So, I haven’t written about the NFL since that thing that happened last February happened. Anyway, with the schedule just being released, I thought it would be an interesting time for me to at least give my thoughts on the schedule. I thought about writing a Free Agency related post, but thenthe Pats signed Revis , assuring themselves an 19-0 season scoring 607 points and allowing 199, so why bother. Anyway, now to the schedule.
The schedule hasn’t changed in makeup this much since 2006, when ESPN took over the MNF schedule, NBC took of the SNF slate, and the league started Thursday Night Football on NFL Network in the 2nd half of the season (yes, Thursday Night Football has been around that long). The next change was in 2012, when the NFL started airing Thursday Night Games all season long. This season doesn’t have any giant changes, but changes the landscaping of who’s broadcasting what.
This season, CBS takes over from NFL Network for the first half of the season. They also add a Saturday Doubleheader, putting a game on Saturday for the first time in three years. Then, in the oddest change, the NFL adds the layer of cross-flexing games between CBS and FOX, allowing CBS to air games normally aired on FOX and vice-versa. Chances are this won’t come up during the season, but it is already shown in the released schedule. The most obvious example is the Lions hosting the Bears on Thanksgiving on CBS (instead of the Bills or Dolphins).Another is a Redskins @ 49ers game midseason. The final change will only show up in the playoffs, but ESPN will air a playoff game for the first time ever, taking a Wild Card Game from NBC, who in return gets a Divisional Game to strip away from either FOX or CBS.
Anyway, let’s go to schedule itself:
- CBS and the NFL claimed that the CBS part of the TNF schedule would have some marquee matchups and not the usual Thursday fare. Well, mission accomplished? They certainly got games that have one key selling point: they are all divisional matchups. Those games, supposedly are more intense, and they definitely will have built in storylines, even though few of them feature the league’s top teams, and none feature two of them. Only one features two playoff teams (Chargers @ Broncos), and a few look quite uneven (Vikings @ Packers, Colts @ Texans). On the face, it is better than what NFL Network was dealing with last year, but it really isn’t that much better.
- As for ESPN, it’s nice that they get that playoff game, but with even more primetime games to compete with, and a Network getting 8 of them, they will never get a slate worth what they’re paying. I will say that the schedule does look better than normal. Only a few of the games seem very uninteresting: Texans @ Steelers, Steelers @ Titans, Patriots @ Jets, and some other don’t seem great but are either divisional games or have nice angles, like Seahawks @ Redskins (Wilson vs. Griffin). Then they get a nice set of really interesting games, like Eagles @ Colts in Week 2, Panthers @ Eagles, or Saints @ Bears, and a potentially massive Week 16 game with the Broncos @ Bengals. Not a great haul for ESPN, but better than most years.
- As usual, Sunday Night Football is absolutely loaded. NBC, as a network, has so many problems right now, but Sunday Night Football, the highest-rated television program each year ever since they took it over in 2006. Let’s go Week by Week, because just breaking this down will get me in Football Mode.
