NFL Nation: NFL Schedule Analysis 2010

Washington Redskins schedule analysis

April, 20, 2010
4/20/10
9:06
PM ET
Breakdown: It's not often that a 4-12 team lands three prime-time games and five on national television. But coach Mike Shanahan has made the Redskins relevant again. The Redskins will open the season by hosting the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, Sept. 12, on NBC. The only thing better would've been sending the Eagles to FedEx. But watching the Cowboys face a Redskins team that features quarterback Donovan McNabb is a pretty strong way to kick off the season. We'll find out immediately how much better the Skins are with McNabb and Shanahan.

But on Oct. 3, McNabb makes his highly anticipated return to Philadelphia. Something tells me the fans will give him a huge ovation before that game. The Redskins play four of their first six games at home, which should allow them to get off to a decent start. But hosting the Packers and Colts in back-to-back games in early October will be tough.

The Eagles, Redskins and Giants all received great bye weeks. Shanahan will have the Week 9 bye before the Eagles come to town. It's a pretty good scenario for the Redskins. The Redskins have the eighth toughest schedule in the league based on '09 records, but the schedule lays out pretty nicely in 2010. I just don't think they have a lot to complain about -- especially since they get the Colts, Packers and Vikings at home. I think the Redskins have the best schedule in the division. But now let's come up with something to complain about.

Complaint department: The other teams in the division don't have more than two sets of back-to-back road games. The Redskins weren't as fortunate. They travel to St. Louis and Philadelphia in Weeks 3 and 4. Then they have back-to-back road games in Chicago and Detroit in late October. The Skins will spend the Christmas holidays with back-to-back games in Arlington, Texas, and Jacksonville before hosting the Giants in Week 17. The Redskins only have back-to-back home games twice during the season. I don't think this is a huge complaint, but it's worth mentioning.

Facing Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers in back-to-back games in October won't be easy, but I see the Redskins emerging from the first six weeks with a 4-2 record. There, I said it.

Most-appealing matchup: It's not even close. That trip to Philly on Sunday, Oct. 3, will be one of the most anticipated games of the season. I may go ahead and book my flight. I think the second-best matchup might be that Dec. 19 game at Cowboys Stadium. The Redskins in a meaningful December game? It could happen.

Redskins Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, Dallas, 8:20 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, Houston, 4:15 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, at St. Louis, 4:05 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, at Philadelphia, 4:15 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, Green Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, Indianapolis, 8:20 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, at Chicago, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, at Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Monday, Nov. 15, Philadelphia, 8:30 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, at NY Giants, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, at Dallas, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, NY Giants, 1:00 PM

Buffalo Bills schedule analysis

April, 20, 2010
4/20/10
8:58
PM ET
Breakdown: The Buffalo Bills' schedule has an obvious ebb and flow through mid-November. They open with the Miami Dolphins at home and then face three straight playoff teams. The Bills then face non-playoff teams in Weeks 8 through 10.

If the Bills can hang tough through the first stretch and put together some momentum heading into Thanksgiving, then they might be an outside factor down the stretch.

Word leaked out early the Bills will continue their Toronto series against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 7 in the Rogers Centre. The first two games in Toronto were against divisional opponents in December. The earlier date should stimulate disappointing ticket sales because the Bills won't be playing out the string, but probably not early enough to open the retractable roof.

Complaint department: The Bills' schedule is rather dull. There's not much noteworthy about it aside from the Toronto date. The Bills have no prime-time games. Every kickoff has been scheduled for 1 p.m.

Quick turnaround: Because Buffalo is closer to the Midwest than the Northeast and the division's cross-divisional matchups are against the AFC North and NFC North, the Bills have an agreeable itinerary ahead.

Even if you factor in the home game they've exported to Canada, their roundtrip travel will be about 9,300 miles. That's by far the shortest distance in the division. They will travel over 1,400 roundtrip miles only three times, whereas the Dolphins' quickest out-and-back will be roughly 1,800 miles. Six Dolphins trips are at least 2,100 miles.

