It's almost July, which means it's getting close to time for players to report to training camps in advance of the 2017 NFL season. This is as good a time as any for you to brush up on the schedules of your favorite teams, both in the NFC and AFC. Here's a look at how the AFC schedule breaks, just from how I read it.
The Bills get three in a row at home sandwiched around back-to-back road games in Weeks 11-12 and 16-17. Since the schedule makers started putting division games for all 32 teams in Week 17 in the 2010 season, the Bills have played the Jets four times and New England three times, but not Miami. That changes this season. Those two don't meet each other until Week 15, which has only happened one other time since realignment in 2002 (Colts/Houston in 2012). The Bills host the Jets in Week 1, then go to New York in Week 9. They draw New England in weeks 13 and 16, meaning four of the last five are against two division foes. Each of the last seven are against AFC sides.
The Fins lose a home game to London when they “host” New Orleans in Week 4. They are not on a bye in week 5, as they will host Tennessee in Week 5 (first game in Miami since the season opener). Like New England and Buffalo, the majority of meaningful football comes with four division games in the final six weeks. The trips to LA (week 2) and Kansas City (week 16) are the only times the Dolphins leave the Eastern Time zone, save for the London trip.
Five of the final six games for the Patriots are within the division, which stands out most on this slate. While New England plays five games at home in September and October, they only host Miami after the bye in a span of eight weeks from Oct. 29 through Christmas Eve. One of the “road” games in the stretch of 5-out-of-6 away from home is against Oakland in Mexico City in Week 11. Quirky, to say the least.
The last-place team in the division will know where they stand real quickly. In addition to seemingly trying to tank, they'll get plenty of chances to do it in the division. The Jets will have played five of their six division games by week 9, with seven straight outside of the division after that until the finale in Foxboro.
The Ravens and Browns each play everyone else in the division within the first four weeks; they're the only two AFC teams with that distinction. (San Francisco also plays each of their NFC West foes by Week 4). The 10-week break outside of the division is the longest of any team in football this season as Baltimore plays the other three division games in the last four weeks. One of the “road” games is actually against Jacksonville in London in Week 3. The Ravens requested not to have their bye in Week 4, and the league complied by giving it to them in Week 10. This is Baltimore's first trip to London since the International Series began in 2007; the Colts were the first team to ever play a game the week after a London trip last year (no bye).
The Bengals are back to back at home to start, including a Week 2 game against Houston on Thursday, before back-to-back road games. Later on, Cincy plays three straight road games and then has three straight at home. This means they are only at home for one game in the six weeks between Oct. 9 and Nov. 25. Cincy travels the second-fewest miles in the league to Pittsburgh in a stat the AFC North routinely “wins” because of the proximity of the four cities. The longest trip is to Denver.
The Browns lose a home game when they play Minnesota in London in Week 8. Five of the final eight games after the London trip and accompanying bye are on the road, including three-of-four out of the bye and trips to Chicago and Pittsburgh to close the season. Along with Jacksonville, the Browns have no Monday or Thursday games this season, meaning no short weeks.
The Steelers play only ONE outdoor road game after Oct. 15 (at Cincinnati on Dec. 4). Three of the first four and four of six to start are on the road. They also close with three of four and four of six at home. Not surprisingly (as the AFC North routinely wins this award) the Steelers travel fewer miles than anyone else. The Raiders, conversely, will travel almost five times more miles than the Steelers.
The Texans got the short end of the stick in this division. They'll have to play three road games on short rest this season, one of only four teams in the NFL stuck in that jam. They do play three straight at home before a Week 7 bye. The payback is that they'll be out of home division games after Week 9 and don't play an AFC home game until Christmas Day against Pittsburgh in Week 16. Sandwiched around that Week 9 visit from Indy are trips to the Rams and Seattle, the only late afternoon starts for the Texans this season.
