NFL Nation: 2013 NFL schedule analysis

NFC schedule analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Breakdown: Coach Gus Bradley and the Jaguars’ new regime kick off against the other team that won only two games in 2012 when Kansas City visits Jacksonville on the NFL’s opening Sunday. Like the Jaguars, the Chiefs are under new leadership, headlined by Andy Reid. But he inherited a team with more talent in place, and the Chiefs dealt for veteran quarterback Alex Smith. Although Kansas City earned the top pick in the draft, it’s likely to be favored in this one.

The Jaguars go on the road for back-to-back games three times, and they have a three-game homestand in December. Their Oct. 27 "home" game against the 49ers in London comes after a home game against the Chargers and is followed by a bye week.

Complaint department: I thought two games in 17 days between the Colts and Titans was unreasonable, so the even-faster turnaround for the Jaguars’ games against the Texans is utterly ridiculous. They play Nov. 24 at Reliant Stadium, and then again Dec. 5 at EverBank Field in a Thursday night showcase. Why not just put the games back-to-back?

I’m sure the scheduling puzzle is even more complicated and difficult than I imagine. But the NFL needs to implement a rule that rematches between division opponents must have at least two weeks in between them. It would produce far more intrigue than games played in quick succession where little is likely to change about either team.

Bonding opportunity: After that reasonable opening day home game against the Chiefs, the Jaguars get consecutive games on the West Coast, at Oakland and at Seattle, where Bradley was defensive coordinator before Shad Khan and David Caldwell hired him for the Jaguars' head job.

Back-to-back trips from the Atlantic to the Pacific don’t seem real fair. But I wonder if Bradley and the Jaguars won’t make a move to negate all that travel in a season when they will also play in London. They could do so by finding a place in or near Oakland or Seattle to stay and practice for the week between games. Since the team holds training camp at its facility, the week away would serve as an early season micro-training camp, offering a young team a chance to bond while away from home.

Jaguars Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, at Oakland, 4:25 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, at Seattle, 4:25 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, at St. Louis, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, at Denver, 4:05 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, San Diego, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, San Francisco, 1 p.m.
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, at Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, Arizona, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, at Houston, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, at Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 5, Houston, 8:25 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.

Tennessee Titans schedule analysis

April, 18, 2013
4/18/13
10:07
PM ET
NFC schedule analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Breakdown: A tough early season schedule resulted in a 1-4 start for the Titans last season. They’ll face another big challenge out of the gate in 2013 in what qualifies as a make-or-break season for coach Mike Munchak. Four of the first seven games are against tough teams, at tough road venues or both.

Those include the opener at Pittsburgh, a Week 2 game at Houston, Week 6 at Seattle and Week 7 against San Francisco. The Titans will probably need to fare well in a three-game homestand sandwiched between those two pairs of games -- against San Diego, the Jets and Kansas City.

The Titans play the Steelers for the sixth consecutive season. Tennessee has lost three of the past five matchups against Pittsburgh, including the 2009 Thursday night opener at Heinz Field, a 13-10 overtime loss.

Complaint department: The NFL continues to prove incapable of spacing out divisional rematches at a reasonable interval. The Titans face Indianapolis twice in a span of 17 days, in Weeks 11 and 13. It could, I suppose, wind up being favorable if they catch the Colts at a time of season when they are banged up. But that’s the point, really. The two games between division rivals should be spaced far enough apart that they see each other at different stages of the season and won’t benefit, or suffer, from the same injuries.

The Titans' game at Lucas Oil Stadium is sandwiched between long road trips to Oakland (where the Titans have lost three in a row, including the 2002 AFC Championship Game) and to Denver in what can be a very difficult stretch away from home for a young team.

Potentially big finale: The league has filled the final weekend of the regular season with all divisional matchups. If the Titans are going to surprise people and emerge as a playoff team, odds are it will require an upset in the last week of the season when they host the Houston Texans, the team that’s won the division the past two seasons.