Bills Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, at Green Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, at New England, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, at Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, Chicago, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 14, Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, at Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, at Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, New England, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, at NY Jets, 1:00 PM

Breakdown: Norv Turner’s Chargers start very poorly and finish strong. It always seems to happen.

Last year, the Chargers started 2-3, but won the final 11 games of the regular season, an NFL high. The Chargers don’t start clicking until the early season is a memory.

This year, like every year, the Chargers want to change that trend. They will have a good opportunity. San Diego’s first six games are not a murderers’ row of opponents. San Diego plays only one 2009 playoff team (Arizona at home in Week 4) in the first six games before hosting New England in Week 7. If the Chargers can’t start fast this year, something is definitely wrong.

Complaint department: The Chargers have a pretty workable schedule. If there are any sticking points it’s that they finish the season with two road games against key AFC competition. The Chargers play at Cincinnati in a Sunday night game in Week 16 and end the season at Denver. Still, the Chargers will go into the two-game stretch with home games against Oakland, Kansas City and San Francisco (on a Thursday night) in Weeks 13-15.

More Monday Night Magic in Week 1? For the third time since 2006, the Chargers will play on the back end of a "Monday Night Football" doubleheader in Week 1. For the third straight time, San Diego will open the season on the road against a division foe. The Chargers play at Kansas City in Week 1. They played at Oakland in "Monday Night Football" games in 2006 and 2009. The Chargers likely won’t complain about not getting a home game to start the season. They won both of the games in Oakland.

Chargers Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Monday, Sep. 13, at Kansas City, 10:15 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, Jacksonville, 4:15 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, at Seattle, 4:15 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, Arizona, 4:15 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, at Oakland, 4:15 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, at St. Louis, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, New England, 4:15 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, Tennessee, 4:05 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, at Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Monday, Nov. 22, Denver, 8:30 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, at Indianapolis, 8:20 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, Oakland, 4:05 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, Kansas City, 4:15 PM
Week 15: Thursday, Dec. 16, San Francisco, 8:20 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, at Cincinnati, 8:20 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, at Denver, 4:15 PM

New England Patriots schedule analysis

April, 20, 2010
4/20/10
8:38
PM ET
Breakdown: The New England Patriots have the AFC East's most difficult schedule based on records from last season. Their schedule ranks as the sixth-toughest in the NFL, with opponents going 136-120 last year. The other three AFC East squads have an average schedule, tied for 16th with opponents posting aggregate .500 records.

Where the schedule looks most arduous appears to be coming out of their Week 5 bye.

The Patriots will have a rematch with the Baltimore Ravens, who annihilated them in the playoffs, and then have games at the San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, at Cleveland Browns, at Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, at Detroit Lions and New York Jets.

Even the two games that seem cushy really aren't. The Browns will be coming off their bye week, and Eric Mangini has had a couple of dramatic successes against the Patriots since leaving Bill Belichick's staff. The Patriots will visit the Lions on Thanksgiving, meaning a short preparation week.

All told, the Patriots will face a playoff team eight times, and six of those games will take place in Gillette Stadium. The only two playoff teams they'll face on the road are the Jets and Chargers.

The Patriots have four games scheduled for primetime, one fewer than the Jets. The Patriots will play on Monday night twice and Sunday night at least twice.

Complaint department: The Patriots are looking at a frosty finish to the regular season. Players and fans should bundle up.

Two of their last three home games will be played at night. The other one is the afternoon finale against the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots' two December road games will be at the Chicago Bears and at the Buffalo Bills.

"Seventh" divisional game: The annual Patriots-Colts game will take place in Week 11 in Gillette Stadium. Mostly because of the weighted schedule, where division champs within the conference meet each other the following year, it will be the eighth straight meeting, the longest current streak between non-divisional opponents.

The Colts lost six in a row from 2001 through 2004, but have won five of the past six games. Each of the past four games, including the playoffs, has been decided by four points or fewer.

