Posted by Josh Katzowitz
We’ve already given to you the NFL’s 2011 master schedule that was released earlier this evening. Now, it’s time for some analysis on what these schedules actually mean for each team.
They host the Panthers to open the season. Which means we could see Cam Newton (Carolina) vs. Blaine Gabbert (Arizona). If the teams draft those particular rookie quarterbacks, this game could be awesome. Or terrible. Also, four of the Cardinals’ last five games are at home.
They will get a chance to rematch the Super Bowl champion Packers in Week 5 (Green Bay beat Atlanta in the playoffs at the Georgia Dome), so the Falcons will look forward to that. Four of their first five games are against 2010 playoff teams, and the other opponent is the rapidly-improving Buccaneers. Tough way to open the year.
Pittsburgh will come to Baltimore to open the season, and the Ravens end the year against the Browns and Bengals. So, if Baltimore is making a push for the playoffs, that could be two pretty good teams to do it against. The Thanksgiving game vs. the 49ers and coach John Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, will be fun.
This schedule is not easy for Buffalo, and once again, it’ll lose a home game to Toronto when the Bills play the Redskins in Week 8 (Buffalo, by the way, still hasn’t won at SkyDome). Playing the NFC East squads (along with what should be another tough AFC East schedule) means wins will be tough to come by in 2011.
Congrats on going 2-14 last year, Carolina. The NFL will reward you with an away game to start the season before playing host to the Packers in Week 2 in the home opener. Then, as NFL.com points out, Carolina will go on to play the hardest schedule, based on last year’s cumulative records. Ouch.
How about this mid-season travel schedule. From Chicago to London to play the Buccaneers. From London to Chicago for the bye week. Then, from Chicago to Philadelphia to play a tough game against the Eagles. The jetlag should be fun. As will the Nov. 20 game against the Chargers when maybe we’ll see Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers duke it out.
Cincinnati opens at Cleveland, and the Bengals don’t play another AFC North game until Week 10. In between, there are chances for some good wins, because, aside from the Colts, they’re not facing any elite NFL teams. Might be a good chance for them to sneak up the division standings.
Three of their last four games are on the road, two in the division. Not that Cleveland has much of a chance to make the playoffs anyway. Either way, don’t worry. If RB Peyton Hillis is voted in as the Madden ’12 cover, everything will be OK.
What a surprise: a team - America's Team, in fact - that went 6-10 last season has five primetime games this year (one on MNF, three on SNF and one on Thursday Night Football). The season opener at the New Meadowlands against the Jets on Sept. 11 for Sunday Night Football could be an emotional moment for everybody.
Denver opens the season on MNF against the Raiders – the team who put a 59-14 licking on them last year. We’ll see if Tim Tebow can overcome.
Mark the Week 5 Oct. 10 game against the Bears, because it’s the first time in a decade Detroit will appear in a MNF game. This will be a tough schedule for the Lions, but honestly, I can see them performing well (assuming QB Matt Stafford is healthy) and maybe make a push for the postseason.
Facing the Saints in the season opener will be fun, considering it’ll match the last two Super Bowl champs against each other. It’s also unfortunate for Green Bay that the teams that have to travel to Lambeau Field in December are the Raiders, Bears and Lions – none of which could be considered warm-weather squads.
You remember last year how the Texans beat the Colts in Week 1, which seemed to indicate that Houston would be a real player in the AFC South (you know, before the Texans stumbled to a 6-10 finish)? Well, they’ll get another shot this season, as they’ll play host to Indianapolis in the season opener. Then, Houston will face the Colts again in Week 16.
For the ninth straight regular season, Indianapolis will face off against the Patriots (this time it’s Week 13 for Sunday Night Football). The Colts had better to try to put some wins in the bank early, because the final five weeks could be tough (Patriots, Ravens, Titans, Texans and Jaguars).
Challenging the NFC South squads will be tough (though, of course, all AFC South squads have this same worry), but Week 17 might be the key to the entire season. Considering how close Jacksonville was to winning the division last year, the Jaguars will try to figure out a way to beat Indianapolis in the season-closer and see if they can get that postseason berth.
