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New Monday Night Football analyst Troy Aikman excited about Bills' Week 2 opener

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ESPN Monday Night Football

Play-by-play announcer Joe Buck, left, and analyst Troy Aikman form the new ESPN crew for Monday Night Football in 2022.

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Redemption was the first thing that crossed the mind of new ESPN analyst Troy Aikman when asked about the Buffalo Bills’ home opener on Monday Night Football.

“That’s a great matchup, two playoff teams from a year ago, both teams I guess you could say ended in disappointment not getting to where they had hoped that they would,” Aikman said on a conference call this week. “To cover them and then Tennessee with their disappointing end last season and the various moves, yeah . . . for that game to be early in the season, a really marquee matchup.”

The Bills, of course, blew a lead with 13 seconds remaining in their divisional playoff game at Kansas City. The Titans held the No. 1 seed in the AFC and lost in overtime in the divisional round at home to Cincinnati, despite outgaining the Bengals and sacking quarterback Joe Burrow nine times.

Aikman is on the Buffalo bandwagon for the 2022 season.

“I’ve really enjoyed following Buffalo, big fan of what they’re doing at every level of their organization,” he said. “Love Josh Allen, as does the rest of America, and the way that that team is built. Von Miller going to Buffalo is only going to make them better.”

“A healthy Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill and everything else they have going on in Tennessee, good head coach that gets that team ready, that has the feel and the makings of a preview for something that will happen in January,” said Aikman’s play-by-play partner, Joe Buck.

The NFL, in fact, wanted to cash in on Allen’s big finish to last season in crafting the 2022 schedule. That’s a big reason the Bills will travel to Los Angeles to face the Rams in the NFL Kickoff Game and then come back in Week 2 with a nationally televised game.

“One of the first things we looked at was, where are we going to play?" said Onnie Bose, NFL vice president of broadcasting, on a call with reporters. “You're always looking at, 'Where's Aaron Rodgers? Tom Brady? The Dallas Cowboys?' And this year, it's 'Where's Joe Burrow, where's Josh Allen gonna play?

“Your lasting memories of Josh Allen were some of the most incredible quarterback play, and it just felt right and made a lot of sense, one, to just put him right back on that spotlight against the Super Bowl champions, and also just for the mix of the rest of the weekend and where we ended up slotting the Sunday night game, the Monday night game, the two doubleheader games. All of those things are interconnected. But it was a strong narrative that we wanted to put out there front and center.”

Aikman and Buck were part of the big shakeup in NFL broadcasting this offseason, jumping to ESPN from Fox Sports. Aikman had spent 21 years at Fox, Buck 26. Aikman’s deal with Fox was for five years and $92.5 million, while Buck got $75 million over five years, according to the New York Post.

The big moves started when Al Michaels’ contract with NBC ran out and he signed a deal with Amazon Prime to call Thursday night NFL games. Michaels will join Kirk Herbstreit in the Amazon booth. Once ESPN lured Aikman, Buck sought to leave his Fox contract a year early to join the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback. FOX let Buck out of the deal and is expected to have Kevin Burkardt and retired tight end Greg Olsen as it’s No. 1 NFL broadcast team.

“I’m just as surprised as everyone else, and I’m in the game, so to speak, with this announcer movement,” Buck said. “Somebody said to me the other day, we as fans need a sports person to tell us where all these sports announcers are ending up because everybody has kind of shifted and moved places.”

Aikman’s giant deal was doubled earlier this month when Fox signed Tom Brady to a 10-year, $375 million contract to join its No. 1 crew whenever the Tampa Bay quarterback retires. It’s the richest contract in sports broadcasting history.

“Tom has won at everything he’s done in life, and there’s no reason to think that he won’t win at this, as well,” Aikman said. “The reason I believe that he’s going to be good is because he’s going to work. He’s a guy, as we know, he’s the reason why he’s been playing as long as he has. There’s a reason why he’s won seven Super Bowls, and it’s because he doesn’t take any shortcuts, and he’s not going to in broadcasting. I think that blueprint is one that not everyone follows, but I think he’ll be great.”

The Bills are on MNF twice in 2022, with the second game being at Cincinnati on Jan. 2. Buck and Aikman might broadcast the Bills' home opener or might not. There are two games that day, Sept. 19. The Bills and Titans start at 7:15 p.m. Minnesota visits Philadelphia at 8:30 p.m. Which game Buck and Aikman do probably won't be decided until much closer to the regular season.

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Bills/NFL writer

Gaughan's insight is featured in the "PlayAction" video series, providing analysis to get Bills fans ready for the next game. He is past president of the Pro Football Writers of America and served as a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector for 12 years.

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