15 Takeaways from the 2016 NFL Regular Season Schedule
Last night, the NFL released the schedule for the 2016 regular season, which somehow managed to make September seem simultaneously closer than ever and infinitely distant.
Since we are trudging through the barren wasteland of the NFL offseason — and there’s no fucking way I’m writing about baseball — there’s no time like the present to take a deep dive into what will surely be the best 17 weeks of post-Super Bowl 2016.
Takeaway #1: The NFL either thinks people care about a Super Bowl rematch or is desperate to force a Broncos-Panthers rivalry.
Okay, in theory, I understand the appeal of kicking off the season with a Super Bowl rematch. The two teams are — and again, I will reiterate, IN THEORY — the league’s best, and just came off playing (IN THEORY) the best game of the year. It offers a chance to see a good team start the season off with a loss (or a tie, if God has truly abandoned us) and carry over some storylines and emotions from the previous season.
Here’s the problem: Super Bowl 50 wasn’t that great of a game. It was basically like watching Predator, in which Von Miller was Predator and the Panthers’ O-line and Cam Newton were everyone else and the ending was amended so Predator succeeded in killing everyone and went on to be decorated with the Congressional Medal of Honor. On top of that, the exciting storylines are gone. Peyton got his last Super Bowl and retired. Cam failed to prove himself on the big stage. The Panthers lost their charm as the lovable underdogs (remember, lovable underdogs are supposed to beat the perennial powerhouse) and the Broncos have been a dominant force in the AFC for long enough that it’s no longer fun to root for them. The Von Miller-Cam Newton rivalry feels generic and fabricated, although Von’s latest Instagram post was pretty fucking funny.
What’s especially frustrating here is how good the alternatives to a Panthers-Broncos rematch are; consider the other teams on the Broncos schedule (since the Super Bowl victor customarily hosts the season opener): The Texans, for example. Former Broncos Golden Boy Brock Osweiler, now grown up and with seven games of experience under his belt, comes back home to face his old team. Von Miller and Demarcus Ware (not to mention recently-acquired former Texans DE Jared Crick) go after their former offensive leader. J.J. Watt terrorizes Mark Sanchez. Aqib Talib tries to stop Deandre Hopkins. The world finds out if Denver really did deteriorate significantly in free agency, and if Houston really did add the right pieces in Lamar Miller and Brock Osweiler.
Or what about Patriots-Broncos? They share what is probably the best non-division rivalry in the NFL. In the past five years, they’ve met every year in the regular season and three times in the playoffs. They’ve faced off in two of the last three AFC Championship games, and only once in the last five years has neither of them been to the Super Bowl. Moreover, the Tom Brady-Von Miller rivalry feels more organic (and also features its own social media moments). The teams have shit-talked each other extensively, and every game has come down to the wire. And at the end of the day, one of the best two teams in the AFC would be 0-1 starting the season.
That’s not even to mention other possibilities. The Broncos and Chiefs have a historic division rivalry and are pretty evenly matched. The Broncos and Raiders would pit the defending champions against arguably the most up-and-coming team (and a division rival, at that). It seems that these games would all be more exciting than a meaningless rematch of a Super Bowl that wasn’t that memorable in the first place.
Takeaway #2: The opening week is pretty much all shitty games that nobody cares about.
There are four intriguing games in Week 1. First, the Super Bowl rematch, which, as I just mentioned, is a cop-out. Second, Bengals-Jets, and only because it could possibly have some playoff relevance down the road. Third, Cowboys-Giants, because they are historic rivals, and statistically speaking, at least one of them will have a chance to win their awful, awful division. Fourth, Patriots-Cardinals, because they are both good, well-rounded football teams (although if the Cardinals play anything like they did in the NFC Championship, it will not be fun to watch).
The rest of these games are basically shit. Bills vs. Ravens? Nobody cares about Tyrod Taylor coming back to play against the team for which he was a back-up two seasons ago, or Ed Reed going up against his former team as a defensive backs coach. (Although watching Marcell Dareus pound Joe Flacco into the ground might be fun.) Bears vs. Texans is basically just a Broncos alumni game. Buccaneers vs. Falcons might be the least exciting division game there is. Browns vs. Eagles is actually an affront to human dignity. Lions vs. Colts may not get a single viewer. All these games are trash.
Takeaway #3: A lot of the good games that should have been in Week 1 are in Week 2 instead, because the NFL is a dick.
Seriously, Week 2 is great. Bills vs. Jets will never get old, as long as Rex Ryan continues coaching the Bills and caring way too much about beating the Jets. Chiefs vs. Texans is an exciting rematch of last year’s not-so-exciting Wild Card game in which Brian Hoyer shat the bed at a just-drank-tap-water-in-Tijuana level. Bengals vs. Steelers (HOW DID THEY NOT SCHEDULE THIS GAME FOR WEEK 1) is probably the best rivalry in the NFL right now. Cowboys vs. Redskins is an excellent division rivalry that will also see Alfred Morris coming back to play in his old stadium. Seahawks vs. Rams always ends up being an exciting game, even though the Seahawks are a categorically better team. Packers vs. Vikings might be the most exciting division match-up in the NFC. Colts vs. Broncos isn’t what it used to be when Peyton was playing, but has always given us a good game. Even the less exciting games, like Falcons vs. Raiders, offer the chance to see Julio Jones and Amari Cooper do awesome shit.
Takeaway #4: The Falcons and Saints are playing on Monday Night Football in Week 3, which is sad for everyone.
I mean, really just a huge, huge bummer.
Takeaway #5: Browns and Redskins in Week 4 is going to be the best and also worst match-up of all time.
