NFL Schedule Reflects League’s Shifting Balance

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On Thursday, the National Football League released its full 272-game regular season schedule. There are the usual suspects playing on national television, like the Dallas Cowboys playing seven games in front of a national audience, and the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs playing six.

But the Detroit Lions, long limited to national exposure on Thanksgiving, will be making a total of four appearances on national TV.

It begins in Week 1, when the Lions travel to Kansas City for the traditional Thursday night season kick off. Detroit was not a playoff team a year ago, which makes them a somewhat unusual choice. But they were one of the more exciting offenses in 2022, and has them at -170 to make the playoffs this year.

The Aaron Rodgers Effect

For the first time since 2011, the New York Jets are hosting a Sunday night game, getting the Chiefs in Week 4. This will be just one of five primetime games for the Jets in 2023, which is an unusually high number for a team that did not make the playoffs last year and has not made the playoffs in the last 12 years.

Such is life with a future Hall of Fame quarterback. Last year, New York played in one Thursday night game. With Aaron Rodgers under center, the Jets open the year on Monday night at home against the Buffalo Bills. They have two Sunday night games (home vs. Kansas City and at the Las Vegas Raiders), a home Monday night game against the Los Angeles Chargers, and a Thursday night game in Week 17 at the Cleveland Browns.

Packers Still a Draw

For the first time since 1991, someone other than Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers will open the season as the Packers starting quarterback. Green Bay, however, is still loved by the NFL and the networks, and the Jordan Love-led Packers will be on national television six times in 2023.

The Packers will face the Lions in Week 4 on Thursday night in Green Bay, and again on Thanksgiving in Detroit. They also play a Week 5 Monday night game in Las Vegas. They host the Chiefs on Sunday night in Week 13, and they play Monday in Week 14 at the New York Giants. In Week 17 on New Year’s Eve, they play a Sunday night game at Minnesota vs. the Vikings.

Noteworthy Matchups

Super Bowl LVII was one of the best Super Bowls in recent memory, and we will get the rematch between the Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night in Week 11 in Kansas City. With Andy Reid as their head coach, the Chiefs have never lost to the Eagles. But when he was the coach in Philadelphia, he never lost to the Chiefs.

Current Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarty and current Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers — the two former Packers who won a Super Bowl together in Green Bay — meet in Dallas in Week 2. It’s not so much a revenge game as just a matchup between two towering football figures of the last 20 years that will forever be linked,

In Week 13, we get an NFC Championship Game rematch, hopefully this time with two healthy quarterbacks. The Eagles cruised past the 49ers in January after San Francisco lost quarterback Brock Purdy to a torn elbow ligament. When the teams play again in Philadelphia, we might see Trey Lance as the Niners quarterback, depending on injuries and training camp competition.

Last year, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes beat Cincinnati’s QB Joe Burrow for the first time in four tries, and the Chiefs went on to win the Super Bowl. In Week 17 on New Year’s Eve, we get a rematch of the KC-Cincinnati AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium. The NFL has been desperate for a rivalry to replace Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady, and Burrow vs. Mahomes has become that.

In Week 9, the top two picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, Bryce Young (Carolina Panthers) and C.J. Stroud (Houston Texans) ae scheduled to play in Carolina. Deserving or not, quarterbacks taken No. 1 and No. 2 overall are forever compared, going back to Jim Plunkett and Archie Manning in 1971.

Generally, the top pick has fared better in their career – Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf, Drew Bledsoe over Rick Mirer, Andrew Luck over Robert Griffin, and Trevor Lawrence over Zach Wilson. Only time will tell how Young vs. Stroud shakes out.

Holiday Football

The NFL has long ruled Thanksgiving, with the Detroit Lions beginning their traditional Thanksgiving Day game in 1934. This year, they host the Packers. The Cowboys began playing Thanksgiving football in 1966, and this season they host their longtime rivals, the Washington Commanders.

Since 2006, the NFL has hosted a third game on Thanksgiving night, and this year that matchup is the San Francisco 49ers at the Seattle Seahawks. And for the first time, the NFL will play a game the day after Thanksgiving, when the Jets host the Miami Dolphins on Black Friday.

Last season, the NFL played its first Christmas Day triple-header, and they will do that again in 2023 with the Las Vegas Raiders at Chiefs, New York Giants at Eagles, and the nightcap of the Baltimore Ravens at 49ers.

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