NFC West: 2012 simple requests
April, 16, 2012
A few simple requests for the St. Louis Rams amid expectations the NFL will release its regular-season schedule Tuesday:
- A manageable start would help. In 2009, the Rams opened the Steve Spagnuolo era with three of their first four games on the road. Their first five home games welcomed Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Kurt Warner to the Edward Jones Dome. Tough game are unavoidable. Opponents were set long ago. But there's no sense in dooming a rebuilding team with an unusually tough early schedule.
- Trips to Buffalo and Chicago early in the season could help the Rams avoid playing in frigid conditions for their two outdoor games in cold-weather cities (weather in Seattle can be rough, too, but generally not sub-freezing). Playing the Bears early could carry additional appeal if the NFL suspends receiver Brandon Marshall.
- Trips to Miami and Tampa Bay early in the season can be tough from a weather standpoint, but the Rams should welcome such an arrangement. They train in the sweltering heat of St. Louis, after all, so the conditions would not shock their system. Also, the Dolphins and Buccaneers are breaking in new head coaches, as are the Rams. Perhaps there would be value in facing those teams early.
- The Rams played back-to-back division games on the West Coast last season, first at San Francisco and then at Seattle. The second game was on a Monday night, giving the Rams additional time. The NFL will certainly work with the Rams this season as the team plays one of its home games in London. This will presumably include playing at home the week prior, then having a bye to decompress following the trip overseas. The Rams travel 4,190 miles to London, and 7,998 miles to their eight other destinations (one way).
- The Rams have faced the Washington Redskins by Week 6 in each of the past four seasons. Another early game against them might beat the alternative this season given that Washington will likely be breaking in a rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III.
April, 16, 2012
A few simple requests for the San Francisco 49ers amid expectations the NFL will release its regular-season schedule Tuesday:
- Cut down on the 10 a.m. PT kickoffs for road trips to the Eastern time zone. The other Western teams have similar concerns. All know what it's like traveling across time zones for games requiring them to awaken when players' body clocks are telling them it's 5 in the morning. Unlike those other Western teams, the 49ers were successful enough last season to justify moving some of their Eastern games to later time slots, including prime time. There's something wrong if the 49ers emerge with another five or six games in the 10 a.m. PT slot.
- Avoid back-to-back road games against New England Patriots, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams or Minnesota Vikings. Every one of those trips is at least 1,590 air miles each way. One line of thinking says the NFL would not schedule East Coast trips in successive weeks against a team's will. That is something to consider with the 49ers, who won at Cincinnati and Philadelphia in back-to-back weeks last season, remaining in Ohio between games. Perhaps they would welcome another long getaway.
- Schedule that road game against the Saints for early in the season. That is when New Orleans figures to be most vulnerable to fallout from its bounty punishment. Interim coach Joe Vitt will miss the first six games. The Saints could also be without defensive players, depending upon how the league decides to punish players for their role in the bounty scandal. Audio tapes revealed former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams encouraging players to take out certain San Francisco players. The 49ers might as well realize maximum benefit from the sanctions against the Saints.
- No more cross-country trips on short weeks. Last season, the 49ers played a home game against Arizona, then flew across the country for a Thanksgiving game against Baltimore four days later. That was a brutal turnaround, especially so late in the season.
- Another home game late in the season might be nice. The 49ers have played three of their final five games on the road in each of the previous four regular seasons. That should even out over time.
April, 16, 2012
A few simple requests for the Arizona Cardinals amid expectations the NFL will release its regular-season schedule Tuesday:
- Please, no back-to-back road games against the New England Patriots and New York Jets. Each of those games will require trips covering more than 2,100 air miles. Sure, the 49ers went 2-0 on an extended East Coast trip last season, remaining in Ohio between games. That worked for them, but when the Cardinals tried something similar in 2008, they gave up 80 total points in consecutive defeats to Washington and the Jets.
- Let's avoid late-season trips to cold-weather venues. Games against the Patriots, Jets and Green Bay Packers come to mind. Remember what happened to the Cardinals when they played the Patriots in a snowstorm during the 2008 season. They lost by 40 points.
- Another home game to open the season, please. The Cardinals have opened at home only three times since moving to Arizona in 1988. They beat Carolina at University of Phoenix Stadium to open last season. Hot September weather was once a deterrent to scheduling early games in Arizona. That is no longer the case now that the Cardinals play indoors.
- If the Cardinals play a Thursday night game on the road, make it against the 49ers. Arizona's trip to San Francisco is easily the shortest one the Cardinals make. A Thursday night road game against the Patriots or Jets would make for a tougher trip on a short week. Note that every NFL team plays at least one game in prime time this season, thanks in part to the league adding to its Thursday night schedule.
- Facing the Eagles late in the season could be preferable to facing them earlier, on the theory that quarterback Michael Vick takes a beating and wears down. A look through Vick's career passing stats by month showed no clear pattern of late-season struggles. November was his toughest month last season. That was when Arizona roughed up Vick, shut him down and forced him to miss the next three games with broken ribs. The Philadelphia-Arizona game figures to be big for Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb, who did not play against his former team when Arizona visited the Eagles last season.
April, 16, 2012
A few simple requests for the Seattle Seahawks amid expectations the NFL will release its regular-season schedule Tuesday:
- Trips to Miami and Carolina would be best scheduled for later in the season, when hot temperatures have subsided in the South. I can recall the Seahawks melting during Week 1 road defeats to Miami (2000) and Jacksonville (2005).
- The weather requests work in reverse, too. Trips to Buffalo and Chicago would be best scheduled for early in the season, before frigid temperatures turn those cities into ice boxes. The Seahawks did win a December game at Chicago last season, when conditions were tolerable (39 degrees, sunny, light winds) and the Bears were without quarterback Jay Cutler. Then again, if the Seahawks remain strongest running the ball and playing defense, they might be better suited for cold-weather games.
- The chart shows Seattle with its usual list of long road trips. Remember when the New England Patriots complained to the NFL after facing cross-country road games in consecutive weeks a few seasons back? Well, Seattle will not want to experience back-to-back road games against the Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Bears or Rams. Every one of those trips is at least 1,700 air miles each way. Using the bye week to break up long trips would make sense.
- Fewer earliest possible kickoffs, please. Seattle played five games at 10 a.m. PT last season. The Seahawks actually won two of them, but teams traveling West to East have long complained about the challenges associated with playing so early. They would much rather play later no matter how well certain Western teams have fared in these games at various times.
- Consider home games against the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers for prime time. The 49ers-Seahawks game in Seattle last season was an extremely intense, physical battle -- a showcase for how much tougher NFC West defenses were becoming. Seattle's game against Green Bay game would be a natural draw if ex-Packer Matt Flynn is starting at quarterback for the Seahawks, as expected.