Tennessee has lost three out of its past four against the Texans, winning only the 2011 season finale when the Texans had clinched their playoff positioning and went for, and missed, a 2-point conversion after a late touchdown to ensure there'd be no overtime.

Titans Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 8, at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 15, at Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 22, San Diego, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Sep. 29, NY Jets, 4:05 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, at Seattle, 4:05 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, San Francisco, 4:05 PM
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, at St. Louis, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Thursday, Nov. 14, Indianapolis, 8:25 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, at Oakland, 4:05 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, at Denver, 4:05 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, Arizona, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Houston, 1:00 PM

New York Giants schedule analysis

April, 18, 2013
4/18/13
9:42
PM ET
NFC schedule analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Breakdown: They aren't defending Super Bowl champions this year, but the New York Giants remain a prime-time darling with five nationally televised games in 2013. It all begins Week 1 in Dallas, when they play the Cowboys in a Sunday night matchup. They get a Thursday night game in Week 6 in Chicago against the Bears and a home game against the Vikings on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" in Week 7. They host the Packers on Sunday night in Week 11, then visit Robert Griffin III and the Redskins in Washington for another Sunday night game in Week 13.

The Giants get the bye week every team wants -- Week 9, smack in the middle of the season. And it begins the easiest part of their schedule from a travel standpoint, as their first three games after the bye are all home games. If the Giants are going to have another one of those "November swoons," it's going to be harder than ever for them to explain. They play only three games in the month of November, all at home right in a row after the bye against Oakland, Green Bay and Dallas.

One oddity is that only two of the Giants' final five games are division games, and both are against the Redskins. They'll be done with the Eagles before their bye week, done with the Cowboys in Week 12 and won't yet have seen the Redskins. The league likes when possible to pack the final few weeks with division games, and the Giants do close with a home game against Washington, but in the three weeks prior to that they play the Chargers, Seahawks and Lions.

Complaint department: Somehow, things look tough early and late. Three of the Giants' first four games are road games, and three of their final five games are road games. The Thursday night game in Chicago in Week 6 comes just four days after a division game against the Eagles. They'll get a well-rested Cowboys team twice, as they play them in Week 1 and then play them in Week 12 after Dallas' bye week. And if you buy the theory I've put through in every one of these schedule-analysis posts so far that it's better to get the Redskins early while Griffin is still recovering from knee surgery, then the fact that both of the Giants-Redskins games are in December doesn't do the Giants any favors.

Brother vs. brother: What's amazing about this schedule is that the Giants have those five prime-time games, but the game against the Denver Broncos isn't one of them. The prime-time networks must have tried to grab the game between Giants quarterback Eli Manning and his brother, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, but CBS instead snagged it for a late-Sunday afternoon showcase in Week 2. The game will be at MetLife Stadium at 4:25 pm ET.

Giants Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, at Dallas, 8:30 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, Denver, 4:25 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, at Carolina, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Thursday, Oct. 10, at Chicago, 8:25 p.m.
Week 7: Monday, Oct. 21, Minnesota, 8:30 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, Oakland, 1 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, Green Bay, 8:30 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, Dallas, 4:25 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, at Washington, 8:30 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, at San Diego, 4:25 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, Seattle, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, at Detroit, 4:05 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Washington, 1:00 p.m.

NFC schedule analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Breakdown: The Cincinnati Bengals will open on the road for the fourth straight season when it plays at the Chicago Bears, who are beginning the Marc Trestman era. In an unusual trend, this marks the fifth time in eight years that Cincinnati opens against a team that is in its first year with a new coach. The Bengals beat Herm Edwards and the Chiefs in 2006, lost to John Harbaugh and the Ravens in 2008, fell to Josh McDaniels and the Broncos in 2009, and beat Pat Shurmur and the Browns in 2011.

Cincinnati plays two of its first three games at Paul Brown Stadium and its last two games at home, which might not be a big advantage if the Bengals duplicate last season. The Bengals were 4-4 at home in 2012 and 6-2 on the road. The Bengals will play their last two games at home -- against two playoff teams from last season in Minnesota and Baltimore -- for only the second time in the last 16 seasons.