Patriots Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, at NY Jets, 4:15 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Monday, Oct. 4, at Miami, 8:30 PM
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, at San Diego, 4:15 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, Minnesota, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 14, at Pittsburgh, 8:20 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, Indianapolis, 4:15 PM
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 25, at Detroit, 12:30 PM
Week 13: Monday, Dec. 6, NY Jets, 8:30 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, at Chicago, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, Green Bay, 8:20 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, Miami, 1:00 PM

Philadelphia Eagles schedule analysis

April, 20, 2010
4/20/10
8:38
PM ET
Breakdown: Let's be honest. There's only one game everyone is focused on. Donovan McNabb and the Washington Redskins visit the Linc on Sunday, Oct. 3. That will be one of eight nationally televised games for the Eagles. It's a 4:15 p.m. ET game on Fox. It's the only NFC East opponent the Eagles face until Week 10, when they will travel to play the Redskins on ESPN's "Monday Night Football." It's almost like the league wanted to feature these two games before the Eagles moved on to the rest of their schedule.

Like the other NFC East teams, the Eagles will face a brutal December. There are back-to-back road games against the Cowboys and Giants on Dec. 12 and 19. And that Cowboys game is on Sunday night. It seems like all the NFC East matchups are on prime time this season. Andy Reid has to like the Week 8 bye. It comes before playing the Colts at the Linc and an emotional trip to Washington. It's honestly the perfect time for the bye.

Complaint department: You never want to send an inexperienced quarterback on the road for two weeks early in a season, but you could do worse than trips to Detroit and Jacksonville. It's good to have the first McNabb reunion in early October. You don't want to backload that matchup because everyone would obsess about it too much. The week after that first matchup against the Skins, the Eagles have to travel across the country to play the 49ers. That's an NBC night game Oct. 10. And quite honestly, it seems like an odd prime-time matchup.

The Eagles have back-to-back NFC games on two separate occasions. That back-to-back at Cowboys Stadium and New Meadowlands Stadium is a brutal way to spend the weeks leading up to Christmas. It's great that the league has decided to have a home-and-home series between the Cowboys and Eagles in Week 17. It's a very nice little tradition and I'd have no problem with it continuing.

Most-appealing matchup: This schedule is all about the Oct. 3 game against the Skins. Sending McNabb to the Linc on a nice evening in early October seems perfect to me. You don't want to wait too long for it to happen. You think Fox is OK with that matchup? Probably so.

Eagles Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, Green Bay, 4:15 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, at Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, at Jacksonville, 4:05 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, Washington, 4:15 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, at San Francisco, 8:20 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, Indianapolis, 4:15 PM
Week 10: Monday, Nov. 15, at Washington, 8:30 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, NY Giants, 8:20 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, at Chicago, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Thursday, Dec. 2, Houston, 8:20 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, at Dallas, 8:20 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, at NY Giants, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, Dallas, 1:00 PM

Breakdown: Think the Packers aren’t marketable? The NFL put them in its premier time slot -- on Sunday night -- three times. They also appear on ESPN’s "Monday Night Football" once and have a national slot on opening weekend, taking on Philadelphia on Sept. 12 at 4:15 p.m. ET.

I look at the Packers’ opening seven weeks and think they should expect nothing less than a 5-2 start, especially given the way they played the second half of last season. They should be favored to win home games against Buffalo, Detroit and Miami. I like their chances to win at Washington and I’m guessing they’ll be fully primed for the Oct. 24 game against Minnesota.

Barring a collapse, 5-2 or 6-1 will be enough to put the Packers in excellent playoff position.

Complaint department: Coming out of their bye, the Packers will play four of five games on the road. In fact, their only home game between Nov. 8 and Dec. 25 will be Dec. 5 against San Francisco. That’s a long time to be away from Lambeau Field.

Interesting note courtesy of Packers public relations: The Packers’ Week 10 bye is the latest allowed under NFL rules and is the latest bye in franchise history. The Packers have more games before the bye (nine) than they do afterward (seven). Take that to the house.

