NFC West: NFL schedule
- Divisional distribution: The chart shows every regular-season matchup for each NFC West team. Shading identifies games involving two division teams. There are no division games from Week 9 through Week 12. Weeks 14 and 17 feature only division games. Every NFC West teams plays three division games in the first eight weeks and three in the final five weeks.
- Bye distribution: All four NFC West bye weeks fall from Week 9 through Week 12.
- 4-0 possibilities: The NFC West has four chances to go 4-0 in the same week. Week 5 might provide the best chance with three of four NFC West teams at home. It happened in Week 2 last season when Arizona upset New England, St. Louis defeated Washington, San Francisco defeated Detroit and Seattle defeated Dallas. Three of those four games were at home for NFC West teams.
- No three-game trips: Philadelphia and Tennessee were the only teams to draw three-game road trips in 2013. No NFC West team has had one since the 2011 Cardinals visited Philadelphia, San Francisco and St. Louis in consecutive weeks. Arizona went 2-1 during that stretch.
- Predicting records: One quick way to predict season records is to assume a certain number of home victories -- seven-plus for really good teams, fewer for not-so-good teams -- and then conservatively count seemingly "winnable" road games. Using that method, I wind up with more projected victories for the 49ers than for any other team in the division, even with a defeat at home.
We should keep that in mind while discussing how the 2013 schedule could shape expectations for teams nearly five months before the regular season.
I do think it's interesting to note that the 2013 schedule could work against the Seattle Seahawks on two fronts while favoring the San Francisco 49ers on at least one.
Could these differences help decide the NFC West race in 2013? Lets walk through them.
Having five kickoffs at 10 a.m. PT works against the Seahawks simply because it's tougher playing so early in the day immediately after traveling West to East. We've discussed this subject several times over the years, usually pointing to won-lost records for road games based on start times. I'm not sure that's a great way to measure the impact of travel. Anyone who has traveled West to East knows it's tougher, and that should be enough whether or not on-field results appear to line up.
In the Seahawks' case, they've been outscored by 4.6 points per game in the first halves of 10 a.m. PT kickoffs since 2001, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The deficit was 2.1 points per game in first halves of road games kicking off between 1 p.m. PT and 1:25 p.m. PT.
I've singled out first halves on the theory that a team traveling West to East for an early game could need a half or so to get going. Some thought the Seahawks appeared to play that way when falling behind by 20 points to the Atlanta Falcons in an early kickoff during the playoffs last season. They were much better after halftime.
The deficits after halftime for Seattle in these games were much smaller (1.6 points per game in the early kickoffs, and a half-point per game in the later ones).
The chart at right breaks down the won-lost record by kickoff time for the five teams either on Pacific time or, in Arizona's case, aligned with Pacific time part of the year.
Again, I'm not certain that type of evidence is compelling. There aren't very many games. Many other factors could come into play for specific games. However, I do know traveling West to East can be tough on the mind and body. Seattle has five of these 10 a.m. PT games. The 49ers have one of them. Advantage, 49ers.
Schedule strength by venue
Seattle went 8-0 at home last season and 3-5 on the road. The Seahawks' home opponents for 2013 had a combined .438 winning percentage last season. That sounds great for Seattle, but it's not like the team can improve upon 8-0. There's nowhere to go but down regardless of which teams visit CenturyLink Field.
The flip side for Seattle is a much tougher-looking road schedule (.594). The difference between those home-road records -- plus-156 percentage points from .438 to .594 -- is tied with Denver for largest in the league.
The 49ers, meanwhile, generally have their tougher opponents at home, where San Francisco might be expected to win regardless. Their home-road disparity -- minus-172 percentage points from .605 to .434 -- is the largest in the NFL.
Nik Bonaddio and Keith Goldner of numberFire recently pointed to the 49ers' home schedule as one reason San Francisco enjoys one of the NFL's five easiest paths to the playoffs .
One more time: There's a fair amount of subjectivity and uncertainty here. As a general rule, however, I think the 2013 schedule favors the 49ers while lengthening the odds for the Seahawks.
The St. Louis Rams also face a tougher schedule on the road than at home. The gap between winning percentages for home and road opponents -- .465 at home to .613 on the road, or .148 -- is tied for second-largest in the NFL behind those for Seattle and Denver. The Arizona Cardinals' home-road disparity lines up closely with that of the 49ers.