The Bengals have the latest bye week in the division. Their off week comes in Week 12.

Complaint department: Smack in the middle of the season, the Bengals play four road games in five weeks. This might not be a problem because, as noted earlier, the Bengals were one of the best road teams in the league last year. Cincinnati also catches a break because three of those road trips come against teams that had losing records last season (Buffalo, Detroit and Miami). The fourth road game is at defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore. This grueling road stretch comes after the Bengals play the New England Patriots at home.

Ready for prime time? After making the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, the Bengals are getting more respect, receiving three prime-time games. Two of those national television matchups are against the Steelers. The other is a Thursday night game at Miami on Oct. 31. Cincinnati now has to prove it's ready for prime time. Since the start of the 2007 season, the Bengals are 1-9 in the national spotlight. This ties the Jacksonville Jaguars for the worst record in prime time during that stretch.

Bengals Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, at Chicago, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Monday, Sept. 16, Pittsburgh, 8:30 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, Green Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, at Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, New England, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, at Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, at Detroit, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, NY Jets, 4:05 p.m.
Week 9: Thursday, Oct. 31, at Miami, 8:25 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 12: BYE
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, at San Diego, 4:25 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, at Pittsburgh, 8:30 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Baltimore, 1 p.m.

St. Louis Rams schedule analysis

April, 18, 2013
4/18/13
9:28
PM ET
NFC schedule analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Breakdown: The Rams drew a Monday night home game against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 8, a huge improvement from last season, when St. Louis spent Week 8 in London absorbing a 45-7 defeat to New England. This game against Seattle will mark the Rams' first Monday nighter at home since the 2006 season. That is clearly progress. The Rams went undefeated at home in the division last season. They were 4-1-1 overall against NFC West opponents. This can become a statement game for the Rams.

The Rams got two prime-time games overall, both at home against division opponents. The San Francisco 49ers visit the Edward Jones Dome in Week 4, a tough trip for the 49ers on a short week after they open against playoff teams Green Bay, Seattle and Indianapolis.

Complaint department: I suppose we could complain about drawing Steven Jackson in the Atlanta Falcons' home opener, when Jackson figures to be fresh as ever. But that would be a stretch. The Rams have no three-game road trips. Their bye falls at a good time. They have two home games on national television for the first time since 2004. They have that Monday night game at home. They bailed from the London trip that could have robbed another home game from fans. All in all, the Rams came out just fine, even if they could do without another Week 17 game at Seattle.

Familiar faces: Jackson, the Rams' career rushing leader, isn't the only familiar face on the schedule. The Rams face former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in Jeff Fisher's return to Tennessee on Nov. 3. That's one to circle on the schedule. Their date with one-time defensive coordinator candidate Rob Ryan falls on Dec. 15.

Rams Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, Arizona, 4:25 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, at Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, at Dallas, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Thursday, Sept. 26, San Francisco, 8:25 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, at Houston, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, at Carolina, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Monday, Oct. 28, Seattle, 8:30 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, Chicago, 1:00 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, at San Francisco, 4:05 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, at Arizona, 4:25 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, New Orleans, 1:00 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, Tampa Bay, 1:00 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, at Seattle, 4:25 p.m.

NFC schedule analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Breakdown: After coming up 10 yards short of the Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons will enter the 2013 season as a media darling. They’ll have five nationally televised games, including Sunday night games with the Patriots (Week 4) and at Green Bay (Week 14), Monday night games with the New York Jets (Week 5) and at San Francisco (Week 16), and a Thursday night game with New Orleans (Week 12). The Falcons will be under the microscope from the start, and that’s partly because they’ll open their season against the rival Saints in New Orleans in a game that will mark the official return of coach Sean Payton from a suspension. The Falcons are generally known as a dome team, and that’s a good thing. They will play 11 games indoors but could run into weather issues in late-season road games at Green Bay and San Francisco.

Complaint department: Team president Rich McKay chairs the NFL’s competition committee, but he apparently doesn’t have much influence with the schedule-makers. This will mark the fourth straight year the Falcons have opened their season on the road. The Falcons also have another quirk in their schedule. They play only one NFC South opponent after Thanksgiving, and that’s Carolina at the Georgia Dome in the regular-season finale.