Packers Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, at Philadelphia, 4:15 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Monday, Sep. 27, at Chicago, 8:30 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, at Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, Minnesota, 8:20 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, at NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, Dallas, 8:20 PM
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, at Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, at Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, San Francisco, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, at Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, at New England, 8:20 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, NY Giants, 4:15 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, Chicago, 1:00 PM

Breakdown: The defending AFC North champions have quite a road ahead of them. Coming off 10 wins and a first-place finish in 2009, the Cincinnati Bengals have the fourth-toughest schedule in the NFL.

It will be interesting to see how Cincinnati handles its success. The Bengals haven't had back-to-back winning seasons in 28 years and will try to accomplish that feat against one of the league's toughest slates.

The Bengals sputtered at the end of the last season, which doesn't bode well for momentum. But with a very good defense and expected improvements made in the passing game, Cincinnati looks to contend for a playoff spot once again.

Complaint department: If last year was any indication, the Bengals could end the season against four likely playoff contenders in the final five weeks of the season.

Starting in Week 13, Cincinnati will play the defending champion New Orleans Saints. The Bengals also will play the Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 14), San Diego Chargers (Week 16) and Baltimore Ravens (Week 17). Last year Cincinnati faded down the stretch but probably can't afford to do the same this season if it wants to qualify for the postseason.

Thanksgiving with the Jets: After losing to the New York Jets in back-to-back weeks, which included the wild-card round, the Bengals will get another crack at last year's nemesis in Week 12. The matchup will be a Thanksgiving prime-time game on NFL Network Nov. 25.

The Jets were dominant in both meetings last season. If Cincinnati wants to prove New York doesn't have its number, the Bengals will get their chance on national television.

Bengals Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, at New England, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, at Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Monday, Nov. 8, Pittsburgh, 8:30 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 14, at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 25, at NY Jets, 8:20 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, San Diego, 8:20 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM

Breakdown: It the Raiders are going to break out of their seven-season abyss (they have lost at least 11 games in each season since 2003, an NFL record), they will do so by being fresh.

The Raiders don’t travel long distances for the much of the first 10 weeks of the season. After playing at Tennessee in Week 1, the Raiders don’t cross the country until Week 11 when they play at Pittsburgh. Oakland’s trips during the 10-week stretch (which includes the team’s bye week) are to Arizona, San Francisco and Denver.

Five of Oakland’s first nine games are at home. If the Raiders are going to improve, they must take advantage of the early portion of the season.

Complaint department: Oakland’s schedule gets tougher when it plays the Steelers. Oakland then plays Miami, San Diego, Jacksonville, Denver, Indianapolis and Kansas City. If the Raiders want to be in the AFC playoff race, they will have to handle their conference competition.

No prime time: Oakland is the only team in the AFC West not to have a prime-time game scheduled. Oakland has hosted a "Monday Night Football" game in three of the past four seasons. This year, Oakland doesn’t have a Sunday night or a Monday night game scheduled.

Raiders Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, St. Louis, 4:05 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, at Arizona, 4:15 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, Houston, 4:05 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, San Diego, 4:15 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, at San Francisco, 4:05 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, at Denver, 4:15 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, Seattle, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, Kansas City, 4:15 PM
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, Miami, 4:05 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, at San Diego, 4:05 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, Denver, 4:15 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, Indianapolis, 4:05 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, at Kansas City, 1:00 PM

Chicago Bears schedule analysis

April, 20, 2010
4/20/10
8:10
PM ET
Breakdown: When I look at Chicago's schedule, I see an early storm followed by some calm seas. Oh yes, I am full of maritime references -- and many other things -- tonight.

The Bears play three of their first five games on the road, including tough matchups at Dallas, the New York Giants and Carolina. NFC North teams provide the opponent for their two home games in that stretch. So let's not rule out a 2-3 or even a 1-4 start for this team. (I know someone will throw that back in my face when the Bears soar to a 5-0 start, but what the heck.)

But if the Bears can weather that initial grouping of games, they have an opportunity to start their playoff run in mid-October. They have home games against Seattle and Washington, followed by their bye, a trip to Toronto to play Buffalo and a home matchup against Minnesota.

