The start of the 2013 NFL season is only days away, and NFL Network's Rich Eisen is preparing with a little help from his celebrity friends Matt Damon, Kevin Costner and Larry David on The Rich Eisen Kickoff Special (airing Tuesday at 10:30/9:30c). The NFL GameDay Morning host — whose weekly podcast just surpassed 10 million downloads — sat down with the three devout sports fans to discuss their favorite teams and break down football's most notable off-season stories.
TV Guide Magazine: What can viewers expect on your Kickoff Special?
Rich Eisen: It's an easy, fun, fast half-hour with A-list celebrities who have a love of the NFL, football, sports and pop culture. I wanted to create a haven for celebrities to feel relaxed where conversation is king and they talk as much NFL as they're comfortable talking. Talking sports movies with Kevin Costner was just a blast!
TV Guide Magazine: How difficult was it to trim these conversations into television segments?
Eisen: Larry's interview was 28 minutes long and we could have gone on for another half-hour. Matt Damon's was around 18 minutes, and Kevin Costner was on a break on the set of Draft Day and he said 'I could talk to you all day!' So some things got left on the cutting room floor, but the full conversations are available on my audio podcast on iTunes.
TV Guide Magazine: What makes a good guest on the show?
Eisen: Fans can relate to them because they have the same issues with their team or the same passion as anyone else in the fan base. Larry is a huge Jets fan and he's as knowledgeable as anyone else in this town, but that's not a requirement to come on the show. The NFL is a large part of this pop culture tableau in our country, and football players want to be entertainers and many entertainers want to be a part of the NFL culture. So if Larry David talks about how he could be an offensive and/or defensive coordinator in the league and be successful, that's what this show is all about.
TV Guide Magazine: What NFL storylines are you paying close attention to as the season begins?
Eisen: You always have to start with the defending champs. With Ray Lewis now a part of the paparazzi [at ESPN], Ed Reed in Houston, Anquan Boldin in San Francisco, how in the world will Baltimore fare? Everyone is obviously looking at New England with Rob Gronkowski being hurt and Aaron Hernandez being in prison, so what does this mean for an offense that also lost Wes Welker in free agency? And Denver has the window of opportunity as slim as it possibly can be with a 39-year-old Mount Rushmore quarterback [Peyton Manning] with four neck surgeries under his belt. How will that play out? Von Miller, their best defensive player, is out for the first six games of the season, Champ Bailey's hurt, so Peyton's going to have to really ramp up the offense. Andy Reid's in a new spot [in Kansas City] with Alex Smith and the two of them have huge chips on their shoulder. Maybe somehow they put together a huge season, you just never say never in the NFL.
TV Guide Magazine: What's your Super Bowl prediction?
Eisen: I just see Denver having the path with what they have offensively, and I don't see anybody else going into Denver and beating them. I see San Francisco again, they are absolutely loaded and that quarterback [Colin Kaepernick] is a big play ATM. You just press running or passing and the money comes out. I see San Francisco and Denver in New Jersey on Super Sunday. That would be catnip for all of us in the media, that Peyton would be in his brother's stadium trying to win a Super Bowl.