Going international: The Falcons will make franchise history Dec. 1 when they play the Buffalo Bills at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. The Falcons have made preseason appearances in Tokyo, but this will be the first time they’ve played outside the United States during the regular season.

Welcome to the NFL: The Cardinals and Bills both have first-time NFL head coaches. In his five seasons in Atlanta, Mike Smith is 11-0 against first-time head coaches.

Falcons Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, at New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, St. Louis, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, at Miami, 4:05 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, New England, 8:30 p.m.
Week 5: Monday, Oct. 7, N.Y. Jets, 8:30 p.m.
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, at Arizona, 4:25 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, at Carolina, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, Seattle, 1 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 21, New Orleans, 8:25 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, at Buffalo, 4:05 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, at Green Bay, 8:30 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, Washington, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Monday, Dec. 23, at San Francisco, 8:30 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Carolina, 1 p.m.

NFC schedule analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Breakdown: The schedule-makers must think Mike McCoy can fix Philip Rivers and the Chargers, because even though San Diego has been shut out of the playoffs the past three seasons, the team is on prime time three times this season.

It all starts in Week 1 on the back end of a "Monday Night Football" doubleheader when the Chargers host the Houston Texans in what will be a tough test for McCoy in his head-coaching debut. It will be the seventh time in eight seasons that the league has had a Week 1 MNF doubleheader involving an AFC West team. The Chargers host Andrew Luck and Indianapolis on a Monday night in Week 6, and then the Chargers play at Denver on a Thursday night in Week 15 in a game that has some serious chill potential. But the Chargers will be rewarded for that game by getting to finish the season at home against the Raiders and Chiefs.

Complaint department: The Chargers play five of their first eight games away from home. They have some long trips during that stretch as well. The Chargers have to go all the way to Philadelphia in Week 2, and then they have to load up and go to Tennessee in Week 3. The other first-half road trips are long treks, too -- Jacksonville in Week 7 and then to Washington in Week 9, sandwiched around a bye week, during which I’m sure the team will not want to think about an airplane.

Easy road work: The one good thing about all those early road games is that the schedule is not difficult. San Diego has the easiest road schedule in the NFL this season. So if the Chargers can take care of business at home, they have a chance to string some victories together in McCoy’s first season.

Chargers Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Monday, Sept. 9, Houston, 10:15 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, at Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, Dallas, 4:25 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, at Oakland, 4:25 p.m.
Week 6: Monday, Oct. 14, Indianapolis, 8:30 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, at Washington, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, Denver, 4:25 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, at Miami, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, Cincinnati, 4:25 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, NY Giants, 4:25 p.m.
Week 15: Thursday, Dec. 12, at Denver, 8:25 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, Oakland, 4:25 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Kansas City, 4:25 p.m.
Breakdown: It gets real in a hurry for the Minnesota Vikings, who open the season with consecutive NFC North games -- on the road. They'll play at the Detroit Lions in Week 1 and at the Chicago Bears in Week 2, the first time the NFL has asked them to play a pair of divisional teams on the road during the first two weeks of the season in 21 years.

It doesn't get much easier from a travel standpoint. The Vikings' home opener comes in Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns, followed by a "home" game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in London. You would hope the Vikings could handle the Browns at home, but Minnesota will have to work hard to avoid going into its Week 5 bye with a non-losing record. Overall, it'll play twice at the Metrodome over the first seven weeks of the season.

Last year's playoff run, along with tailback Adrian Peterson's historic season, did propel the Vikings into three prime-time games -- including two in a row. They'll have a Monday night game at the New York Giants in Week 7 and a Sunday night matchup at home against the Green Bay Packers in Week 8.

The last regular-season game at the Metrodome will be in Week 17 against the Detroit Lions. The stadium, opened in 1982, is scheduled to be razed to make room for the team's new stadium. The Vikings will move to the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium for 2014 and 2015.