If the Bears are a playoff team, they're going at least 3-1 in that stretch and will be in contention for the final seven games of the season.

Complaint department: The Bears will have to travel to all three NFC North locales over the final five weeks of the season. Winning at a Black and Blue stadium is tough enough. Doing it in December (or January), with a possible playoff spot on the line, will be a particularly tough task.

Prime time: The Bears won't play on Thanksgiving as originally rumored. But they do have four prime-time games, including "Monday Night Football" matchups against Green Bay and at Minnesota. I know where I'll be those weeks.

Bears Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, at Dallas, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Monday, Sep. 27, Green Bay, 8:30 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, at NY Giants, 8:20 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, Seattle, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 14, Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Thursday, Nov. 18, at Miami, 8:20 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, Philadelphia, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, at Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, New England, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Monday, Dec. 20, at Minnesota, 8:30 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, at Green Bay, 1:00 PM

Breakdown: With the Buccaneers building with youth, there probably won’t be any overnight miracles. But look at the first three games on the schedule -- it’s at least possible the Bucs could start 2-1 or 3-0. They’ve got the Browns, Panthers and Steelers and it’s entirely possible Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could be suspended for that game. In a bit of irony, Byron Leftwich, who was traded from Tampa Bay to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, could be starting for the Steelers that day.

The schedule only gets more difficult after a Week 4 bye, but the Bucs could build some momentum with a fast start. It’s a well-known fact the Buccaneers have struggled in cold weather since the franchise started. They’ve got potential cold-weather games in Baltimore and Washington.

Complaint department: The Buccaneers do not have a single game in prime time. Then again, did you really expect the NFL to put a team that was 3-13 last year on national television?

Blackout time?: The Buccaneers have sold out every game at Raymond James Stadium since they moved there in 1998. Keeping that streak alive might have involved some creative accounting last year because there sure appeared to be a lot of empty seats. But the world’s best ticket-sales force might not be able to prevent local television blackouts this year. The Bucs might be able to sell out the first two games against Cleveland and Pittsburgh because a lot of Tampa Bay residents are transplants from Ohio and Pennsylvania. Plus, the champion Saints come to town Oct. 17 and that game should take care of itself. But the Rams are coming to town Oct. 24. I’m thinking the only way that one sells out is if the Bucs are 5-0 and Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Mike Alstott and Warren Sapp come out of retirement and sign with St. Louis.

Buccaneers Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 4: BYE
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, St. Louis, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, at Arizona, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, at Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 14, Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, at San Francisco, 4:05 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, at Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, Seattle, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, at New Orleans, 1:00 PM

New York Giants schedule analysis

April, 20, 2010
4/20/10
8:07
PM ET
Breakdown: The New York Giants have the seventh toughest schedule in the league, but they have to like the way it lays out. The only back-to-back road games -- there's a bye in the middle of the other one -- comes at the end of the season. The Giants will finish with road games at the Green Bay Packers and the Washington Redskins.

It's pretty impressive that a team that finished third in the division scored four prime-time games. It's pretty interesting that the Giants don't play a division opponent until Week 7. That's when they travel to Cowboys Stadium and play on ESPN's "Monday Night Football." It will mark the fourth straight season the two teams have played a night game in North Texas.

Since the Carolina Panthers closed Giants Stadium down with a beatdown, it's fitting that they'll travel to New Meadowlands Stadium in Week 1. That's a 1 p.m. ET game. I would have preferred seeing the Philadelphia Eagles open the new stadium. The Giants' first prime-time game comes in Week 2 on the road against the Indianapolis Colts. That's an NBC game and it's probably good to go ahead and get Manning vs. Manning out of the way early.

Coach Tom Coughlin hates the early bye, so I'm sure he's very pleased about the Week 8 draw. That will allow the Giants to recover from a big road game at Cowboys Stadium before they travel across the country to play the Seattle Seahawks.

