The Complete 2013 NFL Schedule Breakdown

Before last night at 8:00 P.M. Eastern time, every team in the NFL knew who they were playing next season but didn’t know when. Now the when has been provided and, along with it, the networks that will be carrying those games. The most interesting part of the schedule reveal, to me, is seeing which teams snag the high-profile Sunday Night, Monday Night and late Sunday afternoon time slots. The number of nationally televised games a team gets in a season is usually a pretty good litmus test for their current popularity and national appeal. Hence, I’m going to analyze this year’s schedule from the prime-time angle, ranking each network’s games according to how much pee got lodged in my pants just thinking about it. Let us begin.

NBC Sunday Night Football

  1. Broncos at Colts (Week 7 – October 20th)
  2. Broncos at Patriots (Week 12 – November 24th)
  3. Ravens at Broncos (Week 1 – September 5th)
  4. Patriots at Falcons (Week 4 – September 29th)
  5. 49ers at Seahawks (Week 2 – September 15th)
  6. Redskins at Cowboys (Week 6 – October 13th)
  7. Giants at Redskins (Week 13 – December 1st)
  8. Patriots at Ravens (Week 16 – December 22nd)
  9. Giants at Cowboys (Week 1 – September 8th)
  10. Packers at Giants (Week 11 – November 17th)
  11. Steelers at Ravens (Week 13 – November 28th)
  12. Falcons at Packers (Week 14 – December 8th)
  13. Cowboys at Saints (Week 10 – November 10th)
  14. Bears at Steelers (Week 3 – September 22nd)
  15. Packers at Vikings (Week 8 – October 27th)
  16. Texans at 49ers (Week 5 – October 6th)
  17. Colts at Texans (Week 9 – November 3rd)
  18. Bengals at Steelers (Week 15 – December 15th)

First of all, I’d just like to get a WHAT-WHAT for getting exceedingly lucky and actually correctly projecting 12 of these games. Does this mean I have an extreme and sick obsession with the NFL schedule that goes well behind healthy fascination? Yes. Yes, it does. Anyway, NBC has to be ecstatic with the three Broncos games they got handed by the NFL: they get the rematch of the classic Ravens-Broncos double overtime game from last year as the season opener, they get Manning vs. Brady for the first time since 2009, and (most importantly) they get Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis. Which is only going to be the single biggest game of the 2013 regular season. No biggie. As you’ll see below, this season’s overall SNF slate technically appears worse on paper than the last two years if we’re framing the question according to previous seasons’ win percentage. On the other hand, though, there’s no weak link game I’m seeing in that schedule this year that’s shown up in years past (Ex.: 2010 – Chargers/Bengals, 2012 – Chargers/Jets, etc.). Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh in Week 15 is probably the game I’m least excited for and even that could be a hugely important game in terms of the AFC playoff picture. In summary: Al Michaels is probably doing backflips right now. At least I hope he is, for comedy’s sake.

Combined Previous Season Win Percentage:

  1. 2008 (344-168, .6719)
  2. 2012 (378-198, .6563)
  3. 2011 (356-188, .6544)
  4. 2013 (375-199-2, .6528)
  5. 2009 (332-177-3, .6514)
  6. 2006 (207-113, .6469)
  7. 2010 (346-198, .6360)
  8. 2007 (335-209, .6158)

FOX National Doubleheaders

  1. Packers at 49ers (Week 1 – September 8th)
  2. Redskins at Broncos (Week 8 – October 27th)
  3. Saints at Patriots (Week 6 – October 13th)
  4. Cowboys at Giants (Week 12 – November 24th)
  5. Seahawks at 49ers (Week 14 – December 8th)
  6. Packers at Cowboys (Week 15 – December 15th)
  7. Packers at Lions (Week 13 – November 28th)
  8. 49ers at Saints (Week 11 – November 17th)
  9. Eagles at Broncos/Cowboys at Chargers (Week 4 – September 29th)

My guess is Philadelphia at Denver is going to be the featured doubleheader game in Week 4 for FOX, but Dallas has the highest national appeal of any team in the league, so I’m listing those two games as co-headliners for September 29th. Frankly, I’m a bit disappointed that Packers/49ers is coming in Week 1 again – imagine that game coming in late November or December and potentially deciding home field advantage in the NFC. Oh well. Kudos to the NFL, though, for putting the Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady matchup in a high-profile time slot in Week 6.

CBS National Doubleheaders

  1. Broncos at Giants (Week 2 – September 15th)
  2. Steelers at Packers (Week 16 – December 22nd)
  3. Patriots at Texans (Week 13 – December 1st)
  4. Broncos at Cowboys (Week 5 – October 6th)
  5. Colts at 49ers (Week 3 – September 22nd)
  6. Steelers at Patriots (Week 9 – November 3rd)
  7. Ravens at Steelers (Week 7 – October 20th)
  8. Broncos at Chargers (Week 10 – November 10th)
  9. Raiders at Cowboys (Week 13 – November 28th)

The biggest shocker of the whole schedule is that Oakland, and not Denver, will be the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day opponent. OAKLAND. As in, the team that went 4-12 last year and may actually be getting worse as the offseason progresses. Aside from that and possibly Broncos/Chargers, though, this slate of games is pretty bulletproof. CBS is the first network other than NBC to get the Peyton/Eli matchup and they also get the Andrew Luck-Jim Harbaugh Reunion Special in Week 3 and the first Steelers-Packers game since Super Bowl XLV the second-to-last week of the season. Overall, you’d have to say they got a better lineup than FOX – which, given FOX’s TV rights to the huge market teams of the NFC, is a pretty big deal.

ESPN Monday Night Football

  1. Falcons at 49ers (Week 16 – December 23rd)
  2. 49ers at Redskins (Week 12 – November 25th)
  3. Bears at Packers (Week 9 – November 4th)
  4. Saints at Seahawks (Week 13 – December 2nd)
  5. Eagles at Redskins (Week 1 – September 9th)
  6. Steelers at Bengals (Week 2 – September 16th)
  7. Cowboys at Bears (Week 14 – December 9th)
  8. Patriots at Panthers (Week 11 – November 18th)
  9. Vikings at Giants (Week 7 – October 21st)
  10. Seahawks at Rams (Week 8 – October 28th)
  11. Texans at Chargers (Week 1 – September 9th)
  12. Raiders at Broncos (Week 3 – September 23rd)
  13. Dolphins at Saints (Week 4 – September 30th)
  14. Ravens at Lions (Week 15 – December 16th)
  15. Colts at Chargers (Week 6 – October 14th)
  16. Dolphins at Buccaneers (Week 10 – November 11th)
  17. Jets at Falcons (Week 5 – October 7th)

Tough to find a much more hit-or-miss lineup than this. On the one hand, you’ve got a host of weird AFC East-at-NFC South matchups that don’t really have any rivalry factor built in and the potential for complete unmitigated disasters when the Jets play at Atlanta and the Raiders go to Denver. On the other hand, scoring the NFC Championship Game rematch (which could double up as the last game ever played at Candlestick Park) is one of the biggest coups ESPN’s ever scored in its NFL package and 49ers-Redskins and Bears-Packers are big wins for the network, too. In other words: get ready for long swaths of time where you’re not going to care about Monday Night Football this fall with occasional interruptions for great games.

Combined Previous Season Win Percentage:

  1. 2010 (320-224, .5882)
  2. 2012 (315-229, .5790)
  3. 2011 (311-233, .5717)
  4. 2009 (310-233-1, .5708)
  5. 2013 (305-236-3, .5634)
  6. 2007 (306-238, .5625)
  7. 2008 (306-238, .5625)
  8. 2006 (301-243, .5533)

NFL Network Thursday Night Football

  1. Chiefs at Eagles (Week 3 – September 19th)
  2. Giants at Bears (Week 6 – October 10th)
  3. Saints at Falcons (Week 12 – November 21st)
  4. Redskins at Vikings (Week 10 – November 7th)
  5. Panthers at Buccaneers (Week 8 – October 24th)
  6. Jets at Patriots (Week 2 – September 12th)
  7. 49ers at Rams (Week 4 – September 26th)
  8. Chargers at Broncos (Week 15 – December 12th)
  9. Bengals at Dolphins (Week 9 – October 31st)
  10. Seahawks at Cardinals (Week 7 – October 17th)
  11. Colts at Titans (Week 11 – November 14th)
  12. Texans at Jaguars (Week 14 – December 5th)
  13. Bills at Browns (Week 5 – October 3rd)

The NFL’s requirement that every team has to play a Thursday night game obviously drags down the lineup’s quality somewhat (try to find a less appealing game anywhere on the schedule than Bills at Browns), but there are some winners on here – foremost among them, Andy Reid’s return to Philadelphia, which is the perfect type of game for the NFL Network. It’s a high-profile storyline that demands a national stage…but at the same time, you’d feel pretty weird about having two teams that combined for six wins the year before playing on Sunday or Monday night. Overall, the bottom five games on this slate are pretty iffy, but I can get behind any of the top eight.

Team-by-Team Breakdown of Nationally Televised Games

9.5*: Dallas, Denver
9: Green Bay, San Francisco
8: New England, Pittsburgh
7: NY Giants
6: New Orleans, Washington
5: Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, Indianapolis, Seattle
4: Chicago
3.5*: San Diego
3: Cincinnati, Miami, Minnesota
2.5*: Philadelphia
2: Carolina, Detroit, NY Jets, Oakland, St. Louis, Tampa Bay
1: Arizona, Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Tennessee

* – asterisk denotes the uncertainty of FOX’s Week 4 doubleheader matchup

The biggest thing to note from this breakdown, I think, is the relatively low number of nationally televised games the Super Bowl champion Ravens are playing. They haven’t been given the max of five prime-time games and their Week 7 rivalry game against the Steelers is the only national doubleheader game they’re currently scheduled for. WHERE’S THE RESPECT? Other than that, the breakdown kind of goes how you’d expect – the Cowboys, Giants and Steelers will always get a huge number of high-profile games as long as they’re in the vicinity of being decent. The only other weird things standing out to me: Miami and San Diego both getting two Monday Night games and the Saints having more nationally televised games than seven playoff teams from last season.

Best Games That Won’t Be Nationally Televised

  1. Seahawks at Falcons (Week 10 – November 10th)
  2. Packers at Ravens (Week 6 – October 13th)
  3. Cowboys at Redskins (Week 16 – December 22nd)*
  4. Falcons at Saints (Week 1 – September 8th)
  5. Broncos at Texans (Week 16 – December 22nd)*
  6. Redskins at Falcons (Week 15 – December 15th)*
  7. Redskins at Packers (Week 2 – September 15th)
  8. Texans at Ravens (Week 3 – September 22nd)
  9. Seahawks at Texans (Week 4 – September 29th)
  10. Seahawks at Giants (Week 15 – December 15th)*

* – asterisk denotes game falls during the league’s flexible schedule procedures and could get moved to a higher-profile time slot

The Ravens-Broncos divisional playoff game last year WAS great, but to me the Seahawks-Falcons game that followed the next day may have been even better. Unfortunately, the rematch of that game falls alongside seven other games in the early afternoon window of Week 10 – if you don’t the Sunday Ticket package, you’re probably S.O.L., buddy. In general, the Seahawks, Falcons, and Redskins were all among the most exciting teams to watch last season and…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have minded a few more quality hours to spend with them this fall.

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