Complaint department: The Vikings went 7-1 at the Metrodome last season and are 164-89 there all time. This season, however, they'll have one fewer game in the building thanks to their entrance into the London rotation. The Vikings were eager volunteers, given their limited local revenues at the Metrodome, but let's face it: Playing the Steelers outdoors at Wembley Stadium is a lot different than hosting them in the Metrodome. The Vikings will technically be the home team but won't have a traditional home-field advantage.

Minnesota West: Week 11 will bring the Vikings' grudge match against the legions of former players now on the Seattle Seahawks' roster. When they travel to play the Seahawks for a Nov. 17 game, the Vikings will see receivers Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice and cornerback Antoine Winfield, among others. Former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will also be calling the Seahawks' plays.

Vikings Regular-Season Schedule (all times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, at Detroit, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, at Chicago, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, Carolina, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Monday, Oct. 21, at NY Giants, 8:30 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, Green Bay, 8:30 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, at Dallas, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Thursday, Nov. 7, Washington, 8:25 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, at Seattle, 4:25 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, at Green Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, Chicago, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Detroit, 1 p.m.

NFC schedule analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Breakdown: The questions about Robert Griffin III and his recovery from offseason knee surgery wasn't enough to deter the NFL and ESPN from scheduling the Washington Redskins for a "Monday Night Football" matchup in Week 1 against the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles. (That's an early-starting 7:10 p.m. ET Monday game, by the way, since there are two that night.) But the defending division champions' other four prime-time games don't come until after their Week 5 bye. The Redskins play at Dallas on Sunday night in Week 6, at Minnesota on Thursday night in Week 10 (in the ACL Bowl between Griffin and Adrian Peterson), host the defending NFC champion 49ers on "Monday Night Football" in Week 12 and then host the Giants on a Sunday night in Week 13.

The early bye week has to be viewed as a benefit by a team whose starting quarterback is recovering from major surgery. Even if Griffin is ready to return prior to Week 5, it'll be helpful for him to get a chance to rest his legs so early in the season. And if his recovery is still in progress in September and early October, it'll be helpful for the Redskins to get a week off while he's still working his way back.

There's only one time all season when the Redskins are scheduled to play road games in successive weeks. Even that comes with a helper, as they have 10 days between their Week 10 Thursday night game in Minnesota and their Week 11 Sunday game in Philadelphia.

Outdoor road games in Green Bay and Denver come early in the year, and the only outdoor road game the Redskins play in December is the Week 17 finale against the Giants.

The Week 8 game in Denver will be former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan's first game in Denver since becoming Redskins head coach prior to the 2010 season.

Complaint department: The stretch coming out of that Week 5 bye isn't super-fun, with four of six games on the road. Their first game out of the bye is a division title game rematch against the Cowboys in Dallas. Then they go home to play the Bears, on the road to Denver, home to play the Chargers and then play at Minnesota and Philadelphia in Weeks 10 and 11. The Minnesota trip comes on a short week, as it's a Thursday night game four days after the home game against San Diego.

Head-to-head: If the Redskins are going to defend their division title, they're going to get a chance to handle their closest division rivals themselves at the most crucial time of the year. Three of Washington's five December games are division games -- two against the Giants and one against the Cowboys. They host the Giants in Week 13 and the Cowboys in Week 16, then travel to play the Giants in New Jersey for the Week 17 season finale.

Redskins Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Monday, Sept. 9, Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, at Green Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, Detroit, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, at Oakland, 4:25 p.m.
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, at Dallas, 8:30 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, Chicago, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, at Denver, 4:25 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, San Diego, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Thursday, Nov. 7, at Minnesota, 8:25 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Monday, Nov. 25, San Francisco, 8:30 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, NY Giants, 8:30 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, at Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, Dallas, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, at NY Giants, 1 p.m.

NFC schedule analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Breakdown: The Colts look to have a favorable start and finish to their 2013 slate. They open against Oakland, against Miami, at San Francisco and at Jacksonville. We know teams can make major jumps in one season, just as the Colts did last year. But our reference point is last season. And while the 49ers are the defending NFC champions, the other three teams combined for 13 wins in 2012 and certainly appear beatable.