Complaint Dept.: We've seen what happens when the Giants back load their schedule with division opponents. I'm not sure it's a great thing to only play one division game in the first nine weeks. I don't see a ton to complain about because the Giants don't have to stay on the road for long periods of time. But that's a brutal December, just like what the Cowboys drew. They open the month by hosting the Redskins and then they close the season on the road against Washington.

I know the league was trying to make the last two weeks more meaningful, but they may end up making us wait too long for some of the marquee games. Other than the trip to Indy, there's really not a great matchup until Monday, Oct. 25, when the Giants play Dallas on the road.

I just keep going back to that December stretch. You have the Minnesota Vikings and Packers sprinkled in between three division games.

Most-appealing matchup: Maybe the Redskins will have faded by Dec. 5, but I still think Donovan McNabb coming to New Meadowlands Stadium will be pretty special. I like Eli vs. Peyton in Week 2, but for whatever reason, seeing McNabb roll into the Meadowlands in Burgundy and Gold is very appealing to me. It's a real downer that the league sent the Panthers to open the new stadium. I'm sure most Giants fans were hoping for the Cowboys to arrive.

Giants Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, at Indianapolis, 8:20 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, Chicago, 8:20 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, at Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Monday, Oct. 25, at Dallas, 8:30 PM
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, at Seattle, 4:05 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 14, Dallas, 4:15 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, at Philadelphia, 8:20 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, at Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, Philadelphia, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, at Green Bay, 4:15 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, at Washington, 1:00 PM

Breakdown: Based on their offseason moves, the Baltimore Ravens are making a push for the Super Bowl. The Ravens feel this could be their year after falling short to the AFC champion Indianapolis Colts last season in the divisional round.

Baltimore boasts the No. 12-rated strength of schedule in the NFL, which isn't too daunting coming off a playoff appearance in 2009. There are some tough stretches, but overall the Ravens have enough talent to handle their schedule.

The Ravens were awarded four prime-time games, which was second most in the AFC North to the Pittsburgh Steelers (five).

Complaint department: Baltimore usually feels like it gets the short end on a lot of things, and the Ravens have a legitimate complaint with the opening month of the schedule. The Ravens play three of their first four games on the road. Baltimore's stretch will consist of playing at the New York Jets, at the Cincinnati Bengals, home against the Cleveland Browns, and at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

All three road games are against teams with winning records last year. So that is not an easy slate, especially if Steelers star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is back on the field in Week 4 against Baltimore.

Ravens vs. Rex: The Ravens will know where they stand right away when they open the season to play the Jets. Both teams are early Super Bowl contenders in the AFC and it should be a very interesting matchup on "Monday Night Football" Sept. 13.

Of course, former longtime Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan is now the head coach of the Jets. Both teams have similar personalities. So expect a lot of trash talk leading up to this game.

Ravens Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Monday, Sep. 13, at NY Jets, 7:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, Denver, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, at New England, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Thursday, Nov. 11, at Atlanta, 8:20 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, Pittsburgh, 8:20 PM
Week 14: Monday, Dec. 13, at Houston, 8:30 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, Cincinnati, 1:00 PM

Breakdown: The Saints are playing a franchise-record five nationally-televised games and the first two games will be at night. When a team wins a championship, the common saying is they become the biggest target on the schedule for every opponent and that’s probably true with the Saints.

The other nationally-televised games will be in prime time, but the Saints will play their first-ever Thanksgiving Day game at Dallas at 4:15 p.m. The Cowboys ended New Orleans’ shot at an undefeated season last year and this rematch has “huge audience’’ written all over it. So does the season opener against Minnesota, a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game and it gets even better if Brett Favre still is with the Vikings.

Complaint department: The Saints have a nicely placed bye in Week 9, but they’ll have to face the Seahawks at home after that and get ready for the Cowboys in a very short week. That’s never an ideal situation, but the Saints are used to dealing with adversity when it comes to the schedule. In recent history, they’ve had to pull off a trip to London and work their way around some hurricane warnings. December trips to Cincinnati and Baltimore might involve some cold weather.

