NFL’s decision to bump schedule preview only builds excitement

With the completed NFL season fading into the rear-view mirror, the offseason wasteland is filled with anticipation for the release of the 2010 schedule.

Sean Payton's Super Bowl champion Saints will open up the 2010 regular season.
Sean Payton’s Super Bowl champion Saints will open up the 2010 regular season.

Though the identity and location of the 256 games already is known, the date and time remains a mystery. And so fans wait anxiously to see, for instance, how many Monday night, Sunday night or Thursday night games or back-to-back-to-back road games or games against teams coming off "bye" weeks their favorite teams will play.

And so the early days of April become like the latter days of December, with football fans awaiting the arrival of the schedule as if the Commissioner Roger Goodell were wearing a red suit and commandeering a flying sleigh. Typically, the NFL gives fans a peek at some of the packages in conjunction with the annual meetings, announcing the schedule of prime-time games in Week 1 and the trio of Turkey Day contests.

This year, for reasons still unclear, the league opted not to do so.

So let’s fill that void by suggesting the matchups we’d like to see for each of the games that would have been announced. And then let’s look at a few other preferred dates for several other key games.

For the Sept. 9 season opener, the Saints will be the host. With Steelers president Art Rooney II declaring last week that his team won’t make its once-every-eight-years trip to the Superdome to launch the season, it’s widely believed the opponent will be the Vikings. But a visit from the Falcons also would be compelling.

On Sunday night, an AFC North showdown would be a great way to kick things off, with the Steelers visiting the Ravens. (The delay in the announcement of the prime-time games might have something to do with the tenuous status of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.)

For the first game of Monday night’s doubleheader, what better way to christen the Jets’ portion of the new stadium than to invite the Dolphins to town, a decade after the two teams played a classic game on a Monday night in October? And it makes sense. For the past three years, the league has scheduled games between division rivals for the first Monday night of the season.

The other viable alternative would be the Patriots, but they played on Monday night to start the 2009 season.

For the nightcap, which typically features division rivals from the western edge of the country, Pete Carroll’s return to the NFL would provide a great story line — especially if his Seahawks are traveling to Arizona to face the Cardinals, who presumably will be quarterbacked by one of Carroll’s prized pupils at USC, Matt Leinart.

For Thanksgiving, the reports that the Jets will host a night game means the Patriots will play at Detroit in the early game, given that the Jets and the Patriots were the two candidates to play on Ford Field.

In the second game, the Cowboys can host any of their six NFC opponents. The best game would come from the Saints, but the NFL typically doesn’t waste "good" games for the games that we’ll all watch regardless of how "good" they are. So scratch off the Saints, the Eagles, the Giants, and the Redskins. The Lions are otherwise occupied.

So it leaves the Bears.

The Saints-Cowboys contest would be a great candidate for prime time in November, during the ratings sweeps, even though FOX surely will want it for the back end of a Sunday afternoon doubleheader during that same period. Steelers-Saints is another one that will attract plenty of attention, giving NBC and ESPN a game to covet for evening placement, and for CBS an ideal game for a Sunday afternoon doubleheader of its own.

Other non-division games that merit a high profile include (in no particular order) Colts-Patriots, Cowboys-Colts, Giants-Colts (featuring the Mannings brothers), Chargers-Colts, Jets-Steelers, Vikings-Patriots, Packers-Patriots, Vikings-Jets, Packers-Jets, Texans-Jets, Jets-Steelers, Saints-Ravens, Ravens-Jets, Saints-Bengals, and Falcons-Steelers.

Bottom line? The 2010 slate features plenty of great games. Still, even when we know what’s in Santa’s bag, we still can’t wait for him to show up. The fact that he didn’t let us open a few of the packages early at the league meetings will only make us even more eager for him to arrive.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

With the completed NFL season fading into the rear-view mirror, the offseason wasteland is filled with anticipation for the release of the 2010 schedule.

Sean Payton's Super Bowl champion Saints will open up the 2010 regular season.
Sean Payton’s Super Bowl champion Saints will open up the 2010 regular season.

Though the identity and location of the 256 games already is known, the date and time remains a mystery. And so fans wait anxiously to see, for instance, how many Monday night, Sunday night or Thursday night games or back-to-back-to-back road games or games against teams coming off "bye" weeks their favorite teams will play.

And so the early days of April become like the latter days of December, with football fans awaiting the arrival of the schedule as if the Commissioner Roger Goodell were wearing a red suit and commandeering a flying sleigh. Typically, the NFL gives fans a peek at some of the packages in conjunction with the annual meetings, announcing the schedule of prime-time games in Week 1 and the trio of Turkey Day contests.

This year, for reasons still unclear, the league opted not to do so.

So let’s fill that void by suggesting the matchups we’d like to see for each of the games that would have been announced. And then let’s look at a few other preferred dates for several other key games.

For the Sept. 9 season opener, the Saints will be the host. With Steelers president Art Rooney II declaring last week that his team won’t make its once-every-eight-years trip to the Superdome to launch the season, it’s widely believed the opponent will be the Vikings. But a visit from the Falcons also would be compelling.

On Sunday night, an AFC North showdown would be a great way to kick things off, with the Steelers visiting the Ravens. (The delay in the announcement of the prime-time games might have something to do with the tenuous status of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.)

For the first game of Monday night’s doubleheader, what better way to christen the Jets’ portion of the new stadium than to invite the Dolphins to town, a decade after the two teams played a classic game on a Monday night in October? And it makes sense. For the past three years, the league has scheduled games between division rivals for the first Monday night of the season.

The other viable alternative would be the Patriots, but they played on Monday night to start the 2009 season.

For the nightcap, which typically features division rivals from the western edge of the country, Pete Carroll’s return to the NFL would provide a great story line — especially if his Seahawks are traveling to Arizona to face the Cardinals, who presumably will be quarterbacked by one of Carroll’s prized pupils at USC, Matt Leinart.

For Thanksgiving, the reports that the Jets will host a night game means the Patriots will play at Detroit in the early game, given that the Jets and the Patriots were the two candidates to play on Ford Field.

In the second game, the Cowboys can host any of their six NFC opponents. The best game would come from the Saints, but the NFL typically doesn’t waste "good" games for the games that we’ll all watch regardless of how "good" they are. So scratch off the Saints, the Eagles, the Giants, and the Redskins. The Lions are otherwise occupied.

So it leaves the Bears.

The Saints-Cowboys contest would be a great candidate for prime time in November, during the ratings sweeps, even though FOX surely will want it for the back end of a Sunday afternoon doubleheader during that same period. Steelers-Saints is another one that will attract plenty of attention, giving NBC and ESPN a game to covet for evening placement, and for CBS an ideal game for a Sunday afternoon doubleheader of its own.

Other non-division games that merit a high profile include (in no particular order) Colts-Patriots, Cowboys-Colts, Giants-Colts (featuring the Mannings brothers), Chargers-Colts, Jets-Steelers, Vikings-Patriots, Packers-Patriots, Vikings-Jets, Packers-Jets, Texans-Jets, Jets-Steelers, Saints-Ravens, Ravens-Jets, Saints-Bengals, and Falcons-Steelers.

Bottom line? The 2010 slate features plenty of great games. Still, even when we know what’s in Santa’s bag, we still can’t wait for him to show up. The fact that he didn’t let us open a few of the packages early at the league meetings will only make us even more eager for him to arrive.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

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