Evidence abounds that we are crazy about the NFL and desperately miss it once the confetti rains down on another Super Bowl champion.
We love the Combine. We love the spring workouts. We especially love the draft. We love, love, love the NFL.
The AAF? We weren’t too crazy about that.
Still, there is something quite strange about the infatuation fandom and the league has about the release of the schedule, even in a year when the NFL celebrates its 100th birthday.
It’s just a schedule, folks. It’s the preview of coming attractions. It’s a party planner, a reminder about when to tailgate and when not to plan a baby shower. Soon it will be a refrigerator magnet. But it’s just a schedule. It’s not something that should get your heart pumping.
Like it does with everything else, the NFL has turned the release into a made-for-television extravaganza. The idea is to generate excitement and build momentum for the coming season. Goodness gracious, it even schedules the release of its preseason schedule as if anyone is seriously interested in those games.
“This is an exciting time,” said Giants coach Pat Shurmur, who opens at Dallas. “This week, we started the offseason program. And now we can see when we’re going to play. We knew who our opponents would be and where we are going to play, but there’s an excitement that builds once the schedule comes out.”
On Wednesday, the NFL released its 2019 schedule. And it tried to make news with little details like the fact the Cleveland Browns, now the most interesting team in the league, will play four primetime games. Three will be played in the first five weeks, presumably before anything bad happens to diminish the saintly glow around Baker Mayfield and his new toy, Odell Beckham, Jr.
Did you know no team has appeared in fewer prime-time games over the last decade than the Browns. They’ve been in only 11. But that’s understandable. The team was 1-31 during the 2016 and 2017 seasons and has won only 41 games during that time span.
Now you can see them play at the New York Jets (Sept. 16), when they host the Los Angeles Rams (Sept. 22), travel to the San Francisco 49ers (Oct. 7) and welcome Pittsburgh Steelers (Nov. 14).
That means one quarter of Cleveland’s schedule will be nationally televised! The NFL would appreciate it if you saved those dates, appointment television at its finest.
Remember when the league would start its season with a home game featuring the defending Super Bowl champion? Not this year. Green Bay at Chicago will open the season.
What else did we learn, other than each of the 32 teams will play in at least one Thursday, Sunday or Monday night game and that Week 17 will feature only divisional games?
Well, the New England Patriots, once again the defending Super Bowl champion, will host the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of the AFC Championship Game. The 2019 game will be played in Week 14, which means a lot could be at stake regarding homefield for the playoffs.
The Washington Redskins will play the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 24. That means Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins will get a chance to throw against his former teammates. And on Dec. 22, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be at the New York Jets, giving Jets halfback Le’Veon Bell the opportunity to answer those who criticized him for sitting out last season in Pittsburgh.
How about a rematch of the NFC Championship Game between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams? This one will be played in California during Week 2 and will hopefully be officiated with a little more discretion than last year’s disaster.
There’s also these interesting tidbits: The Oakland Raiders meander through a seven-week stretch without playing a home game after hosting the Chiefs on Sept. 15. The next time Raider Nation gets an up close and personal view will be Nov. 3. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be away for six straight weeks between Sept. 22 and Nov. 10.
Of course, now that the schedule is folded up in our wallets, all the NFL needs to do is follow up with another season of spectacular games. That’s something to really excited about.