Breakdown: The Arizona Cardinals were the only NFC team left off the "Monday Night Football" schedule. That was understandable after Arizona lost 11 of its final 12 games last season. The Cardinals did draw a prime-time home game against the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 17, a Thursday night matchup on NFL Network. That's the only night game on the schedule.
The Cardinals open at the St. Louis Rams before playing their home opener against the Detroit Lions. The Rams have a young team that could still be finding its way offensively that early in the season. The presence of a new coaching staff in Arizona will make it tougher for the Rams to prepare, a potential plus after Rams coach Jeff Fisher and staff proved to be well prepared for division opponents in 2012.
Having a bye week between home games in the middle of the season should let the Cardinals recover from a difficult start to the season.
Complaint department: The Cardinals play four of their first six games on the road, including three of their first four. Once the damage is likely done, Arizona returns home for games against Seattle, Atlanta and Houston. That's a brutal start to the season for first-year coach Bruce Arians. The Cardinals will not play a road game between Oct. 14 and Nov. 16. They get eight home dates, same as everyone else. But that start is rough. The Cardinals also play three of five December games on the road.
Circled on the calendar: The 58-0 defeat Arizona suffered at Seattle in last December rocked the organization. General manager Steve Keim pointed to that game as an experience that will stick with him in a "never again" way. You can bet the Cardinals will play a much more competitive game when they visit Seattle on Dec. 22 this season. That one should be circled on the calendar. It's important for the Cardinals to put forth a respectable effort this time around, win or lose.
Cardinals Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 8, at St. Louis, 4:25 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, Detroit, 4:05 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, at New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, Carolina, 4:05 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, at San Francisco, 4:25 p.m.
Week 7: Thursday, Oct. 17, Seattle, 8:25 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, Atlanta, 4:25 p.m.
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, Houston, 4:25 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, Indianapolis, 4:05 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, at Philadelphia, 1:00 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, St. Louis, 4:25 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, at Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, at Seattle, 4:05 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, San Francisco, 4:25 p.m.
"So, what do you do during the offseason?"
It's a reasonable question from those whose NFL experience consists of a few hours each Sunday from September through the Super Bowl in early February.
Of course, the NFL scouting combine begins two weeks after the Super Bowl. Free agency begins a couple of weeks after that. The draft follows five or six weeks later. From there, minicamps bridge most of the gap until training camps open in late July and early August.
There really isn't much of an offseason. Some offseasons feel busier and more compelling than the seasons themselves.
In that context, I see no downside to the NFL seeking a more evenly paced and structured offseason featuring the combine in March, free agency in April and the draft in May. The time between the Super Bowl and combine would expand, but the NFL would promote regional combines in the interim.
"Under the proposal, all NFL teams also would kick off training camp on the same summer day, making it the official launch of the football season," ESPN's Adam Schefter reports. "The idea is to lengthen the NFL offseason and make sure football is relevant during a longer offseason period with one big event in each month."
The league thinks a more structured offseason would allow for greater promotion of each event and greater profits. NFL players would have to sign off on the changes. Moving back the start of free agency could affect the window for players to maximize their value.
"We haven't seen any kind of proposal," George Atallah of the NFL Players Association said via Twitter. "If I had a nickel to react to every idea that was hatched at combine, well ..."
A quick run through NFC West opponents for 2013 shows relatively few games against teams with first-year head coaches.
Every team in the division faces Jacksonville. That could be interesting if Jaguars general manager David Caldwell hires San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, his former college teammate and roommate.
Arizona faces the Eagles on the road this season. San Francisco, Seattle and St. Louis will of course face the Cardinals, who have yet to hire a replacement for Ken Whisenhunt.
Buffalo (Doug Marrone), Chicago (Marc Trestman), Cleveland (Rob Chudzinski), Kansas City (Andy Reid), Philadelphia (Kelly) and San Diego (Mike McCoy) have hired offensive-minded head coaches. I think the Cardinals have intended to do the same. And if Roman emerges as the choice in Jacksonville, there's strong potential for all eight first-year coaches coming from the offensive side of the ball.
Three teams have posted winning records against the field of 12 playoff participants.
Two of those teams call the NFC West home.
Seattle's wild-card victory against Washington made the Seahawks 5-1 against the playoff field. The San Francisco 49ers are 3-2 against those teams. The teams went 1-1 against one another. The 49ers also lost to Minnesota.
