THE NFL ANNOUNCED its schedule last week. On behalf of Fox, CBS and ESPN, I must ask: What was the hurry?

Some of the season's most intriguing matchups will develop this weekend. The NFL draft not only creates some fun homecomings for rookies but also in recent years has produced trades that have turned into circled games on some schedules.

Let's say, for example, Chad Johnson gets dealt to Jacksonville. You don't think CBS or ESPN would like a crack at making the Bengals-Jaguars matchup in Week 9 a featured event?

As it stands now, only NBC potentially benefits when blockbuster games are uncovered after the schedule is set. Flexible scheduling allows John Madden and the boys to swoop in and grab pretty much anything played in Weeks 11-17.

But Fox, CBS and ESPN can't do that. So if Bill Parcells surprises everyone and takes Boston College's Matt Ryan with the first pick Saturday, it'll be too late for any network to place a national spotlight on his return to New England in Week 3.

I know there are ads to sell and assignments to make, but you couldn't wait another week or two before doing the schedule?

Big mistake.

Ranking the network schedules

In order to examine which network got the best schedule of games this season, we first need to determine which are the must-see contests. Here's how I'd rank the Top 20:

1, Patriots-Colts; 2, Colts-Chargers; 3, Patriots-Chargers; 4, Giants-Cowboys; 5, Colts-Bears; 6, Cowboys-Steelers; 7, Cowboys-Eagles; 8, Colts-Packers; 9, Cowboys-Giants; 10, Cowboys-Packers; 11, Colts-Steelers; 12, Steelers-Eagles; 13, Steelers-Patriots; 14, Eagles-Bears; 15, Chargers-Saints; 16, Giants-Vikings; 17, Giants-Steelers; 18, Colts-Browns; 19, Colts-Vikings; 20, Patriots-Seahawks.

Giving the No. 1 game a 20-point value and one point to my 20th-ranked game, here's how the four networks made out ...

1. NBC (109 points). They get Games 1-5 on my list, and the ability to turn potential late-season duds such as Dallas-Washington, Chicago-Minnesota and San Diego-Tampa Bay into firecrackers. Easy winner.

2. CBS (51). Quality over quality here. Fox has more good games, but CBS gets seven of my Top 20, although nothing better than my eighth-best: Indianapolis-Green Bay in Week 7.

3. Fox (50). Only five of my Top 20 on this list, but Fox has the best of the non-NBC bunch: the rare Cowboys-Steelers showdown.

4. ESPN (0). Yikes. Whom did they upset?

Worst thing I saw all week

The "E:60" blindsiding of Miguel Tejada over his age has to be one of the most classless things I've ever seen. Congratulations, Tom Farrey. It's going to take some awfully expensive scuba gear to stoop to a depth lower than you and your show producers have sunk.

Three you gotta see

-Flames at Sharks, Game 7 (Today, 7 p.m., CSN-BA): First round or final round, Game 7's are special.

-Game 3: Spurs at Suns (Friday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN): Phoenix fans have been waiting almost a year for this playoff rematch.

-NFL draft, Day 2 (Sunday, 7 a.m., ESPN/NFL Network): What in the world were they thinking in Rounds 1 and 2? That becomes clearer after Sunday's selections.

Scanning the airwaves

Former 49ers and Raiders executive Mike Lombardi is one of the hosts of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's "The Draft House," an interactive preview of the weekend's NFL draft. The show airs Thursday at 5 p.m., Friday at noon and Saturday at 11 a.m. ... With Game 7 of the Sharks-Flames series getting top CSN-BA billing tonight, the Giants-Diamondbacks game moves over to Plus, while the Twins and A's will not be televised. ... A's fans get even on Wednesday, however, when the game against the Twins will be added to the Plus schedule at 7 p.m.

E-mail media-related questions and comments to Dave Del Grande at

dave@bayareanewsgroup.com.