As we wrap up Week 16 in the 2014 National Football League season, we move the pair of Thursday Night Football pregame shows, NFL Total Access Kickoff and Thursday Night Kickoff.

CBS and NFL Network produce the programs in advance of each Thursday Night Football game. With 14 Thursday night games from Weeks 2 through 12 and 14 through 16, then two Saturday night games, the two networks partnered to produce the two pregames, NFL Network producing NFL Total Access Kickoff while CBS did Thursday Night Kickoff.

With two shows, you need two casts. With two casts, you need two hosts and two separate block of analysts.

For NFL Total Access Kickoff, Rich Eisen hosts with various NFL Network analysts including Marshall Faulk, Michael Irvin, Steve Mariucci, Kurt Warner and others. They’re usually stationed outside the stadium in a set located in the parking lot. It airs from 6 p.m. — 7:30 p.m. ET

With Thursday Night Kickoff, you have James Brown as host with CBS’ Bill Cowher and NFL Network’s Deion Sanders as the analysts inside the stadium and broadcasts from 7:30 p.m. until the TNF kickoff.

NFL Total Access Kickoff usually looks at what’s happening in the league. Thursday Night Kickoff sets the scene just before the game.

Does this prolific pair of pregame shows work? Let’s take a look.


NFL Total Access Kickoff
Host: Rich Eisen
Analysts: Marshall Faulk, Michael Irvin, Steve Mariucci, Kurt Warner
Insider: Ian Rapoport

Thursday Night Kickoff
Host: James Brown
Analysts: Bill Cowher and Deion Sanders
Reporter: Tracy Wolfson

Best Segment

“Sink or Swim” in NFL Total Access Kickoff which usually is used with mini-helmets and a fish tank. This segment is where the analysts decide which teams are not going to the playoffs (“sink”) or go onto the the postseason (“swim”). For last Thursday with the game in Jacksonville and an actual swimming pool at EverBank Field (yes, it’s true), Total Access Kickoff allowed the analysts to throw helmets into the pool to say if a team would sink, or place them on a small floatation device and let them free to swim so to speak. These segments are usually fun and this time with a pool, seeing Steve Mariucci throwing a Kansas City helmet and Michael Irvin throwing a Buffalo Bills helmet into the water was classic.

Worst Segment

Not really a worst segment in the two considering that with the two pregames and two hours and 25 minutes worth of programming, there’s plenty of potential for bad segments, but there wasn’t one in the time that we watched.

Good on CBS and NFL Network for producing quick and easy segments for their talent to shine and not say something silly.

Standout Performers

Give these to the hosts Rich Eisen and James Brown for getting the most of their casts. In addition, analysts Bill Cowher, Steve Mariucci and Deion Sanders are the strongest. All look as if they’re enjoying the road trips to each and every Thursday Night Football site.

Eisen and JB are two of the best studio hosts and they allow their analysts to talk without butting in and interjecting or asking loaded questions.

Say What? (weirdest quote)

Marshall Faulk on the AFC playoff picture: “I believe it will be the Steelers will be on the outside looking in.” How did that work out, Marshall?

What’s Unique About These Shows?

Even though they’re two different shows in name, there’s a lot of interweaving of both casts in NFL Total Access Kickoff and Thursday Night Kickoff. Here’s where the CBS/NFL Network partnership works quite well and you don’t feel either cast is fighting for airtime. It makes the programs look as if they’re one show.

Why You Should Watch

If you don’t want to watch the news at 6 p.m. or just want to get ready for football, these programs do it right without too much yelling and shouting. Yes, Michael Irvin does yell, but it’s kept to a minimum.

Why You Should Stay Away

You don’t have to watch all of the two hours plus of these pregame extravaganzas. While the the pregames are not offensive or over the top, they are a bit long. No need for this to be so long.

Overall Grade

Because the shows interweave between outside set and inside set so often, we’re going to grade NFL Total Access Kickoff and Thursday Night Kickoff together as one. The fact that we have two of the better hosts helps the cause.

Sometimes a show on the road can get out of control with yelling over crowd noise, but maybe it was the venue of Jacksonville that allowed for some calm on the night we watched.

When CBS/NFL Network began this partnership, it hit the ground running with the Ray Rice story and an interview of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell due to what was happening in Baltimore.

As the season progressed, the shows got their identity and we saw a very good melding of CBS and NFL Network.

We didn’t know what to expect with the end result, but overall, we liked what we saw. We give NFL Total Access Kickoff/Thursday Night Kickoff the second B+ in this series.

Next week, we end with Colin’s Football Show. We have no idea what to expect here.

Sunday Studio Show Rankings

Red Zone Channel (DirecTV): A+
Fantasy Football Now (ESPN2/ESPNews): A
NFL Total Access Kickoff/Thursday Night Kickoff (CBS/NFL Network): B+
Fox NFL Sunday (Fox): B+
NFL Matchup (ESPN): B
NFL GameDay Morning (NFL Network): B
That Other Pregame Show (CBS Sports Network): B
Fantasy Zone Channel (DirecTV): B-
Fox NFL Kickoff (Fox Sports 1): B-
NFL GameDay Final (NFL Network): B-
Football Night in America (NBC): C+
NFL GameDay First (NFL Network): C+
The NFL Today (CBS): C
Sunday NFL Countdown (ESPN): C-
NFL GameDay Live (NFL Network): D-

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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