Good luck trying to tune in to the “Manning MegaCast” on ESPN over the next few weeks.
Peyton and Eli Manning have drawn near-universal praise this season for their alternate Monday Night Football broadcast on ESPN2, where they spend as much time discussing the game as they do mocking each other’s armpit sweat and dance moves.
Thanks to the natural chemistry between the Manning brothers and an uncharacteristically positive response on social media (a welcome change for ESPN from the brutal coverage of former Monday Night Football announcer Jason Witten), the Manning alternate broadcast more than doubled its audience over the first three weeks of the season — from 800,000 viewers in Week 1 to nearly 1.9 million viewers in Week 3.
The broadcast has also generated a number of unforgettable moments, from Charles Barkley schooling Peyton on what it’s like to be booed by your own crowd (”You were lucky, Peyton. Everybody liked you. Eli knows what it’s like to get booed at home.”) to Eli apologizing for flipping the double bird on air while telling the story of a nine-year-old Eagles fan who did the same to him.
“Sorry, earlier I gave the double bird. I guess that’s frowned upon, so I apologize if I offended anybody,” Eli said with former Eagles defender Chris Long laughing in the background. “That’s what a nine-year old did to me, I thought I could do it back.”
Unfortunately, at the end of the Eagles’ Week 3 blowout loss to the Cowboys, Peyton announced the duo was taking the next three weeks off. That means in addition to Monday’s Raiders-Chargers game, they’ll also be skipping Colts-Ravens in Week 5 on Oct. 11, and Bills-Titans in Week 6 on Oct. 18.
“I’ll like this break. I’ve been seeing you too much,” Eli said to Peyton during last week’s broadcast. “I need a little break … Overload. I’m getting Peyton overload.”
So fans tuning in to Monday Night Football over the next three weeks looking for the Mannings will instead get ESPN’s main broadcast crew, led by play-by-play announcer (and longtime SportsCenter anchor) Steve Levy. Joining him in the booth is former NFL quarterback Brian Griese and former Eagles front office executive and scout Louis Riddick. King of Prussia native Lisa Salters will report from the sideline.
If you’re just interested in the Mannings, circle Oct. 25 on your calendar. That’s when Peyton and Eli will return to ESPN2 to call the Week 7 matchup between the New Orleans Saints and the Seattle Seahawks. They’ll also stick around the following week so Eli can talk as his former team, the New York Giants, take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 1 (a questionable choice, since Eli is also employed by the Giants in a business operations and fan engagement role).
After that, it’s anyone’s guess which remaining games the Manning brothers will call.
They signed on with ESPN to do their alternate broadcast during 10 Monday Night Football games this season. After Week 8, they’ll have five remaining to spread out over the last nine weeks of the season. They could also end up doing one of ESPN’s Saturday games or the network’s Wild Card playoff game, which an ESPN source said aren’t off the table.
Basically, ESPN is happy with the success of the broadcast and is trying to maximize it. But there’s a reason why the Mannings could only commit to doing 10 games — between speaking engagement, business commitments, and sponsorships, they have kept quite busy during their retirement from the NFL.
Here’s the remaining schedule for ESPN’s Monday Night Football this season:
Week 5, Oct. 11: Baltimore Ravens vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 6, Oct. 18: Tennessee Titans vs. Buffalo Bills
Week 7, Oct. 25: Seattle Seahawks vs. New Orleans Saints
Week 8, Nov. 1: Kansas City Chiefs vs. New York Giants
Week 9, Nov. 8: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Chicago Bears
Week 10, Nov. 15: San Francisco 49ers vs. Los Angeles Rams
Week 11, Nov. 22: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New York Giants
Week 12, Nov. 29: Washington Football Team vs. Seattle Seahawks
Week 13, Dec. 6: Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots
Week 14, Dec. 13: Arizona Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Rams
Week 15, Dec. 20: Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings
Week 16, Dec. 27: New Orleans Saints vs. Miami Dolphins
Week 17, Jan. 3: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns