the passing game. And because of that, the offensive execution for the first part of the season suffered.

Johnston shared his hope for next season is a training camp “of at least three weeks.” Early season efficiency in the passing game will benefit most. When passes are completed and first downs are made and points are scored, the league wins.

More Players On Rosters

The initial roster concept during the season looked this way: 38 players active on game day, 45 total on the roster.

Thirty-eight is minuscule for a game day roster. Consider the NFL has 53, and many coaches will tell you how difficult the game day math can be for certain positions, especially offensive line.

Twenty-eight percent fewer players to play a four-quarter football game was aspirational, to say the least. I recall calling one game when two offensive lineman went out with injuries on the same drive, and all I could think was “38?”

The coaches voiced this concern from day one; to the credit of the league, an adjustment was made. The game day roster increased to 40, with the roster total moving to 50.

Discussing it all with Johnston, it sounds like the jump from 38 to 40 was just a start. No specific number was given as a target, but it was clear that moving beyond 40 is a high priority.

More players also will allow for more efficient and better practices. Coaches and players spoke during the season about their reluctance to have contact in practice due to small numbers and the risk of injury. What a well organized coaching staff can accomplish, through volume, difficulty and efficiency of work, increases exponentially with more players.

Opportunities For Undrafted Players

There’s also a plan for how to inject youth and talent into each roster next spring, and it relates to the NFL draft.

Each spring there are hundreds of quality players who believe they will be drafted, only to have draft weekend come and go with no call.

The best of that group will become high priority free agents, with a decent chance to make a roster, and a better chance to land on a practice squad. But most who sign with a team as an undrafted free agent face long odds to stick.

Johnston sees an opportunity with this group, one he describes as “a non-traditional route to get where you want to go.”

He remembers fondly his own pre-draft process as a fullback coming out of Syracuse in 1989, and doesn’t want to interfere with or interrupt that time. Johnston wants all the players to commit to that process and enjoy it. But if the time comes and goes without a good opportunity to be on an NFL roster, he wants those players to sign with the USFL.

“Understand how many undrafted free agents make it and how many don’t,” Johnston said. “It’s a tough hill to climb. Get to us as soon as you can, play 6 or 8 games, and force the NFL to change their opinion of you.”

The USFL dabbled in this area a little bit this season, and quarterback Eric Barriere is a prime example.

At Eastern Washington as a freshman in 2017, Barriere told me he would walk by the trophy case each day and see the Walter Payton Award that Cooper Kupp won as the most outstanding offensive player in the FCS, and think how cool it would be to win that award himself one day.

As a senior in 2021, Barriere did win it by throwing for over 5,000 yards and 46 touchdowns.

But he didn’t hear his name called in the NFL draft. And no team offered him a contract to be an undrafted free agent. The Denver Broncos did fly him in for a rookie minicamp tryout, but it didn’t end with an offer to come to camp.


So Barrier came to the USFL late in the season, signed with the Michigan Panthers, and earned some playing time in the final two games of the regular season. Had he come earlier, he potentially could have started a handful of games, and “demanded a re-evaluation,” as Johnston explains.

Barriere’s example is one Johnston hopes many more will follow in 2023.

More Fans, One More Stadium

If you tuned into any of the USFL games this season, you noticed the fans. Or lack thereof.

For most games, all of which were played in Birmingham, the attendance was minimal. It was impossible not to notice.

This is unless the Birmingham Stallions were playing. Thousands of people attended Stallions games, and the energy difference was night and day. The broadcasts for Stallions games were automatically, distinctly better. It’s affected planning for 2023.

“We should afford a team in the North Division the same luxury that Birmingham had,” Johnston said.

Would that be Michigan, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia or New Jersey? No word on a front runner. But Johnston and the league are motivated to give one of those teams the opportunity Birmingham had this season. The USFL and its broadcasts would be better for it if they can make it happen.

As for keeping at least half the games in Birmingham? Johnston said: “I hope so. It sure would be a waste to go somewhere else (in the south) and start again.”

One of the parts that won’t change is the schedule. The games started in mid-April and the championship is next weekend. Johnston likes the USFL’s home on the sports calendar. “We don’t compete with March Madness, we’re not immediately after the Super Bowl,” he said. “We’ll target the weekend after The Masters.”

The separation from the NFL season, with game one targeted approximately two months after the Super Bowl, is key.

“I want our fans to get to the point of the off season where they say ‘I miss football,’” Johnston said.

Read more in the full Football Morning in America column

How to watch Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TV, live stream info, preview for Sunday Night Football game

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It’s the Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday, October 2 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida–a rematch of Super Bowl LV where Tom Brady earned his seventh ring. Sunday’s matchup marks the sixth meeting between Patrick Mahomes and Brady with the 45-year-old veteran holding a 3-2 edge in the series.

Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock with Football Night in America. See below for additional information on how to watch the game.

Football Night in America will feature a weekly segment hosted by former NFL quarterback Chris Simms and sports betting and fantasy pioneer Matthew Berry, which highlights storylines and betting odds for the upcoming Sunday Night Football game on NBC, Peacock, and Universo. Real-time betting odds on the scoring ticker during FNIA also will be showcased. Peacock Sunday Night Football Final, an NFL postgame show produced by NBC Sports, will also go deep on the storylines and BetMGM betting lines that proved prominent during the matchup.

RELATED: FMIA Week 3 – Broncos’ Coaching Experiment Pays Off, Dolphins Win ‘Beast’ Game, and What We Learned About the NFL in September

Be sure to start your NFL Sunday with Matthew Berry’s Fantasy Football Pregame show beginning at 11 AM ET on Peacock and the NFL on NBC YouTube channel.