If you want to know how things might shake out in the NFC West this season, Indy will probably have a good idea after Week 5. That's because the Colts will have played all four of those teams in addition to Cleveland in the first five weeks.Three division games in four weeks follow that, so Indianapolis should have a decent idea of where its season is headed after nine games. The Colts have scheduling advantages in their last THREE games. They host Denver on a Thursday in Week 15 (the last TNF game of the year) before travelling to Baltimore in Week 16 on a Saturday (will be extra rested compared to the Ravens, who will be on a short week). The Colts then get Houston at home in Week 17, and that comes after the Texans host Pittsburgh on Christmas Day. This means the Colts will get TWO extra days of rest, which doesn't happen anywhere else on the schedule all season.
The Jags lose another home game to London this year, as they'll “entertain” Baltimore in Week 3. The Jags will be in New York in Week 4 and Pittsburgh in Week 5. This means they'll only have two games played in front of home fans in the first eight weeks. The Jaguars are at home for three straight in Weeks 13-15, but will play back-to-back road games before that and to end the season. Jacksonville and Houston are the only AFC teams to not play any back-to-back division games all season.
Most of the meaningful football will have been played in Nashville by Week 13. The Titans play 12 of their first 13 inside the AFC and only have one AFC game left after that, when they entertain Jacksonville in the season finale. That's because the Titans go to Arizona and San Francisco before hosting the Rams in Weeks 14-16. The Thursday night trip to Pittsburgh in Week 11 is mitigated with extra rest before the game the next week in Indy. The Titans are also on the road back-to-back in Weeks 4 and 5, though they host games in Weeks 9 and 10 (after the bye) and 16 and 17.
The Broncos will know where they stand before everyone in the AFC except the Jets and Chargers. They play four of their six division games in the first half of the season. A brutal spot on the schedule is a Week 9 trip to Philly, which is the third straight road game right after divisional trips to LA and Kansas City. Denver only travels one time before Week 7, but the payback comes in spades. In addition to that three-game roadie, the Broncos play four out of five outside the Mountain Time Zone from Weeks 12-16 Three of those trips are to the Eastern Time Zone.
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There's no way to sugar coat it: the Chiefs play the easiest schedule in the league this season. The Chiefs have four short weeks this season, tied with Minnesota and Detroit. That negative is overcome by a slew of positives. The Chiefs play the season opener on a Thursday in New England and also have a Week 7 Thursday night game in Oakland. The Chiefs have extra rest before the Week 2 game against Philly, the Week 8 game at home against Denver and the Week 11 game at the Giants, which comes after the KC bye. The Chiefs host the Chargers in Week 15 on a Saturday, giving them an extra day of rest and travel for Week 16, as Miami goes to Buffalo and then to KC. The Chiefs are plus-12 in net rest days, while no other team in the league has more than a plus-8. Three of the last four are at home, and three of the last four are in the division.
The Chargers host three straight after a season-opening trip to Denver on Monday night. After Oct. 1, there is only one home game in the six weeks up to Nov. 19. They have no Thursday night games but do play in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, and also in Kansas City on Saturday in Week 15. Along with the Jets, the Chargers play four division games in their first seven, so they'll know where they stand before Halloween. There are four Eastern Time Zone trips for early starts, which are rarely fun for the west coast teams.
Thanks to one of its home games being at the Azteca in Mexico City (vs. New England, Week 11), the Raiders travel more miles than anyone in football this season. The start is brutal: at Tennessee in an early kick, at home against the Jets, back east to play Washington on Sunday night and then at Denver. The next three are at home and all are key – Baltimore, Chargers, Chiefs. After that are back-to-back trips to Buffalo and Miami before the bye. Like Washington, the Miami game is supposed to be on Sunday night but could be flexed back into an early start if things go sideways for one or both sides beforehand. Three of the last four are on the road, including a Christmas night game in Philly that gives the Chargers an extra day of rest before the season finale down in Los Angeles.