Indianapolis’ final two games are at Kansas City and against Jacksonville. A road trip to Arrowhead Stadium in the dead of winter is never easy, and the Chiefs are likely to be far better at the end of their first season under Andy Reid than at the start. Still, they were the worst team in the league in 2012. The Jaguars were the other two-win team. The top two picks in the draft, providing neither team trades back, will be at the end of their initial seasons. They could be worn down or they could have found a rhythm.

Complaint department: The Colts get an unfair deal in advance of what may qualify as the NFL’s regular-season game of the year. Sunday night football On Oct. 20 should be a huge ratings game as Peyton Manning returns to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with the Denver Broncos.

Indy will be recovering from a West Coast road trip on a short week for "Monday Night Football" at San Diego. The Broncos, meanwhile, will be coming off a home game against Jacksonville. It’s not exactly an even Week 6, but these sorts of things happen and the Colts will have to be ready even if they won’t be as well rested as the Broncos.

Favorable division rematches: The Colts’ second games against each of their AFC South opponents come in the final five weeks of the season and are all at home. Indianapolis hosts the Titans in Week 13, the Texans in Week 15 and the Jaguars in Week 17. That Texans game could be crucial for deciding the division crown and the Colts have a huge advantage. Houston has lost all 11 times it’s played in Indianapolis.

In all, five of Indianapolis’ last nine games are against AFC South teams.

Colts Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, Oakland, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, Miami, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, at San Francisco, 4:25 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, Seattle, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Monday, Oct. 14, at San Diego, 8:30 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, Denver, 8:30 p.m.
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, at Houston, 8:30 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, St. Louis, 1:00 p.m.
Week 11: Thursday, Nov. 14, at Tennessee, 8:25 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, at Arizona, 4:05 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, Houston, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Jacksonville, 1 p.m.

Buffalo Bills schedule analysis

April, 18, 2013
4/18/13
9:10
PM ET
NFC schedule analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Breakdown: The Buffalo Bills are a team in transition. They claim they are not rebuilding and want to win now. However, Buffalo has significant changes at head coach, quarterback and offensive and defensive coordinator this upcoming season.

Fortunately for the Bills, they have the 26th-ranked strength of schedule, which is the easiest schedule in the AFC East. But Buffalo must get a lot of things together internally this offseason before it feels confident to succeed in the regular season. The biggest challenge will be settling the quarterback competition between veterans Kevin Kolb, Tarvaris Jackson and a potential top rookie draft pick.

Complaint department: I thought it was cruel of the NFL to give Buffalo rookie head coach Doug Marrone his first assignment against the New England Patriots in his first game. Marrone was hired from Syracuse and now has to match coaching strategies against Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. It is a chance for Marrone to make a huge statement in his NFL debut. But there is also the likelihood that the Marrone era could get off to a losing start in Week 1.

Not prime time: After the Bills made a splash in free agency last season and flopped, you had a feeling television networks would not have much interest in putting the Bills on in prime time this season. Buffalo has just one national game, against the Cleveland Browns, on Thursday, Oct. 3. The Bills have one of the most electric players in the NFL in tailback C.J. Spiller, but a national audience will get a chance to see Spiller just once this season.

Bills Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, New England, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, Carolina, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, at NY Jets, 4:25 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Thursday, Oct. 3, at Cleveland, 8:25 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, at Miami, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, at New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, NY Jets, 1 p.m.
Week 12: BYE
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, Atlanta, 4:05 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, Miami, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, at New England, 1 p.m.
NFC schedule analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Breakdown: The Saints may be coming off a losing season, but they still are going to get plenty of national attention. They’ll play four games in prime time, including two at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints’ schedule is tied for the second-hardest slate in the NFL (a .539 winning percentage by opponents in 2012). But the best news might be that coach Sean Payton will make his official return to the sideline following a one-year suspension in the opener against Atlanta at home. The Saints and Falcons are one of the league’s hottest rivalries (the Saints have won 11 of 14 meetings since 2006) and Payton’s return only adds another storyline. The key to New Orleans’ season might be the four-week stretch from Nov. 10 to Dec. 2. In that span, the Saints will host Dallas and San Francisco and then travel to Atlanta and Seattle.