Not an easy schedule at all. I count two surefire wins (against the Bills in the season-opener and vs. the Vikings in Week 4), one game they should win (at Denver in Week 17), and everything else will be tough going for the Chiefs.
Miami will get to prove its mettle immediately, facing the Patriots on Monday night in the season opener. Then, the Dolphins close the season with the Eagles, the Jets and the Patriots (and, ahem, the Bills) so if Miami makes the playoffs, it’ll have definitely earned it.
Strangely, there are no games scheduled for TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus.
For the first time in four years, New England will open its season on the road. In fact, three of its four contests are away from home (all of those games, though, should result in Patriots victories). There are some tough contests in the middle of the season (the Jets twice, plus the Steelers, Eagles and Giants), but after facing the Colts in Week 13, it’s pretty smooth sailing the rest of the way.
Just like last season, New Orleans will face the Falcons in the final Monday Night game of the season in Week 16, and just like last year, it probably will be filled with playoff implications. What a great way to close out the MNF season.
In Week 9, the Giants will meet the Patriots for the first time since New York handed New England its only loss of the season in Super Bowl XLII. The Giants also meet the Jets on Christmas Eve. It’d be good for the Giants to grab a ton of wins early in the season when the schedule is a little softer.
How about Week 1 when Jets coach Rex Ryan will match wits with his brother Rob Ryan, the new defensive coordinator in Dallas (OK, both are defensive guys, so they might not actually match wits. But still, the trash talking between the two should be cool).
Let’s assume Oakland will, once again, sweep the AFC West, so that gives the Raiders six wins automatically. Then, consider they also play the Bills, the Texans, the Browns and the Vikings. I don’t see how Oakland will miss the playoffs this time around.
How about Michael Vick, playing for Philadelphia, in the Georgia Dome facing off against the Falcons in Week 2 on Sunday Night Football. Is that something you might be interested in seeing?
Pittsburgh opens with the Ravens in Week 1, and they go back-to-back vs. the Patriots and Baltimore in Weeks 8 and 9. But the Steelers December schedule (Bengals, Browns, 49ers and Rams) should make up for some tough early and mid-season spots.
Can San Diego finally perform well in the early part of its season? With games vs. the Vikings, Dolphins and the Broncos (as well as the Patriots in Week 2) early in the season, the Chargers will get every opportunity to take an early lead in the AFC West.
The NFL has welcomed coach Jim Harbaugh by giving him a schedule that’s ranked as the third-easiest in the league, based on last season’s records. And who knows? Maybe Week 16 vs. the Seahawks and Week 17 vs. the Rams might actually have playoff implications for the 49ers.
For the second-straight year, Seattle gets an early bye week, meaning it’ll have to play the final 11 weeks of the season without a break. Hey, it worked last year, considering the Seahawks made the playoffs with a 7-9 record (and then beat the defending Super Bowl champs in the first round).
When St. Louis travels to Cleveland in Week 10 to face the Browns, Rams QB Sam Bradford will get the chance to beat his former offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, now the head coach for the Browns. We’ll see what new St. Louis OC Josh McDaniels has in store.
Tampa Bay got to 10 wins last year but still missed the playoffs. Based on this year’s schedule, getting back to double-digit victories might take some work. Also, for the second time in three years, the Buccaneers will lose a home game to play in London.
For the third time in the past five years, Tennessee will open the season against the Jaguars. Knowing how much the Titans might struggle this year (RB Chris Johnson, notwithstanding), there are not too many surefire wins on the ledger. The Panthers and the Bills for sure, but the rest of the schedule might be tough.
I like that Washington will play host to the Giants on Sept. 11, considering how much devastation and destruction both cities faced on that day 10 years ago. The first half of the schedule actually looks pretty soft for Washington, and though the Redskins have almost no chance to make the playoffs in 2011, they could rack up some wins early.
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