SI.com has teamed with partner site FanSided.com to provide commentary on the NFL announcing crews each week. What follows is SI.com's power ranking of the Top Five -- each television outlet's top announcing team -- then analysis by FanSided writers on each of the other crews who called games last week (in no particular order). Feel free to use the comments section below to tell us about the announcers in the game or games you watched.
I've never bothered with any of those pop song intros to the prime-time football telecasts. I'm ready for some football, not vacuous entertainment. So when Hank Williams Jr. used to come on, it was time to turn the sound down. And I've continued that tradition. But on Sunday night I was busy with something else as the show got under way, so the theme song stayed on in the background. And I was surprised when I heard Carrie Underwood sing, "Al and Cris are the best on TV." Really? The broadcasters? The show is about them?
Well, in a way it is. Moments later, when it was time for Michaels and Collinsworth to sing, they were in tune. In setting up a game between teams moving in opposite directions, they deftly laid out the strengths and challenges for both. Michaels paints the big picture without a wasted brush stroke, and Collinsworth zeroes in on a detail about each team -- the same-page relationship between Chicago's new coach and feisty quarterback, Pittsburgh's added reliance on Ben Roethlisberger with no running game -- that will be easy for us to follow over the next three hours. Yeah, focusing on the quarterbacks is obvious. But there's no need to dig for something obscure when what's obvious is what matters.
Before the first quarter was over, Pittsburgh was down 17-0, and even more focus was on Roethlisberger, who'd already turned the ball over once. On a third-and-14, Ben completed a 41-yard pass, leading to a field goal to give the Steelers life. "Ben Roethlisberger," said Collinsworth, "at it again."
On Pittsburgh's next possession, though, Ben threw a pick-6, and it was 24-3. The game appeared to be slipping away, but Michaels and Collinworth kept us engaged until, near the end of the third, the Steelers pulled to within a touchdown. From there, the booth guys mostly let the rejuvenated game do the talking, although Collinsworth was cooing after Chicago's Jay Cutler lowered his shoulder to get past the stick on a third-down scramble midway through the fourth quarter in a four-point game. "Quarterbacks walk back in the room after that film session," he said. "Whole different level of respect."
Cutler was a bear on third down for the rest of the drive, completing a 41-yarder on third-and-12, then hitting Earl Bennett with a 27-yard TD pass to essentially put the game away with under six minutes left. The catch by Bennett -- dragging a toe in the back of the end zone, on a play initially ruled incomplete but overturned on replay -- really got Collinsworth jazzed. The former NFL wide receiver sounded genuinely entertained by the plays he'd seen all night in the passing game, saying, "It was a joy to watch."
A more competitive, dramatic game would have been far more of a joy. But Michaels and Collinsworth did their part in making this one watchable.
The announcing of the game was pretty good. There were some small things here and there but nothing that really took away from the game until maybe at the end with Gannon harped on the Jets' penalties a bit too much. So far, this is one of the better called games that I have watched this year. -- Dennis Amo at Buffalo Low Down.