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CBS Eyes Super 50th

CBS’ 50th year of NFL telecasts will culminate this season with Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7.  It will be the 17th Big Game aired on the network, more than any other broadcaster. (NBC, which has aired 16 Super Bowls, will catch up when it handles broadcast duties in 2012, but CBS will take the lead again in 2013.)

“There’s always a lot of excitement at CBS when NFL season begins, even more when the Super Bowl is on CBS,” said Sean McManus, the network’s sports president, at CBS’ NFL Media Day in Manhattan on Aug. 25.  McManus also expressed excitement for the 2013 Super Bowl, which will be held in New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

McManus touched on the NFL’s new RedZone channel, which will offer live look-ins to Dish Network and Comcast subscribers when teams march within their opponents’ 20-yard line. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt our numbers at all,” McManus said, “but we’ll be monitoring it very carefully.”

Ad sales for this year’s Super Bowl coverage have begun moving, with CBS already securing pre-game commitments from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., said Senior VP of Sports Sales Tony Taranto. “It’s starting later than it would have because the upfront market started later,” he said, adding that CBS’ pre-game ad spots had been solidified earlier than NBC’s last year.

As for the action on the field, which teams do CBS Sports’ football talkers think could appear in this year’s Super Bowl? “Nobody’s talking about San Diego, and I think they’ll be in the Super Bowl,” said analyst and Hall of Famer Dan Dierdorf, citing the Chargers’ potent offensive attack and a defense full of emerging young talent.

Other personalities weighed in on storylines that will heat up the gridiron all season-from the newly acquired Minnesota Vikings quarterback (”I think the Vikings would have had just as many wins with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback as they will with Brett Favre,” Phil Simms said) to the return of Tom Brady to the New England Patriots (”I think he’s going to come out smoking,” said Dan Marino, who knows a little something about firing the pigskin).

The season also kicks off with a host of Super Bowl-winning coaches off the sidelines. Tony Dungy is busy working on one of sports’ biggest reclamation projects in Michael Vick, Mike Holmgren is plotting a return to the NFL in 2010, and Bill Cowher is doling out hard-hitting football commentary from the NFL on CBS studios. When asked if he were considering a return to the sidelines, the former coach artfully deferred to his “agent”-fellow-analyst and wisecracker Shannon Sharpe.

“As Bill Cowher’s representative,” Sharpe said, grabbing a microphone, “we have no comment at this time.”