It’s finally out, folks! Here is my list of the 5 things to know about the 2017 NFL Schedule:
1. Super Bowl rematch!
It’s an annual tradition in the NFL for the defending Super Bowl champion to host the first game of the season. Last year, it just so happened that the kickoff game consisted of both Super Bowl teams, with the Carolina Panthers traveling to the Broncos in a Super Bowl 50 rematch. This scheduling decision – whilst popular with fans – did not go over well with Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, who thought his team should have the opportunity to celebrate their own accomplishments with a home game to begin the season. With Rivera’s comments likely in mind, the NFL opted to schedule the Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl LI rematch for Sunday, October 22nd, and pit the Chiefs against New England for the league opener.
2. No more primetime Browns.
To attract more viewers after a dip in TV ratings last season, the NFL loaded the primetime slots with its elite teams (the Cowboys and Patriots are among the 10 teams that will play 5+ primetime contests) and cut down on the appearances of poorer teams. (For example, the Jaguars and Browns – who had a combined 4 wins last year – won’t play a single game in primetime this season.) It’s a smart move for the NFL to enhance the primetime schedule, because some of those it certainly feels like the majority of those games the past handful ofyears have been real bores. Now if the league would only can the Thursday night games…
3. Holiday NFL!
Holiday NFL is back! For the second consecutive year, there will be a full slate on Christmas Eve and multiple games on Christmas Day to go along with the Thanksgiving tripleheader. This year’s Turkey Day slate will consist of the Vikings traveling to the Lions for the second year in a row, the Cowboys hosting the relocating Chargers and the Redskins facing the Giants. Among the notable matchups on Christmas Eve and Day are the Seahawks and the Cowboys on the 24th and the Steelers and the Texans on the 25th. Oakland and Philadelphia will be the only other Christmas Day contest.
4. Winners and Losers
The Colts will play the league’s easiest schedule in 2017 according to opponent’s winning percentage for the previous season. Indy will meet the Browns, 49ers, Rams, and Jaguars this year, a quartet of futility that combined for just 10 wins in ’16. Opposite of the Colts is the Broncos, who won’t receive any help from the schedule makers in this season’s bounce-back campaign; their opponent’s combined 2016 winning percentage is .578. The rival Chiefs are a close second with a .576 OWP.
5. London (And Mexico City) Calling
A league determined to increase global interest, the NFL continued its International Series in 2017, scheduling games in London as well as in Mexico City for the second year in a row. As usual, the four-part London series lacks the NFL’s better draws, but the singular Mexico City contest is quite intriguing; the defending champs, the Patriots, will face the Raiders on November 19th in a key battle for AFC supremacy.