Jimmy Garoppolo and the streaking 49ers (8-6) face Ryan Tannehill and the inconsistent Titans (9-5) on Dec. 23. However, unlike other Thursday night games this season, most football fans won’t find this one on Fox.
The 49ers-Titans ‘Thursday Night Football’ game is an NFL Network-exclusive
The regular Thursday Night Football games are produced by Fox and feature Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, and the rest of the network’s iconic faces. Those games air on Fox, the NFL Network, and Amazon Prime.
However, the NFL Network — which typically airs TNF games as simulcasts — begins airing games exclusively late in the season. The 49ers-Titans game is one such game, which is difficult news for those who don’t have that channel.
Technically, the 49ers-Titans game is still on Fox, at least in the Nashville market. WZTV, a Fox affiliate, will pick up the game and air it locally; those in the San Francisco region can watch locally on KNTV, the NBC affiliate.
However, if you live in New York, Florida, or anywhere in between, you’ll need to watch this game on NFL Network. A similar scenario occurred in Week 15 when the Indianapolis Colts hosted the New England Patriots on Saturday, Dec. 18. Those in the New England region had the game locally on WBZ-TV, a CBS affiliate.
The NFL Network will still use Fox’s graphics and its No. 2 broadcast team: Kevin Burkhardt, former Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, and veteran sideline reporter Pam Oliver. Kristina Pink, who serves as a second sideline reporter on the regular TNF games, will fill that role Thursday night. That group worked together during the Patriots-Colts game.
Fox ended its ‘Thursday Night Football’ run with a bang in Week 15
The days of Thursday Night Football on Fox appear to be over. Amazon Prime will take over the rights next season and is reportedly pursuing Al Michaels and Aikman to call games together.
If Fox’s TNF days are indeed over, the weekly event at least ended with a bang. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes shredded the Los Angeles Chargers’ defense for 410 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception in a 34-28 victory on Dec. 16. Mahomes hit tight end Travis Kelce, who finished with 10 catches and 191 yards, for a game-winning 34-yard touchdown just over a minute into overtime.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert passed for 236 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception in the loss. As a result of the Week 15 finish, Kansas City can clinch the AFC West on Sunday, Dec. 26, so long as the 3-11 Houston Texans defeat the Chargers.
The TNF crew of Buck, Aikman, and Erin Andrews will call the Green Bay Packers’ Christmas Day clash with the Cleveland Browns. They’ll also be joined by sideline reporter Tom Rinaldi, who joins the trio for Sunday games and during the postseason.
The 49ers and Titans each have plenty to play for in Week 16
Unfortunately for the 49ers, they cannot clinch a postseason berth in Week 16. However, a victory would push them to 9-6 and give them an excellent chance of reaching the playoffs for the second time in three years.
The Tennessee Titans can clinch a spot in the 2021 NFL Playoffs, but only with a win on Thursday night. A Titans victory and an Indianapolis Colts loss on Christmas Day would give Tennessee its second straight AFC South title.
If the Colts defeat the Arizona Cardinals, the Titans would need four teams — the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, and Miami Dolphins — to not win in Week 16. Buffalo must lose to New England, and the other three teams can lose or tie. Those outcomes, coupled with either a Pittsburgh Steelers loss to Kansas City or the Baltimore Ravens failing to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals (a tie or loss each work) would seal the Titans’ playoff chances.
For the sake of everyone’s sanity, the Titans are best served by beating the 49ers on Thursday night and hoping the Cardinals take down the Colts.