The Atlanta Falcons, despite playing the NFL's easiest schedule, were the only team undefeated against the playoff field. They defeated Denver and Washington in the first five weeks of the season.
Seattle went 4-0 at home against the playoff field. Indianapolis (3-0), New England (3-1) and Baltimore (3-1) also won at least three home games against playoff teams.
Atlanta (1-0), Tampa Bay (2-1) and Pittsburgh (2-1) were the only teams with winning records on the road against the playoff field.
Tennessee (0-7), Buffalo (0-6), Kansas City (0-6), Oakland (0-5) and San Diego (0-5) were a combined 0-29 against playoff teams.
The records listed in the chart include playoff results: Houston over Cincinnati, Green Bay over Minnesota, Baltimore over Indianapolis and Seattle over Washington.
New England (plus-64), Seattle (plus-45) and Green Bay (plus-25) have the largest positive point differentials against playoff teams. Tennessee (minus-140), Buffalo (minus-124), Arizona (minus-112) and Oakland (minus-106) had the largest negative differentials.
That last one came into focus while checking out a chart Paul Kuharsky ran on the AFC South blog. I've reproduced the chart below. This chart shows strength of schedule minus how each team's own game outcomes affected results.
The results are pretty similar to standard strength-of-schedule results. The Atlanta Falcons played the easiest schedule even when their own 13 victories and three defeats were removed from their opponents' results.
Note that Arizona and St. Louis ranked among the top three in toughest adjusted schedules. Each had to face two playoff teams from their own division. Each also faced New England, Green Bay, Chicago and Minnesota.
The won-lost-tied records displayed in the chart are the unadjusted records. The final column shows the adjusted percentage. For the Cardinals, the adjusted won-lost-tied record would be 130-106-4 (.550) once we removed their opponents' 11-5 record vs. Arizona from the unadjusted record of 141-111-4 (.559).
The league will not provide a schedule with dates and times until April. In the meantime, here's a look at 2013 opponents for NFC West teams:
San Francisco 49ers
Home: Arizona, Seattle, St. Louis, Atlanta, Carolina, Houston, Indianapolis, Green Bay.
Road: Arizona, Seattle, St. Louis, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Washington.
Thoughts: The 49ers have seven games against 2012 playoff teams (underlined). They play three games in the Eastern time zone and three more on Central time. San Francisco is the only team in the NFC scheduled to face 2012 rookie phenom quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. The 49ers have four games against those three, two at home and two on the road. The Packers are visiting San Francisco, a welcome reversal from recent seasons. Another trip to New Orleans awaits.
Home: St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Carolina, Houston, Indianapolis, Detroit.
Road: St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Philadelphia.
Thoughts: The Cardinals play seven games against 2012 playoff teams, including five at home. They play three games in the Eastern time zone and three more on Central time. Arizona's defense generally fared well against top quarterbacks this season. That trend will need to continue. The Cardinals face Colin Kaepernick, Wilson, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Matt Schaub, Luck, Matthew Stafford and Drew Brees next season. Sam Bradford is on the list twice as well. He went 2-0 against Arizona this season.
Home: Arizona, St. Louis, San Francisco, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Minnesota.
Road: Arizona, St. Louis, San Francisco, Atlanta, Carolina, Houston, Indianapolis, New York Giants.
Thoughts: The Seahawks play six games against 2012 playoff teams, four of them on the road. The schedule features four games in the Eastern time zone, plus Central time games against St. Louis and Houston. Another trip to Carolina awaits, as does another home game against Minnesota. Seattle will visit the Giants for the second time in three seasons. Wilson goes from facing Griffin in the postseason to facing Luck in the regular season. The Saints visit Seattle for the first time since the teams' memorable playoff game following the 2010 season.
St. Louis Rams
Home: Arizona, Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Chicago.
Road: Arizona, Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, Carolina, Houston, Indianapolis, Dallas.
Thoughts: The Rams play seven games against 2012 playoff teams. They play five of those teams on the road. That looks like a tough road schedule on the surface. The Rams went 5-2-1 this season against the teams scheduled to visit St. Louis in 2013. That included 4-1-1 against the NFC West, plus a victory over Tampa Bay and a defeat to Chicago. None of the non-division opponents for 2013 faced the Rams this season. The Rams play three road games against quarterbacks drafted first overall (Ryan, Newton, Luck).