o Season Kickoff: NBC saved the 49ers and Seahawks rivalry for a later date and didn’t want to put on a Super Bowl rematch. Instead, the first meeting since the Fail Mary. Great, great way to start the season. Rating: 10/10
o Week 1: Colts @ Broncos: Considering Manning’s already finished his first game against the Colts, and since this is in Denver, there is a chance that this is the blowout everyone expected last year, but still you can’t beat these storylines. Rating: 9/10
o Week 2: Bears @ 49ers: Big for the first ever game at the new Stadium for the 49ers, and they get a good opponent. The Bears had a good offseason, so they could be a really dangerous team. Good test for the 49ers. Rating: 8/10
o Week 3: Steelers @ Panthers: This is probably the worst SNF game of the season, and considering the Panthers offseason losses, they might be really evenly matched after all. Anyway, not a great game. Rating: 5/10
o Week 4: Saints @ Cowboys: Well at least they avoided having this game in New Orleans, which would promptly be a 45-10 blowout. The last two times they met in Dallas, they were two excellent games. Hopefully we get another. Rating: 7/10
o Week 5: Bengals @ Patriots: Patriots home games in primetime are either really good or terrible, with no inbetween, but this has the chances to be good. A playoff game that everyone (me) wanted last season gets played months later. Could be a good game, but certainly an intriguing matchup. Rating: 9/10
o Week 6: Giants @ Eagles: My top two competitors for the NFC East crown in the first of only three NFC East matchps! We all have NFC East fatigue. At least when they come late in the season there’s often playoff implications, especially since all four teams are destined to finish between 6-10 and 10-6. Rating: 6/10
o Week 7: 49ers @ Broncos: My word, this should be fun. Peyton hasn’t played the 49ers since 2009, which was a previous lifetime ago for the 49ers (same is true for all the NFC West teams he’s playing this year, I guess). Great tactical game. Rating: 9/10
o Week 8: Packers @ Saints: A very good game on paper, but then we remember that the Saints are wont to blow the doors off opponents in home primetime games. The Packers under Aaron Rodgers aren’t even innocent, losing 51-29 to them in 2008. Rating: 6/10
o Week 9: Ravens @ Steelers: Great rivalry, but having both of them in primetime is a little much (not to mention something I’m surprised CBS gave up). Anyway, chances are it’s a 3-point game or whatever, but my how things change in three years. Rating: 7/10
o Week 10: Bears @ Packers: Last year, when these two teams met, Aaron Rodgers was injured almost ruining their season. Well, assuming that doesn’t happen, this should be a nice game between two high-powered offenses and two bad defenses. Rating: 8/10
o Week 11: Patriots @ Colts: Pats & Colts in November? Sign me up. The Colts are better positioned to beat them in Indianapolis, and this is one of the few stadiums Tom Brady has yet to win in. Sure, that’s because he’s only played one game, but whatever. Rating: 9/10
o Week 12: Cowboys @ Giants: The Cowboys and Giants could either be in the thick of the playoff race, or one will be way ahead of the other. Either way, this is the first game that could be flexed but won’t because it is an NFC East game. Rating: 7/10
o Thanksgiving: Seahawks @ 49ers: Well then, after being nasty AFC rivalries the last two years, we get a nasty rivalry between the NFC’s best two teams in recent times. What a game this could be. Also, do the Harbaugh’s just hate their families to keep wanting these Thanksgiving games. Rating: 10/10
o Week 13: Broncos @ Chiefs: It was a fun rivalry last year when the Chiefs started 9-0, but if you look at the Chiefs schedule this year, it is pretty clear they won’t be 9-0 entering this one, making it a little, less fun. Rating: 6/10
o Week 14: Patriots @ Chargers: The game that started the NFL’s path to greatness was when the Chargers met the Patriots in Week 2 in 2007, the Week after Spygate. They’ve played some good games over the years. Here’s hoping this is another one. Rating 8/10
o Week 15: Cowboys @ Eagles: What a difference one year makes, as the only NFC East team not in primetime is the Redskins. Anyway, this could have playoff implications. Rating: 7/10
o Week 16: Seahawks @ Cardinals: The NFC West is too tough and too hard to forecast that this could be a game that decides the NFC West or it could be one where only one team is battling for another, or as odd as it may seem, a game with two teams fighting for their playoff lives. Who knows? Rating: 8/10
- Finally let’s get to the playoff angle in this. ESPN gets one of NBC’s playoff games. NBC gets a Divisional Game, alternating NFC and AFC each year. However, since we don’t know what timeslots each get, I have no idea what will happen, but here is a guess. First guess is NBC takes a CBS Divisional Game this year, as last year they gave CBS both the late game on Saturday and Sunday in Divisional Weekend, so CBS has the misfortunate of being gifted last year with favorable timings. Then, I think ESPN gets the late Sunday game for Wild Card Weekend, and NBC gets the late Saturday game. Now, it could change each year, but the reason I feel this way is if they each get one of the Saturday games, the late Sunday would basically automatically be given to the network that loses the divisional game. Meaning say this year CBS gets the late Sunday game, FOX gets the early game, but what if one of the NFC teams hosting a game is an western team, then either NBC or ESPN has to get that game. Basically, networks like to have options, so my way leaves a lot of options, especially since there is no real difference between the early Sunday and 4:30 PM Saturday spots for playoff games.
Should be a fun year overall. Can’t wait, only 19 weeks, to the day, until the Packers and Seahawks kick it off.