Complaint department: Saints fans might call it a conspiracy by the NFL and they might be right. But the schedule makers have set up an Oct. 13 game at New England that could be historic. Tom Brady currently has a streak of 48 games with at least one touchdown pass. New Orleans’ Drew Brees set the record (54). As long as Brady can keep the streak going, he’ll have a chance to tie Brees’ record against the Saints. That could give new coordinator Rob Ryan some material to motivate his defense for Brady.

Road warriors: The Saints are used to hitting the road. They’ve had to get out of New Orleans due to weather and Payton often has had his team practice elsewhere in the preseason. That experience might come in handy. The Saints have three separate times when they will have to play back-to-back games on the road. But the bright side is the Saints will play three of their first four games at home and they also will be home with Tampa Bay in the final week of the regular season.

Saints Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, at Tampa Bay, 4:05 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, Arizona, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Monday, Sept. 30, Miami, 8:30 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, at Chicago, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, at New England, 4:25 p.m.
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, at NY Jets, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, Dallas, 8:30 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, San Francisco, 4:25 p.m.
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 21, at Atlanta, 8:25 p.m.
Week 13: Monday, Dec. 2, at Seattle, 8:30 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Carolina, 1:00 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, at St. Louis, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, at Carolina, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

NFC schedule analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Breakdown: The schedule-makers believe the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to bounce back from a disappointing 8-8 season. The Steelers play four prime-time games, including two in the first three weeks of the season. After opening at home against the Tennessee Titans -- the first home game to start a season since 2010 -- Pittsburgh is at the Cincinnati Bengals for "Monday Night Football" and home against the Chicago Bears for Sunday night.

The other national TV games are at Baltimore on Thanksgiving night, which will hardly be a family affair, and home against the Bengals for Sunday night on Dec. 15. Barring a flex situation, the two meetings between the Steelers and Bengals are in prime time. The Steelers go from the national spotlight to the international one, when they face the Minnesota Vikings in London on Sept. 29.

The reunion with Mike Wallace is Dec. 8, when the wide receiver returns to Heinz Field for the first time since signing his five-year, $60 million deal with the Miami Dolphins. Will Wallace be able to break a long one against his former team? The Steelers ranked first in pass defense last season and allowed two passes more than 40 yards, the fewest in the NFL.

Complaint department: The Steelers really can't complain about getting another early bye. Pittsburgh has to take off in Week 5 because that follows its trip to London. But the Steelers can't be too happy with what follows the bye. Pittsburgh plays three out of four games on the road, including a trip to New England a week after a cross-country flight to Oakland (where the Steelers always seem to have problems). The only home game in October is against the Ravens, who have won three straight times at Heinz.

Looking for a fast start: Pittsburgh has had sluggish starts in three of the past four seasons. The Steelers began 2-3 in 2012, 2-2 in 2011 and 1-2 in 2009. It will be a challenge to get off to a better start in 2013. The Steelers begin against the Titans, who beat Pittsburgh last season, and then play at the Bengals, who have been to the playoffs the past two seasons. Pittsburgh's next two games are against the NFC North's Bears and Vikings, who were a combined 21-11 last season.

Steelers Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 8, Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Monday, Sep. 16, at Cincinnati, 8:30 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 22, Chicago, 8:30 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Sep. 29, at Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, at NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, Baltimore, 4:25 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, at Oakland, 4:05 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, at New England, 4:25 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Thursday, Nov. 28, at Baltimore, 8:30 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, Cincinnati, 8:30 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, at Green Bay, 4:25 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Cleveland, 1:00 PM