As suspected, the NFL and NBC targeted the Week 16 game between the teams for showcasing on Sunday night. That means the game between the San Diego Chargers and New York Jets will move from prime time on NBC to a 1 p.m. ET kickoff on CBS. The 49ers and Seahawks, previously scheduled to play at 4:25 p.m. ET on Fox, are now set for 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC.
The NFL also moved the New York Giants-Baltimore Ravens game from an early kickoff into the 4:25 p.m. ET slot, replacing the 49ers and Seahawks. Fox will carry that game.
The 49ers and Seahawks already played in prime time this season. San Francisco scored a 13-6 victory at Candlestick Park on NFL Network in Week 7. Flexing the Week 16 game between the teams will give San Francisco six prime-time games this season, the most rules allow a single team to play.
The 49ers are 4-0 in prime time. They allowed 35 points in those games. They beat Detroit, Seattle and Chicago at home. They also won at Arizona.
The prime-time challenge grows for San Francisco over the next two weeks. The 49ers visit New England on Sunday night in Week 15. The Patriots have a 39-2 home record in Tom Brady's last 41 regular-season home starts. Arizona is the only team to beat New England at Gillette Stadium this season. Seattle is 6-0 at home and coming off a 58-0 victory over the Cardinals.
Seattle and San Francisco provide an obvious prime-time upgrade over the Chargers and Jets. NBC's options for flexing games were limited, however. Fox had exercised its right to protect the Giants-Ravens game from flexing. CBS had done the same for the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game. That left New Orleans-Dallas, Minnesota-Houston and St. Louis-Tampa Bay as remaining games that could feature two teams with playoff hopes at that point in the season.
The Week 16 game between San Francisco and Seattle looks like a good candidate for flexing into prime time on NBC.
The league and networks haven't made an announcement yet, but the currently scheduled Sunday nighter between the San Diego Chargers and New York Jets is looking like a tough sell. Both teams are struggling.
The chart shows all games scheduled for Sunday in Week 16.
Fox has protected the New York Giants' game at Baltimore. CBS has protected the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game. That means neither game will be heading for NBC in prime time.
That leaves the 49ers-Seahawks game as the most appealing game to get flexed, in my view. Both teams appear likely to have winning records. Both have exciting young quarterbacks. Divisional and playoff positioning will be at stake.
Bumping the Chargers-Jets game into another slot could affect the Giants-Ravens game regardless. The league avoids scheduling the Giants and Jets at the same time. Bumping the Jets into the 1 p.m. ET slot to accommodate 49ers-Seahawks in prime time could mean moving the Giants into the 4 p.m. void. Or, the Jets could be bumped to the 4 p.m. slot.
All things to keep in mind as a potential announcement on flexing approaches, perhaps next week.
"Isn't it funny how Green Bay gets 11 days rest between games and Seattle gets eight?" he writes. "Couple more days for players to get healthy. That's fair."
Here's what is even more fair about it, Lou: Seattle's most recent opponent, Dallas, was also coming off an 11-day layoff. The Cowboys opened the season with a Wednesday night game against the New York Giants on Sept. 5. They were then off until visiting Seattle on Sept. 16. Not that it seemed to matter; Seattle won, 27-7.
The Packers last played Sept. 13, a Thursday. They face Seattle on Monday, Sept. 24.
Seattle does get to play at home for these games against the Cowboys and Packers. The Seahawks also have one of the NFL's younger rosters. We're early in the season, too. Throw those factors together and the Seahawks shouldn't be at a great disadvantage based on their opponents' layoffs.
- Week 1: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
- Week 1: San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
- Week 5: Buffalo Bills at 49ers
- Week 6: New York Giants at 49ers
- Week 10: St. Louis Rams at 49ers
- Week 12: Rams at Cardinals
- Week 12: 49ers at New Orleans Saints
- Week 14: Cardinals at Seahawks
- Week 16: Chicago Bears at Cardinals
- Week 16: 49ers at Seahawks
- Week 17: Cardinals at 49ers
- Week 17: Rams at Seahawks
Overall, the changes affect seven games for the 49ers, five for the Cardinals, four for the Seahawks and three for the Rams.
The changes will reduce the number of early games spilling over into later time slots. Here on the NFC West blog, the change should give fans additional time to harass one another before a dozen kickoffs.
- The San Francisco 49ers face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in a nationally televised game in the third week. The third week is generally when teams play their starters the longest.