Gift department: Sean Payton took it easy on his players last year, resting some starters late in the season. That was because the Saints had already clinched everything they could clinch. It might be a little tougher and take a little longer to do that this year, but the Saints are catching what appears to be a huge break as they host the Buccaneers in the regular-season finale.

Saints Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Thursday, Sep. 9, Minnesota, 8:30 PM
Week 2: Monday, Sep. 20, at San Francisco, 8:30 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, at Arizona, 4:05 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, Pittsburgh, 8:20 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, Seattle, 4:05 PM
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 25, at Dallas, 4:15 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, St. Louis, 4:05 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Monday, Dec. 27, at Atlanta, 8:30 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM

Breakdown: Who’s good from one year to the next varies greatly, of course. But four Jacksonville games in 2010 that look like they should be winnable -- at Buffalo, at Kansas City, against Cleveland and against Oakland -- are nicely spread throughout the Jaguars’ schedule. The four games against the NFC East and the rematches against AFC South foes are also reasonably spread out. They draw the revamping Eagles early and the Bills before Buffalo freezes up. The bye week is right in the middle of things and outside of a trip to San Diego and that game against the Eagles, I don’t see anything that looks like an especially difficult back-to-back. On first look, I like the way things space out for the Jaguars.

Complaint department: They’ve got another tough closing stretch with four of six on the road. The final three weeks feature trips to the two teams expected to be atop the AFC South -- Jacksonville finishes at Indy, against Washington and at Houston. They are the sort of games you want at year’s end if you’re ascending.

Go West: Last year the Jaguars lost 41-0 in Seattle and 20-3 at San Francisco. Can Jack Del Rio get his team better prepared to go coast to coast? We’ll find out early, because a Week 2 trip to San Diego should be a tougher matchup than either of those games in 2009 looked to be. After that, Jacksonville doesn’t travel more than one time zone.

Jaguars Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, Denver, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, at San Diego, 4:15 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, Philadelphia, 4:05 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, Indianapolis, 4:05 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Monday, Oct. 18, Tennessee, 8:30 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, at Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, at Dallas, 1:00 PM
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 14, Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, at NY Giants, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, Oakland, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, at Houston, 1:00 PM

Miami Dolphins schedule analysis

April, 20, 2010
4/20/10
7:51
PM ET
Breakdown: As much as we like to speculate how the division standings are going to shake out after we see a few games in September, it would be wise not to write off the Miami Dolphins if they stumble out of the blocks in 2010.

Their schedule would seem to be quite forgiving in November and December and should allow them to make up ground in the standings -- or pull away if they're able to get off to a quick start.

In Weeks 12 through 16, the Dolphins will play the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions, teams with a combined 27-53 record last year. The Jets are the lone team in that group with a winning record last year, and the Dolphins defeated them twice.

That said, the Dolphins face a grueling start. Of their seven opponents in Weeks 2 through 9, six of them went to the playoffs last year. The only one that didn't won the Super Bowl two seasons ago.

The Dolphins also will be without nose tackle Jason Ferguson through that stretch. He will serve an eight-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Complaint department: By virtue of their geographical separation from the rest of the division, the Dolphins will log the most roundtrip miles. Their odometers will roll up 21,200 miles -- more than twice the Buffalo Bills (9,310 miles, including their "home game" in Toronto) and New York Jets (9,996 miles).

4 on the floor: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross expressed his desire to play more 4 p.m. games at Sun Life Stadium to make the oppressive South Florida weather more tolerable for fans. The Dolphins were granted zero 4 p.m. kickoffs at home this year.

But the Dolphins will host back-to-back games under the lights against the New York Jets on Sunday night in Week 3 (Jason Taylor's first game there in a different uniform) and the New England Patriots on Monday night in Week 4.

Dolphins Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, at Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, NY Jets, 8:20 PM
Week 4: Monday, Oct. 4, New England, 8:30 PM
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, at Green Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 14, Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Thursday, Nov. 18, Chicago, 8:20 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, at Oakland, 4:05 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, at NY Jets, 4:15 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, at New England, 1:00 PM

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