1. If you think the NFC East gets on TV more than other conferences, you're right about that. The Cowboys are scheduled for 11 stand-alone games (either primetime or the 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday game on FOX or CBS), the Giants have eight and the Redskins have six, the same as the Eagles, a team that the league may not have realized fired Chip Kelly in the offseason. Primetime totals for each, respectively: 5, 5, 3 and 3. (Five is the maximum allowable in the first schedule.)
2. New England's toughest game of the year is a home game against Seattle. Almost as if penance for Deflategate, the league scheduled that one for after the Pats' bye week.
3. Speaking of Deflategate, should Tom Brady's four-game suspension somehow be reinstated, he'd miss games at Arizona, vs. Miami, vs. Houston and vs. Buffalo. That's one toughie followed by three easy homers. Two of those are nationally televised though, so you kind of wonder whether the NFL even wants to bother foisting Jimmy Garoppolo twice upon an unsuspecting public.
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4. As usual, the NFL has set up a treat for Week 1. The national games: Panthers at Broncos (Thursday night, NBC); Giants at Cowboys (Sunday afternoon, FOX); Patriots at Cardinals (Sunday night, NBC) and Steelers at Redskins (Monday night, ESPN). That's as good a way to dive into the season as any.
5. We mentioned earlier today that this is the first time a Super Bowl rematch has served as the Thursday night opener. But according to the league, it's not just a Thursday night rematch that's rare, it's any Week 1 Super Bowl rematch at all. The last time it happened was in 1970, when Kansas City and Minnesota faced off after the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV. Good news for Carolina: The Vikings got revenge that day, winning 27-10.
6. At least one of the early-morning London games this year has the unfortunate distinction of involving the Jags. Indianapolis plays Jacksonville in Week 4 at 9:30 a.m. ET from Wembley, the Giants and Rams will have breakfast at Twickenham Stadium in Week 7 (the first ever NFL game there), and in the best game of the three Sunday morning tilts, Washington faces Cincinnati one week later, back at Wembley.
7. ESPN's Monday night game in Week 11 will take place in Mexico City, the first time the NFL has gone south of the border since 2005. The Raiders play the Texans, which doesn't sound enticing but, I don't know, I have the sneaking suspicion it might be.
8. As we mentioned in another post, the NFL makes its return to Christmas (for only the 17th and 18th games in the league's 96-year history) with Ravens-Steelers and Broncos-Chiefs. Combined with a fantastic Thanksgiving Day schedule, it'll be two happy holidays for football fans.
9. Robert Griffin III makes his not-at-all-awaited return to Washington (OK, it'll be awaited once it gets closer) in Week 4, in a game that likely won't go out to much of the country as it's a regional 1 p.m. ET game. You're welcome, United States.
10. On that same day, Drew Brees makes his first return to San Diego since leaving 11 years ago. (Is that right? Wow.) Although given the apathy of Chargers fans, they probably won't even remember him. A few weeks later, Brock Osweiler returns to Denver, the site of his stellar bench-sitting performance in last year's playoffs.
11. The Monday Night Football slate, which has been steadily improving in recent years, continues its upward trend. Yeah, you have a stretch of weeks that feature Buffalo, Cincinnati (a team that never will be interesting no matter how many playoff appearances it makes) and Houston; but that's offset by some big ones such as Ravens at Patriots, Panthers at Redskins, Giants at Vikings, Eagles at Bears and the first part of the Week 1 doubleheader: Steelers at Redskins.
12. Thursday Night Football is continuing its smart practice of scheduling division games following that debacle a few years back in which it seemed like every week was a blowout. (The thinking here being that division games tend to be more competitive). Thirteen of the 18 games on that schedule are intra-division, including Broncos at Chargers, Bears at Packers, Saints at Panthers and Giants at Eagles. The inter-division games have some highlights too, led by Dallas at Minnesota.
13. Usually you look through NBC's stellar Sunday Night Football schedule and see a game of two that has "FLEX" written all over it. It's the same this year, with Colts at Texans (Week 6) and Broncos at Raiders (Week 9) being the ones that jump out. The rest of the games that could be duds (Packers at Redskins and Cowboys at Giants) all involve marquee teams that rarely would get bumped unless one of their seasons has gone catastrophically bad.
14. Only two teams have three-game road trips during the season: Washington and Green Bay. There are five teams playing back-to-back cross-country games: Atlanta, Carolina, Miami, Oakland and San Francisco.
15. The same day the NFL returns to LA for the first time in 22 years, the Vikings will christen their new, non-awful stadium against the Packers. After playing in the Metronome and outdoors in a college stadium for decades, one thinks this should be a nice change of pace. Also, whether it was intentional or not, having Pete Carroll, the title-winning former USC coach, on the opposing sideline in the first L.A Rams game, played at USC's home field, is a cool touch.
16. Weeks 4 through 11 are those times that try men's souls, with bye weeks that wreak havoc with your fantasy teams and your soul.
17. After much clicking, clacking and pondering, I've determined that Week 13 (Dec. 1-5, the week after Thanksgiving) is the best week, on paper, from start to finish. We begin with Cowboys at Vikings on Thursday, see a 1 p.m. slate including Eagles at Bengals, Rams at Patriots and Lions at Saints, move into a 4:25 p.m. schedule that gives FOX two possibly great games from which to choose (Giants at Steelers, Redskins at Cardinals), one of the games of the year on Sunday night with Panthers at Seahawks and then a nice palette cleanser, Colts at Jets on Monday.
18. Week 14 isn't bad either: Raiders/Chiefs (Thursday); Steelers/Bills, Redskins/Eagles, Chargers/Panthers, Texans/Colts (early Sunday); Seahawks/Packers (late Sunday); Cowboys/Giants (Sunday night) and Ravens/Patriots (Monday night). Come to think of it, I was too swayed by the decent Cowboys/Vikings game in the Week 13 Thursday slot. Week 14 is definitely better.
19. You excited? You ready? Well, slow your roll there my friend. We still have 146 days to go before the start of the 2016 NFL season.