Most of us don't think about the gymnastics that go into making the NFL schedule. We just complain that the league will never announce the exact date when it will be announced, then enjoy fantasizing about the matchups once it's released, while finding where our favorite team was slighted.
Peter King of MMQB.com had a great look at how complicated it is to put together the schedule, and it included a few very interesting tidbits, including King speculating that the league made Packers at Seahawks the Thursday night season opener because it was worried that Broncos-Seahawks would be a repeat of the 43-8 blowout in Super Bowl XLVIII.
"The league obviously thought a Denver-Seattle opener was risky—based on the outcome of the Super Bowl. Those are my words, not theirs," King wrote.
It's an interesting thought, because most people assumed the season opener would be the Seahawks hosting their main rival, San Francisco, or the defending AFC champion Broncos. The Super Bowl champion starts the season on the Thursday of Week 1, a fantastic tradition the NFL started a few years back that is generally the most anticipated game on the schedule. So we knew the Seahawks would be included. And the Packers are a fine opponent, just a surprise.
In King's piece the NFL schedule makers explained that those three teams were the top candidates, and Dallas was briefly considered. They said San Francisco-Seattle was better suited for later in the year. But it wasn't explained why the Broncos weren't the choice.
“We thought there were three likely possibilities for the opener: San Francisco, Denver and Green Bay,” NFL senior vince president of broadcasting Howard Katz said. “I guess we could’ve played Dallas, but we really liked Dallas for the FOX doubleheader for Week 1. Dallas also had Texas Rangers conflicts the first month of the season. Putting them on the road in Week 1 might have doomed them for four or five road games in the first few weeks. I thought we had a better place to use the San Francisco-Seattle game, because it has become such an incredibly great rivalry game. It seemed to us that saving that game for later in the season on NBC was probably a smarter move. Green Bay felt right.”
King made it clear he was just guessing why the Broncos weren't the season-opening opponent for Seattle, and there might have been other reasons the Broncos weren't in that game. CBS ended up getting the Broncos-Seahawks game, in Week 3. It's a good bet that CBS fought to get that game, which will do great ratings. Every team and network makes requests that are considered. Even if the league was worried about 43-8 Part Deux, when has anyone willfully turned down the chance to put Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning on in prime time? Still, it's an interesting theory from King.
The rest of King's story is a must-read because it gives any NFL fan a glimpse behind the curtain of making the schedule. And not everyone gets what they want. The schedule makers talked about how each of the schedules spit out by the computer generally had some flaw they wanted to avoid. As is, the Seahawks seem to have gotten slighted, with just one home prime-time game, something that's unheard of for a Super Bowl champion. And the one prime-time home game is the opener, which was a given. The Bears, who didn't make the playoffs in 2013, have the maximum five prime-time games. All of this won't make the people of Seattle happy.
But there's not much getting around that. When putting together a 256-piece puzzle like the NFL schedule, someone's going to end up being angry.
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