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 NFC schedule breaks, just from how I read it.
The one team that was immune to the ratings "demise" of 2016 was the Cowboys. Because they were relevant again, "America's Team" got constant attention throughout the season and were flexed into some prime time spots late in the season. This trend will continue again in 2017. Assuming the Giants/Cowboys at 4:25 on Sunday is a national game, it means the Cowboys will be on national TV five weeks in a row (11-15).
The Giants will travel more than any non-west coast team this season (except Jacksonville, which play a home game in London). The schedule makers did the G-Men no favors; they'll be playing four games against teams coming off of byes in 2017, which is the most in the league. They'll also have five games with less rest than their foes for a net total of minus-22 rest days. The second-place loser in this one is Detroit, with minus-12 days. That could prove to be a lot to overcome. Three of the first four and four of the first six are on the road. The Giants also play another 3-in-4 on the road from weeks 10-13. Three of the last four are at home, including a game against each division opponent. If they can survive into December, they'll control their own fate. It won't be easy.
The Eagles play three of their first four on the road. Payback comes in the form of not leaving town from Oct. 13 through Nov. 18, through three home games and a bye. Philly plays three in a row on the road before hosting the last two; included are back-to-back west coast games in Seattle and Los Angeles. Philly had an awful schedule last season in terms of meeting teams who were more well-rested than them. This season they have a net seven days more rest than their opponents.
The least eventful schedule of the season, perhaps. Alternate home and away games through the first 13 weeks. Travel to the Chargers after a trip to Dallas in Week 14 before playing two non-division home games.
The Bears have three short road weeks this season, tied for most with three other teams (Week 4 at Green Bay on a Thursday night, Week 6 at Baltimore after a Monday night home game, Week 15 at Detroit on a Saturday). There are no quirks in the first half in terms of home/road, but by starting off with three of four at Soldier Field after the Week 9 bye, the Bears are on the road for three of the last four. The Bears do have a plus-8 in net rest days, which ties for second-best in the league and is tops in the NFC. Week 10 at home against the Packers could be a good spot if they don't come out flat off the bye; Green Bay will be off a Monday night home game against Detroit.
The Lions have one of the worst schedules in the league. They'll have a minus-12 net rest days (see Giants write-up for details). They also have four short weeks, tied with KC and Minnesota for most in the league. The Giants are the only team playing four games against teams off byes, but Detroit and San Francisco are the only teams that meet three coming off their break. The Leos go to New Orleans in Week 6 after the Saints take their Week 5 bye, Green Bay in Week 9 after the Pack's Week 8 bye and gets Cleveland at home the next week with the Browns coming in rested. A stretch of 3-in-4 on the road from Weeks 13-16 is the last gut punch. GREEN BAY
The Packers are one of four teams who will play two games against teams coming off byes (three others play 3 or 4 games in those spots). At minus-9 net rest days, Green Bay has the third-least favorable schedule in football in terms of rest. Green Bay closes with three of four and four of six on the road.
The Vikings play at Detroit, Atlanta and Carolina in three straight roadies starting on Thanksgiving Day, and after hosting Cincy, they travel to Green Bay. Since one of the "road" games is in London against Cleveland, there has to be something good, right? Try only two true road games before Week 10. Minnesota has no excuse not to get off to a fast start with the way the schedule breaks for them - and for how bad it is for the other division contenders.
The Falcons will have plenty of time to recover from their potential Super Bowl hangover if they want to try and win the division. The schedule-makers haven't given them any division games until Week 9. But five of their last six (and all of the last four) games are in the division. The bye comes early, right in the middle of the Falcons getting all four AFC East teams in succession. The last two of those (NE, Jets) are both on the road before the Week 9 trip to Carolina wraps up a 3-game roadie. Atlanta gets four of their last six at home, including all three divisional foes.
The Panthers play each team in the division in Weeks 3, 8 and 9 - those are the first divisional games for all of those foes. This division is extremely back-loaded, and it's why the other three teams (with New England) play the most meaningful games in the last five weeks, whereas the Panthers only have one division game between Weeks 9 and 16. The Panthers play three separate two-game road trips and also have their first and last games of the season away from Charlotte. They get three in a row at home from Weeks 14-16, all against NFC teams. NEW ORLEANS
Four of the last five are division games and they draw the Falcons in Weeks 14 and 16. The Saints play Miami in London for a Fins home game, meaning that there are only two true road games between Weeks 2 and 10.
The Bucs don't play any divisional foes in the first seven weeks of the season. They also draw New England at home on a Thursday, which I believe is always a big edge for the home team in non-divisional or conference play. There are no streaks of more than two home or road games; three of the last four are in Tampa and each of the three divisional opponents are on the slate in Weeks 15-17.
The Cardinals are the only team this year to play a divisional road game in London. The bye comes right after that, and then a trip to San Francisco in Week 9. At that point, Arizona will have played three road games in the first five weeks in the Eastern time zone. It will be interesting to see their scores and odds for these ones. They host Seattle on Thursday in Week 10 for the first of four home games in five weeks.
The Rams lose a division home game to London. Because of that, and opening with two at home, LA plays just one true home game after Week 2 until Week 10. They are also on the road three times in four weeks (13-16).
The 49ers didn't get the most favorable NFL schedule in 2017. They'll play three teams coming off byes (Washington in Week 6, Dallas in Week 7, Arizona in Week 9) with the Washington game coming in the last of three straight on the road. The Niners are in Philly for Week 8 but don't travel again until a Week 13 trip to Chicago thanks to three home games and a bye in Week 11.
Nothing super noteworthy here. Because of the bye in Week 6, Seattle does not feature in any back-to-back away games all season. They'll be in LA to face the Rams in Week 5 and New Jersey to meet the Giants in Week 7. They alternate home-and-away games the rest of the year starting in Week 9.