Kansas City Chiefs

Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) picked up their first loss of the season last Sunday after falling 20-17 to the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Kansas City struggled offensively in Week 3 as the team was held to just three points in the second half. The Chiefs are still working to fill the void in the passing game since trading star WR Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins in the offseason but according to Mahomes, that doesn’t excuse Sunday’s loss.

RELATED: Patrick Mahomes –  I don’t expect growing pains, offense has to gel together

“I don’t expect any growing pains,” Mahomes told reporters at ESPN.com. “Obviously have new players and you don’t know everybody’s going to respond to tough situations. . . . We’ve got to gel all together. It starts with me. There were certain throws I was putting on guys’ back hips instead of in front of him. There were certain situations where we were just barely off of it.”

Mahomes, who signed a 10-year, $450 million contract extension, in July 2020–the richest contract in American sports history by total value–is in his fifth season as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback and hopes to lead Kansas City to its seventh straight AFC West title. The Chiefs are the only team to ever win six consecutive AFC West titles, which is tied for the 3rd-longest division title streak of any team in NFL history.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brady and the Buccaneers (2-1) are also coming off their first loss of the season–a 14-12 defeat at home from Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers last Sunday afternoon. With WRs Mike Evans (suspension) and Chris Godwin (hamstring)–Brady’s top two targets–and Julio Jones (knee) out in Week 3, Tampa Bay’s offense racked up a total of just 285 yards in the loss. Additionally, the team is still adapting to the turnover at the WR and TE positions from this offseason. Despite some challenges on offense, Tampa Bay’s defense has remained consistent and currently leads the NFL in scoring defense (9.0 pts/gm) and also ranks in the top 5 in total defense.

RELATED: Todd Bowles asks NFL to explain clock issues on delay of game, says Bucs have to get the snap off


How to watch the Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

  • Where: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida
  • When: Sunday, October 2
  • Start Time: 8:20 p.m. ET; live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET with Football Night In America
  • TV Channel: NBC
  • Stream liveWatch live on Peacock or with the NBC Sports App

What time is kickoff for the Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers game?

Kickoff is at 8:20 p.m. ET.

RELATED: 2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule: TV channel, live stream info, NFL schedule

For all your NFL jersey and gear needs ahead of the 2022 season, click here!


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule: TV channel, live stream info, NFL schedule

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The 2022 NFL Football season is finally back in session. This Sunday night features a match-up between Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers–a rematch of Super Bowl LV. NBC and Peacock have got you covered with access to this week’s game as well as every Sunday Night Football game this season. See below for the complete 2022 Sunday Night Football schedule and find out how to live stream every game on Peacock.

RELATED: FMIA Week 3 – Broncos’ Coaching Experiment Pays Off, Dolphins Win ‘Beast’ Game, and What We Learned About the NFL in September

This year’s Sunday Night Football coverage will feature Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth in the booth and Melissa Stark on the sidelines. Live coverage begins every Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. ET with Football Night in America with the talented group of Maria Taylor, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Jason Garrett, Chris Simms, Jac Collinsworth, Mike Florio, and Matthew Berry. Berry, a fantasy football industry pioneer, will also appear on Peacock’s exclusive NFL post-game show, Sunday Night Football Final.

RELATED: How to watch Matthew Berry on NBC Sports

Football Night in America will also feature a weekly segment hosted by Simms and sports betting and Berry, which highlights storylines and betting odds for the upcoming Sunday Night Football game on NBC, Peacock, and Universo. Real-time betting odds on the scoring ticker during FNIA also will be showcased. Peacock Sunday Night Football Final, an NFL postgame show produced by NBC Sports, will also go deep on the storylines and BetMGM betting lines that proved prominent during the matchup.

2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule:

*Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Thursday, Sept. 8 (Week 1) – Josh Allen’s four touchdowns power Bills to 31-10 victory over Rams

Sunday, Sept. 11 (Week 1) – Bucs take care of business against Cowboys, who lose Dak Prescott late

Sunday, Sept. 18 (Week 2) Packers roll over Bears 27-10 as Aaron Jones, Preston Smith star

Sunday, Sept. 25 (Week 3) – Broncos do just enough to pull off 11-10 win over 49ers

Sunday, Oct. 2 (Week 4) – Chiefs at Buccaneers

Sunday, Oct. 9 (Week 5) – Bengals at Ravens

Sunday, Oct. 16 (Week 6) – Cowboys at Eagles

Sunday, Oct. 23 (Week 7) – Steelers at Dolphins

Sunday, Oct. 30 (Week 8) – Packers at Bills

Sunday, Nov. 6 (Week 9) – Titans at Chiefs

Sunday, Nov. 13 (Week 10) – Chargers at 49ers

Sunday, Nov. 20 (Week 11) – Bengals at Steelers

Thursday, Nov. 24 (Week 12) – Patriots at Vikings

Sunday, Nov. 27 (Week 12) – Packers at Eagles

Sunday, Dec. 4 (Week 13) – Colts at Cowboys

Sunday, Dec. 11 (Week 14) – Chiefs at Broncos

Sunday, Dec. 18 (Week 15) – Patriots at Raiders

Sunday, Dec. 25 (Week 16) – Buccaneers at Cardinals

Sunday, Jan. 1 (Week 17) – Rams at Chargers

Sunday, Jan. 8 (Week 18) – Matchup TBD

RELATED: How to watch/live stream Chiefs vs Buccaneers game


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

RELATED: PFT’s Week 3 2022 NFL power rankings

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.


 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!