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No other sport draws the whirlwind of attention about its schedule release that the NFL does. It’s not even close.
It captures the imagination of social media the day of the release. It gets its own TV show on two networks the night of the release. And people like me spend hours afterward trying to find nuggets about the schedule that make people like you read beyond this paragraph.
So here are the nuggets:
Let’s begin in Miami because, well, that’s my town: The Dolphins will host the Green Bay Packers on Christmas Day. It’s one of only three games on Christmas Day the NFL is playing even though the Dec. 25 falls on a Sunday.
Well, Christmas Day games are no stranger to the Dolphins. The NFL’s longest game ever played was played on Christmas Day in 1971 between the Kansas City Chiefs and visiting Miami Dolphins.
“That game is sometimes overshadowed by the Super Bowl wins and the Perfect Season,” Don Shula told me once, “but 1971 was a very important season. We started to gain confidence. Players started to play to their maximum potential. And this game was the first time that rise became apparent.”
Not saying the Dolphins will see a similar rise — even if they beat Aaron Rodgers on Dec. 25 — but it cannot hurt.
One more thing about Miami’s schedule: They play at San Francisco and Los Angeles in consecutive weeks on Dec. 4 and 11. It’s possible the club stays in California the week between games instead of traveling back to South Florida.
NFL Schedule Maker Worried About Watson Suspension?
The Browns enter the 2022 season with Super Bowl aspirations because they have a very good roster and now have an elite quarterback in Deshaun Watson to lift them. Except the Browns got only two prime time games.
Well, it may be the schedule maker is concerned about a possible NFL suspension for Watson. And while this is obvious, the question is does this NFL employee know something based on working in the league office?
At any rate, the Browns are hyping their two prime time division games against Pittsburgh (Sept. 22, a Thursday night) and Cincinnati (Oct. 31, a Monday night).
“Our players love to play under the lights, and I know our fans love to be loud under the lights,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said in a statement. “To get the Steelers on Thursday Night Football, and then get the Bengals on Monday Night Football, I know those will be unbelievable atmospheres to watch a ball game.”
Jets May Be Eliminated By October
The New York Jets had perhaps one of the most fruitful drafts in recent memory and every report has second-year quarterback Zach Wilson gaining muscle weight and looking sharp after finishing strong in 2021.
But the Jets got no favors from the schedule maker the first month of the coming season.
Week 1: Versus the Baltimore Ravens.
Week 2: At the Cleveland Browns.
Week 3: Versus the Cincinnati Bengals.
Week 4: At the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Yeah, this legit looks like 0-4 is possibility for the J-E-T-S. And history is not on their side because the Jets have lost 12 consecutive September games dating back to 2018.
Thanksgiving Lineup A Turkey
Last year’s Thanksgiving Day game between the Cowboys and Raiders was a ratings bonanza for the NFL because it obviously included two of the league’s legacy franchises and both were good teams.
But the three games lined up for Thanksgiving this year are, well, not quite as appetizing.
The Bills will play at the Lions at 12:30 p.m. ET: Could be a blowout.
The Cowboys will host the Giants at 4:30 p.m. ET: Great matchup, if this were 2016, because that’s the last time both these teams finished over .500 in the same season.
The Patriots will visit the Vikings at 8:20 p.m. ET: Probably the only and clearly most evenly matched game of the day.
Speaking of birds
The New Orleans Saints season has already gone to the birds.
The Saints this season play the Ravens, Falcons, Seahawks, Cardinals, Falcons and Eagles — so all five bird nickname franchises.
No team has ever swept all five bird franchises in one season. So the Saints would be ruffling some feathers if they do.
Prime Time QBs
The NFL schedule maker knows the networks and their TV audiences love star quarterbacks. So, not surprisingly, the league’s best QBs are going to appear on the most prime time games this season.
The NFL mandates a maximum of five prime time games for each team although most don’t get that many.
These teams and their quarterbacks did get the full five-game prime time treatment:
Bengals (Joe Burrow).
Bills (Josh Allen).
Rams (Matt Stafford).
Broncos (Russell Wilson).
Buccaneers (Tom Brady).
Chargers (Justin Herbert).
Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes).
Cowboys (Dak Prescott).
Packers (Aaron Rodgers).
The Eagles, Patriots, Steelers and 49ers are also on prime time five times despite not having elite quarterbacks but all made the playoffs last year, all are NFL legacy teams and all have considerable fan following.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero