Amid the NFL’s efforts to broaden interest in the game and showcase the league’s most marketable stars, convenience for member clubs and players often gets lost in the fold. There has always been a huge discrepancy between cumulative travel distances for some teams, like the Raiders in 2018 and 2019, that was so glaring that the league’s broadcast manager offered an apology that’s as close as we’ll ever see. of the NFL. .
In 2018, Oakland logged more air miles than three other teams combined. In 2019, its final season before moving to Las Vegas, the Raiders went from Sept. 22 to Nov. 3 without playing a game at their stadium. And during that one month stretch, they logged more air miles than almost the entire NFL. Compared to the comfortable business trips of their colleagues, Jon Gruden was essentially Eudoxus of Cyzicus.
Look at AFC North this year, for example. The geographically narrow division almost always enjoys convenient, short-distance travel. This year, the Steelers will cover less than 6,500 miles. If they didn’t feel like flying to Atlanta, they could take a bus all season long. They do not cross any time zone. That’s an immeasurable advantage to crack a rookie quarterback who’s already going to be dizzy. Kenny Pickett could be lying in a Winnebago filling up his gas tank hours before most of his kickoffs and still arrive in time to arrive at the Instagram outfit reveal.
Although this article is not exclusively based on travel issues, everything must be taken into account: rest time, overall strength of the opponent, number of difficult matches in a row. Starting the NFL season with a glove is like taking off on a jaunt across the country on a plumb balloon. We’ll also dive into what appears to be the politics behind primetime gaming and where that leaves certain franchises.
Let’s start with the six teams that can make the most case for getting hosed down by schedule officials this season.
1. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks take home the award for most flown franchise of the year, with 29,446 air miles, thanks to their home state and meeting in Munich (Week 10, Nov. 13) against the Buccaneers. While their schedule (based on last year’s winning percentage) is an 11th toughest to manage and their opener slate is survivable (Broncos, 49ers, Falcons, Lions, Saints and Cardinals during suspension by DeAndre Hopkins), their post-Munich Goodbye, Games Week gets downright unforgiving. The Seahawks will rest a week after Germany before facing the Raiders, Rams, 49ers and Chiefs for five weeks, with a game against the Panthers being their only respite. The Seahawks aren’t having it too badly rest-wise, with a six-day rest period between Week 1 and Week 2, and a short week between a Sunday game and Thursday night football, which takes place from December 11 to 15. All in all, the international game (which, given that it’s Germany’s first time hosting an NFL game, comes with some added complications), combined with four major road trips across the country (Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Detroit, and New Orleans) make it an unenviable way to kick off the post-Russell Wilson era.
2. Cleveland Browns
To be clear, the Browns went for it. We’re not saying they’re watered down, per se, but we’re pointing out a stark difference in prime-time games for Cleveland versus other teams that have made similarly big roster changes this offseason. The Browns are scheduled for two of those matchups: a Week 3 game on Thursday against the Steelers and a Halloween home tilt against the Bengals on Monday night football. While the NFL hasn’t released any information regarding Deshaun Watson’s possible suspension, one has to wonder if the idea was to sweep the Browns’ prime-time games early in the season – when Watson would most likely be. to run out of time – so advertisers didn’t have to spend three hours discussing the troubling details of Watson’s allegations, a task some commentators have struggled with before.
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The Broncos, for example, play five primetime games and one feature game in London, which is also in an alternate time slot. Matt Ryan and the Colts have three prime-time games. I think we can say, with some confidence, that the placement of the Browns – almost exclusively in the 1 p.m. slot on CBS – is an effort to avoid a stream of long-term criticism of the league’s television partners for which could be a perceived inability to deal with a sensitive topic. If you were a player who loves prime time or a Browns staff coach hoping the extra TV time would help you apply for a head coaching opportunity in 2023, it’s unfortunate you only have a single primetime network game and a primetime streaming opportunity in 2022. Visibility in these positions is important.
Scheduling-wise, there’s an absolutely brutal portion of Cleveland’s schedule from Week 5 through Week 12 (Chargers, Patriots, Ravens, Bengals, Dolphins, Bills, and Buccaneers).
3. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals’ schedule is wickedly packed front and back, with the only identifiable sore spot being late September, early October of the season. Arizona opens the season at home against the Chiefs, then travels to Las Vegas for the Raiders’ home opener under Josh McDaniels. After that? Host the Rams, defending Super Bowl champions. The Cardinals follow a short rest period (October 16-20 in games against the Seahawks and Saints, respectively) with a tough streak that includes a game in Minnesota, a trip to Los Angeles to face the Rams, a rest of eight days before playing the 49ers in Mexico City’s brutal, high-altitude tilt, which is then followed by a short six-day rest turnaround to host the Chargers at home. After that Chargers game on Nov. 27? These are the Patriots, Broncos and Buccaneers. Good luck to Kliff Kingsbury and Co., who entered this season knowing they would have the second toughest force on the schedule. Although the Cardinals’ short-lived games are fairly evenly matched, unlike other international teams, they don’t have a bye after leaving the country. I’d be curious to hear the NFL’s perspective on this. Yes, Phoenix to Mexico City is only about a 3.5 hour flight, but it’s a journey through unforgiving terrain, higher 2,000 feet above sea level than Denver. Additionally, according to rest metrics provided by NFL Stats and Information, the cardinals have one of the least advantageous rests on short breaks in the league this year.
4. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are tied for the easiest force on the NFL schedule this coming year, which means we have no obligation to feel sorry for them. That said, the way their schedule opens is tough, with only one game clearly winnable between the season opener and Halloween. Dallas begins the season with home games against Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, followed by two divisional games against the Giants (Monday evening Soccer) and a short rest match against the commanders. After taking on a talented Washington defensive line, the Cowboys travel to Los Angeles to take on the defending champions, then skate across the country for a division game against the much-improved Eagles in Philadelphia, a 1,200-mile flight followed of a 1,300 mile flight. flight. A rivalry game with Mike McCarthy against the Packers looms shortly after that unenviable streak. It’s worth pointing out that the strength of the preseason schedule tells us next to nothing about an upcoming season if non-conference games go somewhat rough. So often, for example, NFC East teams tend to downplay their intra-divisional opponents and lose games in season that they shouldn’t.
5. New Orleans Saints
I’m always curious to hear what teams think about the need for a week off after international travel. The Saints, who cross the second time zones of the NFL this year (30), do not do not having a goodbye after returning from their game against the Vikings at Tottenham. In fact, they go from England to a home game against the Seahawks, to a home game against the Bengals, to a four-day Thursday night affair against the Arizona Cardinals. It’s tricky logistically, but some coaches prefer to keep playing if their perceived momentum is in the right direction. i think there is a waiting of rest after international travel, but whether or not there is a complaint directly depends on recent performance. Saints don’t have their week off until early December. I think coaches with veteran quarterbacks prefer goodbyes later for season-ending injury upkeep, but with Jameis Winston, I wouldn’t want to wait that long for the opportunity to spot a passer myself. famously erratic, especially without Sean Payton on board.
6. Green Bay Packers
The prize for the least advantageous rest schedule goes to… the Packers. According to the NFL’s Data Science Department, Green Bay has the most skewed distribution of rest days earned versus rest days lost of any NFL team. It will be worth looking into as Aaron Rodgers has in the past expressed frustration with how the Packers approach certain travel logistics. In order to recoup some of the lost recovery days, the Packers are going to have to be smart on certain stretches, like their early-season trip to London, which is immediately preceded and followed by home games. The Packers’ schedule is also particularly busy and includes a season-ending game against the Lions, which may be important given Detroit’s emergence as a hot playoff pick this year. The Lions have the best rest allocation of any NFL team this year.
More NFL schedule coverage:
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• Analyze prime time games from each network
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