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It’s done. The NFL released its 272-game schedule Thursday night.
And I studied and memorized every single team’s schedule.
Fine, so I didn’t commit the behemoth to memory. But I did study it.
And as a result of that examination, I can tell you where the NFL schedule presents stumbling blocks for all 32 teams during the 2023 season.
What follows is the notes and factoids from my research:
Bills Not Getting Breaks After Thanksgiving
Buffalo Bills: Everything after Thanksgiving, except for a Week 13 bye, is less than optimal. The opponents include road games against the two Super Bowl teams from a year ago, and rather than enjoying late-season blizzard games against the Los Angeles Chargers and Miami Dolphins, those opponents will host the Bills at their sun-drenched cities late in December.
Miami Dolphins: They don’t get the early afternoon heat advantage to any meaningful degree early in the season but neither do they travel to frozen fields in Buffalo or New England late in the year. The only issue is a midseason Bill Belichick sandwich that features a trip to Philadelphia, a home game against the Patriots, followed by a trip to Kansas City. Not tasty.
New England Patriots: It starts with that Tom Brady celebration game against the NFC champion Eagles in the opener. Mac Jones will be no better than the third-best quarterback in the building that afternoon. And that is followed by three games against Miami, the Jets and Dallas — two playoff teams from a year ago and a team that now has Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Tough start.
New York Jets: They start the season playing eight teams in 11 weeks that were in the playoffs last year, including the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles and Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Jets expect to have a great defense again this year but four games the first six weeks are against top 4 scoring teams from a year ago.
Browns’ Watson Has Chance To Start Strong
Baltimore Ravens: The final month of the season includes games against 2022 playoff teams Jacksonville, San Francisco, and Miami, then comes the finale against the Steelers, which is typically a contest that leaves both teams battered.
Cincinnati Bengals: They play the Chiefs on Dec. 31 but we’ll know what kind of team the Bengals are much earlier. They play at San Francisco, Baltimore and Jacksonville and host the Bills and Steelers in Weeks 8-13.
Cleveland Browns: Four home games within the first five games of the season is scheduling charity. But the bye coming during the fifth week of the year is way, way too early. It means Cleveland will play 13 consecutive games to end the regular season.
Pittsburgh Steelers: They always expect to be vying for a postseason spot late in the season. Good luck with that this year because they finish against the Bengals, then at Seattle and at Baltimore.
Titans Away From Home Most Of October
Houston Texans: At Baltimore in the opener, at Jacksonville and Pittsburgh in three of the first four games might not be the most fun for rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud or the entire Texans team. The Texans are one of four teams that will not play a prime time game.
Indianapolis Colts: No issues with this schedule at all. Hey, I tried. The Colts are one of four teams that will not play a prime time game.
Jacksonville Jaguars: It sounds cool that the Jaguars are going to be the first NFL team to play consecutive weeks in London. Hey, the Londonville Jaguars! But make no mistake, those days in the UK from late September to Oct. 8 have the potential to exact a toll, especially when one considers the team isn’t taking a bye after the trip and will be back on the road in two of the next three weeks once it returns to the States. So four of five weeks on the road.
Tennessee Titans: From Oct. 8 through Nov. 19, the Titans play only one game in the great state of Tennessee. That includes a “home” game in London against Baltimore.
Broncos Need Russell Wilson Resurgence
Denver Broncos: In the month between Oct. 12 and Nov. 13 the Broncos will play three games against teams whose quarterback is named Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen. Can Russell Wilson match up?
Kansas City Chiefs: Let’s agree the Chiefs have the NFL’s best QB in Patrick Mahomes. Let’s also agree that on any given game day, Justin Herbert, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow can be as good or better. Well, the Chiefs play against those three QBs in three of the final five games.
Las Vegas Raiders: They’re looking at a couple of potential traps. The first is Weeks 2-4 when they’re at Buffalo, home against the Steelers and at the Chargers. Then from the final week in October to the end of November they play at the Lions, the Giants and Jets at home, at Miami, and home against Kansas City. Every team of that Oct.-Nov. stretch is a playoff contender.
