If there's one thing all of the NFL pregame shows have in common, it's their air of joviality, their need to make the viewer feel like he's back on his bro's couch, busting his best friend's chops. The trend towards fraternal silliness can be traced back to the emergence of Terry Bradshaw as an on-air personality. Make no mistake, the Blond Bomber knows his football, but in recent seasons FOX NFL Sunday seems intent on casting Bradshaw opposite weather-vixen Jillian Barberie in an angst-filled psychosexual drama...
Over at CBS, Shannon Sharpe (playfully referred to as "flex") is the requisite clown - not quite as charmingly goofy as Deion Sanders (PLEASE come back to the booth, Deion), but fun nonetheless. CBS tempers his kookiness with some serious-minded analysis on their "Inside the Game" segment, while Fox is content to fill time with cringe-worthy impersonations by comedian Frank Caliendo (Fox NFL Sunday made a star of Jimmy Kimmel, so why not Caliendo?). ESPN has always been the place for more in-depth football coverage, but there's really not much to separate NFL Countdown and Sportscenter, or ESPN News' constant coverage of everything.
Overall, the edge goes to CBS, thanks to their re-aquisition of veteran anchor and unsung hero of pregame shows, James Brown. Neither Fox's Joe Buck nor his October substitute Curt Menefee can compare to JB when it comes to holding things together while keeping it fun. If you've learned how to segue between a Bradshaw tangent and a "closer look at the Bucs' secondary" like JB has, you can do pretty much anything.
This weekend, JB & associates will be previewing tepid matchups, the most interesting of which looks to be Pittsburgh at Atlanta, while Fox hypes Philly @ Tampa Bay. Both should be envious of ESPN's Monday night game - NY Giants @ Dallas.