- Matt Hasselbeck and the Tennessee Titans face the Seahawks in Seattle, Hasselbeck's first game against his former team. That means Matt Flynn makes his Seattle debut against Hasselbeck.
- Seattle travels to Denver for what will be Manning's first home game with the Broncos.
- All four NFC West teams are home in the fourth week of preseason. That's a bonus heading into the regular season. Every AFC West team finishes the preseason on the road, with three of those games against NFC West teams.
- Two of the Arizona Cardinals' five games are televised nationally, beginning with their matchup against New Orleans in the Hall of Fame Game. The Aug. 23 game at Tennessee falls on a Thursday night.
- The St. Louis Rams open the Jeff Fisher era against Indianapolis, the worst team in the NFL last season. That's what we call easing into things. The Rams should welcome the arrangement as they rebuild.
- The NFL wasn't about to schedule another 49ers game against Oakland after violence marred the 2011 preseason game between the teams.
- As miner49er4984 noted in the comments, the 49ers face the Minnesota Vikings in the preseason and again in the regular season. Two matchups with Mike Singletary in one season, then.
The chart shows each team's opponents.
This will be the first regular-season game of the upcoming season.
The NFL generally waits until closer to mid-April before announcing its full schedule. The defending Super Bowl champion has kicked off the schedule with a home game since 2002. The league usually announces the matchup from the NFL owners meetings, which are ongoing in West Palm Beach, Fla.
A few things to know in relation to the Cowboys-Giants announcement:
- The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks are the only NFC West teams with games against the Giants or Cowboys this season.
- The Giants' home opponents beyond the Cowboys -- Philadelphia, Washington, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Cleveland and Pittsburgh -- will not have to face the defending champs in a road opener.
- The 49ers were not a consideration for the opening game. Their game against the Giants, a rematch of the NFC Championship, is scheduled for San Francisco. That ruled out the 49ers.
- The Seattle Seahawks are scheduled to play at home against the Cowboys this season. We now know the Cowboys-Seahawks game will not fall in Week 1. The Seahawks have opened their last three seasons against division opponents, including their last two against the 49ers, most recently in San Francisco.
We should have the full NFL schedule in the next couple weeks.
The Giants won the NFC East. The Cowboys dropped to third, behind Philadelphia. That means the Eagles will visit the Arizona Cardinals in 2012. The Giants will visit San Francisco once again. Dallas will visit Seattle.
Those were among the revelations Sunday.
Your thoughts? Here are a few of mine relating to NFC West non-division opponents:
San Francisco 49ers
Home: Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Miami and the New York Giants.
Road: Green Bay, Minnesota, New England, the New York Jets and New Orleans.
Thoughts: Finishing first in the NFC West meant the 49ers drew the champs from the NFC East (Giants) and NFC South (Saints). The 49ers already beat the Lions and Giants at home this season. They could face the Saints and/or Packers in the NFC playoffs. They'll be familiar with some of these opponents. Facing Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees on the road will not be easy. Can the 49ers keep pace offensively? Can their defense hold up? The next few weeks could provide some answers. Jim Harbaugh gets a chance to shake Jim Schwartz's hand at Candlestick.
Home: Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Miami and Philadelphia.
Road: Green Bay, Minnesota, New England, Jets and Atlanta.
Thoughts: I could see the Cardinals winning most or all of those home games, but perhaps only one of the road games. That is just an early feel. These things are tough to predict. If the Cardinals can go 5-5 in those non-division games, a winning record in the division would get them to 9-7, at least.
Home: Green Bay, Minnesota, New England, the Jets and Dallas.
Road: Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Miami and Carolina.
Thoughts: Another season, another trip to Chicago. The Seahawks will have played the Bears eight times since 2006, counting playoffs. The scheduling rotation sent the third-place team from the NFC East (Dallas) to the third-place team from the NFC West (Seattle). The Seahawks also drew the third-place team from the NFC South, which means they'll be facing Cam Newton on the road. Also, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are coming to CenturyLink Field. Will the Seahawks have a new quarterback? Marshawn Lynch gets to face his old team, Buffalo, on the road.
St. Louis Rams
Home: Green Bay, Minnesota, New England, the Jets and Washington.
Road: Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Miami and Tampa Bay.
Thoughs: The Redskins are on the schedule for a fifth consecutive season and third in a row in St. Louis. That is because the scheduling rotation called for the fourth-place team from the NFC East to visit the fourth-place team from the NFC West.