The NFL manages the sports calendar in the US like no other entity. It has manufactured ways to capture media attention during its off-season that keeps the league front and center in the sports news feed. Consider…
- After the Super Bowl there is the “dark period” where free-agents-to-be are only allowed to negotiate with their current team. [Wink-wink…]
- Then comes “real free agency” – – except for guys who will probably be cut after June 1st.
- By that time the NFL Draft has come over the horizon leading to 3 bazillion mock drafts per week.
- Post-Draft, the NFL teases the release of its schedule drawing that simple act out over about 3 days.
- OTAs and minicamps happen in late May and early June.
- In mid-July teams go to training camp – – and they’re off and running…
I want to consider the NFL schedule as a whole today. I will not try to anoint any team as having the “easiest” or the “hardest” schedule because such calculations based on last year’s record are – – to be polite – – flawed. Given all the player movement via trades and free agency – let alone the results of the draft – every team is different this year as compared to last year. Nor will I try to figure out which teams will log the most air miles traveling to and from their games. I look at the overall schedule and just make observations that come to mind.
- The NFL did not mess around with the three games it selected to happen on Christmas Day. Packers/Dolphins early on, followed by Broncos/Rams in the late afternoon slot and Bucs/Cardinals at night is a potent lineup. The NBA TV ratings for Christmas Day are going to take a hit in 2022.
- Someone in the scheduling department decided to have some fun with the early season schedule this year. In the first four weeks, the Jets will play all four of the AFC North teams. Not to be outdone, in those same first four weeks, the Ravens will play all four of the AFC East teams. Accidentally? You make the call…
- There is a doubleheader on Monday Night Football in Week 2. Titans and Bills will kick off at 7:15 PM (EST) and then the Vikes/Eagles will start at 8:30 PM (EST).
- Flex scheduling for Sunday Night Football games begins in Week 5 this year instead of in mid-November. The only Sunday Night game after Week 4 that is set in concrete is Bucs/Cards on Christmas night.
- The Chiefs schedule for the first half of the season looks daunting – – at Cards, vs Chargers, at Colts, at Bucs, vs Raiders, vs Bills, at Niners, vs Titans. After that stretch of 8 games, the Chiefs get to host the Jags…
- The Washington Commanders play at the Giants in Week 13; then the Commanders have their BYE Week in Week 14; upon their return to action in Week 15, the Commanders opponent will be the Giants again this time at home.
- The Falcons look like a team ready to rebuild and the schedule maker did them no favors. The Falcons are going to be underdogs in their first 7 games until they face the Panthers at home on October 30th.
- The Giants early season schedule in interesting. They open on the road at the Titans; then they get three home games in a row before a road game in London followed by another home game when they get back from London.
- Most Thursday games will be televised by Amazon Prime Video and the NFL had given their new “broadcast partner” an interesting mix of games. Pairings such as Chargers/Chiefs, Steelers/Browns, Ravens/Bucs and Bills/Pats look to be choice morsels. Those offerings stand in contrast with Commanders/Bears, Falcons/Panthers and Jags/Jets.
- There is a regular season game in Munich, Germany this year. The Seahawks will play the Bucs there in Week 10; this is the first regular season game ever played in Germany.
- The Chiefs, Eagles and Packers will all have three road games in a row this season. The Chiefs will play at the Bengals, Broncos and Texans in early December. The Eagles will play at the Giants, Bears and Cowboys in mid-December. The Packers will play at the Commanders, Bills and Lions starting in late October.
Even though I was trying to take a synoptic view of the NFL schedule, there are five individual games that caught my eye:
- Broncos at Seahawks on September 12. It is the Monday Night Football game for Week 1. Fans will not have to wait at all to see Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle.
- Chiefs at Bucs on October 2. There is no matchup of last year’s Super Bowl participants this year – – so fans will have to settle for this game that pairs the two teams that played in the Super Bowl in 2020.
- Commanders at Colts on October 30. Carson Wentz returns to Indianapolis…
- Cowboys at Packers on November 13. Coach Mike McCarthy returns to Green Bay…
- Bucs at Falcons in Week 17 (dates not yet fixed). Could this be Tom Brady’s final regular season NFL game given that he has a $35M per year broadcasting gig waiting for him if it is…?
Finally, having mentioned Tom Brady’s possible retirement at age 45, let me close with this observation by H. L. Mencken about people in their 40s:
“The best years are the forties; after fifty a man begins to deteriorate, but in the forties, he is at the maximum of his villainy.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………