It’s April 20th…and the first weekend of football is 21 Sundays away but it’s still fun to project how teams might far based on how their schedule shapes up. Obviously these projections will likely be affected by draft picks, free agency moves, trades, and injuries come Labor Day Weekend but here’s my first crack at how I could see things playing out this Fall.
(Note: Since I’m not projecting each game separately, the wins and losses combined among teams may not equal 256 which is customary for the number of games played.)
New England Patriots: 13-3**
Buffalo Bills: 6-10
New York Jets: 5-11
Miami Dolphins: 4-12
Pittsburgh Steelers: 13-3**
Baltimore Ravens: 8-8
Cincinnati Bengals: 5-11
Cleveland Browns: 4-12
Tennessee Titans: 11-5**
Houston Texans: 10-6*
Jacksonville Jaguars: 10-6*
Indianapolis Colts: 3-13
Oakland Raiders: 9-7**
Los Angeles Chargers: 9-7
Kansas City Chiefs: 8-8
Denver Broncos: 6-10
Philadelphia Eagles: 11-5**
Dallas Cowboys: 8-8
New York Giants: 6-10
Washington Redskins: 5-11
Minnesota Vikings: 11-5**
Green Bay Packers: 10-6*
Chicago Bears: 7-9
Detroit Lions: 6-10
New Orleans Saints: 12-4**
Carolina Panthers: 9-7
Atlanta Falcons: 9-7
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6-10
Los Angeles Rams: 11-5**
San Francisco 49ers: 10-6*
Seattle Seahawks: 8-8
Arizona Cardinals: 7-9
Picking a Super Bowl matchup at this point is pure guesswork but I’ll go with Pittsburgh from the AFC against New Orleans from the NFC. Of the two conferences, picking the winner of the NFC considering the dearth of quality teams seems very difficult at first glance. In that potential matchup, I would likely take the Saints to beat the Steelers in what would be a very competitive game.
My favorite part of the NFL schedule analysis is looking at the primetime matchups that the individual networks paid a boatload of money to acquire. Sunday night usually has the best games…but did Thursday night close the gap in 2018?
Thursday Night Football (FOX & NFL Network)
Game I’m most looking forward to: Week 4 – Vikings at Rams
Two of the NFC’s top four teams play each other in a meaningful early season game as FOX makes its Thursday night debut. It’s no coincidence that on paper the best game on the schedule is its first.
Game I’d rather skip if possible: Week 3 – Jets at Browns
At least this horrible game is on NFL Network only (aka FOX’s package doesn’t start yet). Though this might be Cleveland’s first win since 2016, it’s still an eye sore for the league.
Grading the Schedule: B+
On paper, every game from Week 4 through Week 15 has some intrigue to it. FOX and NFL Network get a significantly upgraded schedule from previous editions of Thursday Night Football.
Sunday Night Football (NBC)
Game I’m most looking forward to: Week 9 – Packers at Patriots
Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady…the two best QBs in the game…enough said.
Game I’d rather skip if possible: Week 3 – Patriots at Lions
Why do the Lions get a SNF home game? Why do I think this game could be an ugly blowout? (As you can tell, I’m not terribly high on Detroit this season.)
Grading the Schedule: A-
Obviously the best games of the primetime slate but not as enticing as I would’ve liked. And yes, I was close to ranking TNF above SNF in terms of quality of matchups.
Monday Night Football (ESPN)
Game I’m most looking forward to: Week 6 – 49ers at Packers
Not just because I’m a Green Bay fan…but Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Aaron Rodgers should be a blast! The rest of the schedule doesn’t leave a lot to be desired though.
Game I’d rather skip if possible: Jets at Lions – Week 1
Nothing says ‘Welcome new MNF crew’ like two lousy teams squaring off on the first Monday of the regular season. Both teams will be lucky to combine for two hand fulls of wins.
Grading the Schedule: C
ESPN badly needs to renegotiate this monstrosity of a bad contract. It’s very possible that only 2-3 games could involve multiple playoff teams next season…and arguably the schedule’s second best game, Rams-Raiders will be shown in a Week 1 window in which most of the Eastern time zone will be asleep.