RG3 comes back to Washington to face off against Kirk Cousins, who he openly hated. The Redskins will play a home game in which 85% of the crowd is wearing the jersey of a quarterback who now leads the opposing team. The loser will hold the title of Worst-Run Team in the NFL until these two teams face off again in 2020.
Takeaway #6: Week 7 is going to be awesome.
Packers vs. Bears is always a rivalry worth watching. Seahawks vs. Cardinals are two of the best teams in the NFC, and division opponents at that. Jaguars vs. Raiders will be the battle of the youngest, most promising teams in the league. Patriots vs. Steelers pits two AFC powerhouses against one another. Broncos vs. Texans has one of the most exciting storylines of the year. Even Bengals vs. Browns has something going for it. It’s going to be a good week for football.
Takeaway #7: The NFL gave us another Jaguars vs. Titans primetime game, which is just fucking rude.
I’ve written about this before, but I’ll say it again: These two teams should not ever be allowed to face off during primetime. There’s football to be watched, and this isn’t football. It’s Gus Bradley and Mike Mularkey playing a game of Connect Four (chess is usually the analogy, but that game requires at least nominal understanding of strategy) with chips of eighteen different colors so it’s really just a game of sheer chance.
All this being said, I will 100% watch this game, because Allen Robinson.
Takeaway #8: The Browns play a nationally televised game two days after the election, which means our country might have the undisputed worst week in recorded history.
Can you imagine? You go to the polls on Tuesday to vote. Later in the day, you hear murmurs that Donald Trump might win. You ignore them. Tuesday night, it becomes official: Trump is going to be the 45th President of the United States. You wake up Wednesday morning after a restless night and struggle through your first day in Trump’s America. It finally ends, then you wake up Thursday morning, and Trump is still president, and also you’re going to have to watch Robert Griffin III play under center for the Cleveland Browns on national television. That’s honestly fucked up.
Takeaway #9: The Seahawks and Patriots play on Sunday night of Week 10, which will be a good case study in whether the Internet is capable of moving on from old jokes.
Marshawn Lynch retired, and the “Seahawks should have run the ball” joke should probably be retired with him. Will it be? I highly doubt it, because the Internet sucks. Suffice it to say that should the Seahawks find themselves on the Patriots’ 1-yard line, I will avert my eyes from all social media. But maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised that, for once, the Internet moved on.
Takeaway #10: The Redskins will be playing on Thanksgiving, because nobody gets nice things.
IT’S A HOLIDAY ABOUT OUR FRIENDSHIP WITH THE NATIVE PEOPLES, NOT ABOUT OUR SCALPINGSHIP WITH THE NATIVE PEOPLES.
Takeaway #11: The Redskins also play in London, thus giving the world a chance to behold the institution of football in all its stodgy, racist glory.
And also seeing bad football.
Takeaway #12: The Seahawks’ closing stretch is rough as hell.
Okay, maybe not their final game against the San Francisco 49ers, who — contrary to popular belief — are not named after their average number of points allowed per game. But in Weeks 13-16, the Seahawks face off against four of the five teams who beat them last year: the Rams, the Panthers, the Packers, and the Cardinals. For a team that has made the playoffs through late-season streaks in the last two seasons, that doesn’t bode well.
Takeaway #13: HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING, GLORY TO A FULL CHRISTMAS EVE OF FOOTBALL AND CHRISTMAS DAY GAMES TOO
Christmas Football is incredible. First of all, you can now multitask spending time with your family AND watching football all day long on Christmas Eve, which is perfect. The Bengals vs. Texans game (don’t forget that the Texans handed Cincinnati their first loss last year) should wrap up just in time to make it to Midnight Mass. Then, the next day, just when you reach the point at which you’re ready to stop being around your family, two back-to-back games (and exciting division games at that — Ravens vs. Steelers and Broncos vs. Chiefs) are there to rescue you. Impeccable.
Takeaway #14: There might not end up being a single relevant game in Week 17, which is bullshit.
Usually, the NFL throws some games at Week 17 which are certain to be win-and-ins. This year, that doesn’t seem to be the case, and that’s shitty. Sure, there are two NFC East division match-ups, but that division is such an awful mess to begin with that there’s no way of knowing whether things will be locked up by then. The Seahawks and Cardinals, instead of playing each other, are playing the 49ers and the Rams, respectively — two teams that will very likely be out of playoff contention. If the Seahawks and Cardinals played each other, that would almost certainly have some bearing on the playoffs. Same goes for the Bengals and Steelers, who are playing the Ravens and Browns, respectively. And the Broncos and Chiefs, who are playing the Raiders and Chargers, respectively. And the Patriots and Jets, who are playing the Dolphins and Bills, respectively. And the Packers and Vikings, who are playing the Lions and Bears, respectively. Why the fuck did the NFL do this? Why would they deny us the chance to see the two best teams in each division duke it out for playoff standing (or qualification) in Week 17? Roger Goodell, you barrel of cocks.
Takeaway #15: New Years Day is NFL territory this year.
For me, New Years Day is inextricably associated with college football. Forever and always. So it’s very weird this year that January 1 will be the last Sunday of the regular season, featuring all the shitty match-ups listed above. Instead, December 31 and January 2 will belong to college football. I suppose I can’t complain about getting three straight days of football, but it will be disorienting to wake up on New Years, roll out of bed, vomit several times, order Chinese food, try to figure out how I got home while I wait for it to arrive, then watch the NFL. I’m much more accustomed to waking up on New Years, rolling out of bed, vomiting several times, ordering Chinese food, trying to figure out how I got home while I wait for it to arrive, then watching bowl games.