Los Angeles Chargers: They get their bye Oct. 8. And then they play 13 consecutive games. Not optimal.
Gets Difficult Late For Eagles
Dallas Cowboys: December could be rough with home games against the Eagles and Lions and road games at Miami and Buffalo. All four teams are playoff contenders.
New York Giants: They have a brutal start to the season. They have a six-game stretch from Weeks 2-7 when they bookend one home game against the Seahawks with five away games. The start of that includes one long trip to the west coast for a Week 2 game at Arizona, followed by a Thursday night game in San Francisco. The backend trips on the road are at Miami, at Buffalo, and at Washington. And even when New York comes home, Oct. 29, it plays the crosstown Jets that don’t have to travel to the game. Overall, the Giants play seven away games the first 10 weeks.
Philadelphia Eagles: They should be fine until their Week 10 bye. And then they play at Kansas City, Buffalo and San Francisco at home, at Dallas, at Seattle, and the Giants at home in consecutive weeks. All those teams were in the playoffs a season ago.
Washington Commanders: Sam Howell is the inexperienced, unproven, presumptive starting quarterback. And from Weeks 7-13 he faces stellar defensive coordinators Wink Martindale of the Giants (twice), Vic Fangio of the Dolphins, Dan Quinn of the Cowboys, and defensive gurus Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll.
Lions To Be Tested Immediately
Chicago Bears: Aaron Rodgers isn’t around to own them anymore but Weeks 8-12 feature four road games, including back-to-back trips to division rivals Detroit and Minnesota.
Detroit Lions: They have a truly favorable schedule with no major potholes but they do begin the season at the Super Bowl champion Chiefs and 10 days later have to play Seattle. If the Lions can come out 1-1, they’re probably going to have a good season.
Green Bay Packers: Weeks 10-14 may not be a party for the Packers and their new quarterback Jordan Love. The stretch begins at Pittsburgh (never fun), then the Chargers at home, at the Lions, home against the Chiefs (they’re pretty good), and back on the road against the New York Giants.
Minnesota Vikings: Brian Flores is the new defensive coordinator and his unit will be tested by Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes the first five weeks it is on the field. The Vikes were 31st in passing yards allowed last season. There are only 32 teams, so…
Weeks 2-6 Might Be Tough For Bryce Young
Atlanta Falcons: No major schedule traps here except, maybe, for the fact the club finishes with three road games the final four weeks. The Falcons are one of four teams that will not play a prime time game.
Carolina Panthers: Weeks 2-6 don’t look super attractive because the Saints, Seahawks, Vikings, Lions, and Dolphins all made the playoffs last season or have designs on doing so this season.
New Orleans Saints: It really isn’t a bad schedule but if you need to nitpick, there are four road games in five games between Weeks 2-6.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A trip to Buffalo on Oct. 26 and another road game at San Francisco on Nov. 19 sandwiching a home game against the Titans is going to be a test for whomever the Bucs quarterback is at that stage.
49ers Body Clocks Will Be Ticking
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals might have the worst team in the NFL and it’s going to definitely be so as long as quarterback Kyler Murray is unable to play while he recovers from his knee surgery. He could be ready for the start of the season. He probably won’t. The difference between those two will be Arizona’s toughest stretch of the season. The Cardinals are one of four teams that will not play a prime time game.
Los Angeles Rams: They open at Seattle, then host the 49ers, who swept them last season. Then they travel to Cincinnati for a Monday night game. The Rams are looking at a winless September if they’re not careful.
San Francisco 49ers: It’s not that the 49ers have a tough stretch defined by multiple road weeks or outstanding opponents. The obstacle is the team faces five games in the eastern time zone with 10 a.m. body clock kickoffs for the west coast team. And those games are spread out so as to prevent acclimation over a couple of weeks.
Seattle Seahawks: It’s going to be a battle from Oct. 23 to Dec. 17, especially for Geno Smith because he’ll face San Francisco twice, the Cowboys and then the Eagles. All are expected to have very good defense again in 2023.