NFC schedule analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Breakdown: It’s no surprise, but Peyton Manning and his band are a popular bunch. The Broncos, who have the easiest schedule in the NFL based on 2012 results, will be in prime time five times. It all starts Sept. 5 in the NFL's season opener on a Thursday night. It has become a tradition to start the NFL season at the home of the defending Super Bowl champions, but because of a conflict with the Baltimore Orioles, the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens are starting on the road. This is a big break for Denver. The crowd will be sky high in the rematch of a painful double-overtime defeat for Denver in the playoffs. The Broncos remain in the spotlight in Week 2 when Manning travels to New York to meet his brother Eli Manning and the Giants. This will be the third meeting between the brothers and the first since Peyton left the Colts; Peyton is 2-0 against his younger sibling. In another big game, in the Sunday night game in Week 7 Manning returns to Indianapolis, where he spent 14 seasons. That game could be perhaps the most emotional of Manning’s career.

Complaint department: The Broncos have to be pretty happy with this schedule, but there's a potential problem with two road games to end the season. If Denver needs to clinch something, it may have to do it on the road. It plays at Houston in a potentially huge AFC game in Week 16 and then at Oakland in Week 17. The good thing is there won’t be any snow in either game.

Reunion year: Manning’s trip to Indianapolis and the Manning Bowl aren’t the only reunion games on Denver’s schedule. Free-agent prize receiver Wes Welker returns to New England in Week 12. Mike Shanahan, who coached the Broncos for 14 seasons before he was fired after the 2008 season, returns to Denver for the first time with Washington in Week 8. Of course, the Baltimore game also marks the return of pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil. He left the Broncos after the infamous fax machine gaffe.

Broncos Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Thursday, Sept. 5, Baltimore, 8:30 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, at NY Giants, 4:25 p.m.
Week 3: Monday, Sept. 23, Oakland, 8:30 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, Philadelphia, 4:25 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, at Dallas, 4:25 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, Jacksonville, 4:05 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, at Indianapolis, 8:30 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, Washington, 4:25 p.m.
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, at San Diego, 4:25 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, Kansas City, 4:05 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, at New England, 8:30 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Tennessee, 4:05 p.m.
Week 15: Thursday, Dec. 12, San Diego, 8:25 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, at Houston, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, at Oakland, 4:25 p.m.

New York Jets schedule analysis

April, 18, 2013
4/18/13
9:03
PM ET
NFC schedule analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Breakdown: It’s only fitting that the circus begins right away for New York. The NFL, with a cruel dose of irony, scheduled a home game for the Jets against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1. These are the same two teams in heavy trade talks for star cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Would the Jets trade Revis to Tampa Bay only to face their best player in the first game of the season? An already interesting situation just became more compelling. The Jets would like to get off to a fast start to a new era under general manager John Idzik in addition to a must-win year for coach Rex Ryan. Shipping your best player to a Week 1 opponent is not a formula for success.

The Jets are a rebuilding team in need of confidence after back-to-back losing seasons. New York has the 19th-ranked strength of schedule. That’s not bad, but considering the team is struggling on offense and at quarterback and could lose Revis, the Jets are not a lock to win against any opponent this season.

Complaint department: The NFL really stuck it to the Jets to start the season. Not only did the league schedule the possibility of facing Revis to open the season, but New York also travels to play the rival New England Patriots on Thursday night in Week 2. The Jets will have a short week of preparation against their biggest division rival. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jets 0-2 just five days into the regular season.

Wild card: Although it’s hard to top a potential “Revis Bowl” in Week 1, New York also must face former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine twice this season with the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 22 and Nov. 11. Pettine left the Jets to take over the play-calling duties on defense with Buffalo. The Bills will run a similar scheme and it will be fun to watch Pettine match his skills against former mentor Ryan, who also will be calling the defensive plays in New York.

Jets Regular-Season Schedule (all times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Thursday, Sept. 12, at New England, 8:25 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, Buffalo, 4:25 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, at Tennessee, 4:05 p.m.
Week 5: Monday, Oct. 7, at Atlanta, 8:30 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, New England, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, at Cincinnati, 4:05 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, at Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, Miami, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Oakland, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, at Carolina, 4:05 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, at Miami, 1 p.m.

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