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Some Thoughts on the 2016 NFL Schedule

Some thoughts as I review the 2016 schedule:

Monday Night

  • There are 17 games on Monday evenings this year: two during the opening week (Pittsburgh/Washington at 7:10 Eastern, Rams/49ers at 10:20), one every other week, and as usual, none during week 17.
  • Carolina, Chicago, Houston, Minnesota, the Giants and Jets, Philadelphia, and Washington each have two MNF games this year. Meawhile, the Browns, Jaguars, Chiefs, Dolphins, Chargers, and Titans do not play on Monday this season.
  • Since hosting two games on Monday Night Football in 2011, the Jaguars have not played on Monday Night Football. Every other team has played on MNF at least once since 2013, but Jacksonville’s streak will extend to at least 2017 now.
  • The Vikings host the Giants in week four. Minnesota has not had a home game on Monday Night since December 20, 2010. That was the second-longest stream in the NFL, a week shorter than Houston. The Texans streak will continue for another year: Houston plays two Monday Night games this year: in Denver and in Mexico (against Oakland).

Thursday Football

  • There are 18 games on Thursday this year, although not all are on what is labeled the Thursday Night Football schedule. There is no game in week 17, but three on Thanksgiving — Minnesota/Detroit, Washington/Dallas, and Pittsburgh/Indianapolis — and one every other week during the season.
  • Every team plays on Thursday at least once this year, with Carolina, Minesota, Dallas, and Denver getting that honor two times. The Panthers and Broncos play in the season opener and then later during the traditional TNF schedule, while the Vikings and Cowboys play (other teams) on Thanksgiving and then each other one week later on TNF. The NFL seems to be making a new trend out of this: last year the Packers and Lions played a memorable TNF game a week after both teams played on Thanksgiving, the Bears and Cowboys played seven days after both franchises played on Thanksgiving 2014.

Saturday

In week 15, the Jets played a terrible game against the Cowboys with the only virtue being that it went down to the final minute. This year, the NFL is going back to Jets well, having the Dolphins travel to Metlife Stadium in week 15. A week later is Christmas eve, and there’s a near-full slate of NFL games. In what is, at least, to me, a curious decision, the NFL not only scheduled a game for 8:30 on Christmas eve, but made it Houston/Cincinnati. I think the nation has had enough of that: the Bengals have played the Texans in front of a national audience three times during the Andy Dalton era, and he has thrown 0 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in those games (MNF last year, and the wildcard round of the playoffs in 2011 and 2012). In fact, the Bengals have scored a grand total of one offensive touchdown in those three games.

There are only four games in week 16 not on Saturday: Giants/Eagles on TNF, KC/DEN on SNF, and DAL/DET on MNF. In addition, for whatever reason, the NFL has the Steelers and Ravens playing at 4:30 on Christmas day.

Non-Sunday Games

The Panthers…. Jets…. and Vikings lead the way with five games that do not take place on Sunday. Carolina is not too surprising, I suppose, but the league is obviously excited about placing New York and Minnesota in front of national audiences this year. On the other side, Kansas City plays just one (!) game not on Sunday: a TNF home game against the Raiders.

1:00 Warriors

Cleveland has a whopping 15 games this year at 1:00, while Tennessee has 14 such games. The Browns only exception is a TNF game in Baltimore. For Tennessee, the two exceptions are consecutive: for the third straight year, the Titans play Jacksonville on TNF; the next week, Tennessee travels to San Diego for an afternoon start.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks have just two games at 1:00: trips to face the Jets and the Saints. Every other team has at least four such games, with Arizona, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, and San Diego having exactly four such “early” starts.

Four Straight Home Games

From 1991 to 2014, only once did a team — the 2008 Texans — have four straight home games. Last season, the Titans had four straight home games sandwiched around a bye week from weeks 3 through 7, which allowed Tennessee to go from September 21 to October 31 without playing a road game. This year, the Packers have the same thing: from weeks 3 to 7, the Packers have a bye week and four home games, including a SNF game against the Giants, and a TNF game against the Bears.

Bengals at Jets

In week 1, the Bengals travel to the greater New York area to face the Jets. It will mark the 7th straight season Cincinnati begins the season on the road… and, remarkably, the 7th straight season the Jets begin the year at home. From 1960 to 2009, the Jets opened the season on the road 37 times, and at home just 13. It seemed like New York always began the season on the road, but now the Jets (along with the Bears) have the longest running streak of consecutive season openers at home.

This isn’t even a long streak by recent Chicago standards; the Bears season opener was at home for 14 straight seasons through 1996. The record, though, belongs to the Green Bay Packers, who played in 23 straight home games from through 1947. The reason, presumably, was two-fold: other NFL teams shared stadiums with baseball teams, making Green Bay a prime candidate for home games in September, and frontloading the Packers schedule with home games to avoid cold-weather games in Wisconsin was probably a good idea for everyone. The frontloading was not limited to just week one, either. The 49ers began the season at home in 21 straight seasons through 1966; I’m not sure if I can figure out the reason for that one. In modern times, the only streak longer than Chicago’s is Buffalo; the Bills had 15 straight openers at home, through 1988.

The New York Giants began the season on the road in 36 straight years, from 1925 to 1960, due to sharing a stadium with the baseball team of the same name. From 1940 to 1957 (when the Giants left for San Francisco), the Giants began the season on the road for the first two games in all 18 years, and on the road in game 3 in 13 of those years; the five times game 3 was at home all came after October 10th in each season, too.

A similar story fits the Bears, who played at Wrigley Field until 1971. Chicago began the season with two road games in each year from 1940 to 1967.

In modern times, the Cardinals (1988-2000) and Dolphins (1976-1988) hold the record, beginning the year on the road in 13 straight seasons. After the Bengals (7), three other teams are tied for the second longest streak with 2016 marking their fourth straight season opener on the road. Those teams? The Packers, the Vikings, and the Jets co-tenant, the Giants.

  • Nuclear Badger

    Chase – back in the 60s, the Packers would always end the season with a two week road trip to California to play the Rams and 49ers. So that is another reason to start the season at home.

  • Tracy Daum

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