After free agency and the draft, some games this fall got a whole lot more interesting. In fact, talking to the schedule nerds in the NFL (and talking to one owner at the league meetings this year), my guess is there’s a 50-50 chance that the schedule—which now gets released annually in the third week of April, a week before the draft—could soon get pushed back to being released in the first half of May instead.
Nooooooooooo! I can hear fans who make their annual treks to games from far away and already think the schedule gets put out too late. And I can hear teams complain too, because they need to make plans for travel and game-day events, etc. But in the end, TV ratings trump all, and the fact that Kyler Murray and the Cardinals are on TV only once in prime time this year could turn out to be poor TV planning. We shall see. But if the league thinks it can get a 10-percent-higher rating on a Monday night game with Kyler Murray than in a game with starless quarterbacking, the league’s going to seriously consider pushing back the schedule-release date.
For now, here are the games that got more compelling after the draft:
Sunday, Sept. 8. Detroit at Arizona. It’ll be a major upset if this is not the debut of Kyler Murray in the Valley of the Sun, and the unveiling of Kliff Kingsbury’s edgy offense too—he won’t be showing much in the preseason.
Monday, Sept. 9. Denver at Oakland. Talk about two new teams. Joe Flacco throwing to Noah Fant. Kareem Jackson covering Antonio Brown, Bryce Callahan trying to blanket Tyrell Williams. Josh Jacobs getting 20 touches (at least) against the rebuilding Denver D in Vic Fangio’s head-coaching debut. What a fun game this should be.
Sunday, Sept. 22. Pittsburgh at San Francisco. Nick Bosa begins his career with two road games against average quarterbacks, Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton. Here in Week 3, he plays his first home game against tree-trunk QB Ben Roethlisberger and a premier offensive line. This game will be the first acid test for Bosa.
Sunday, Oct. 6. Baltimore at Pittsburgh. Devin Bush: This game’s one of the big reasons why the Steelers used first, second and third-round picks to draft you 10th overall. Today’s the day you’ve got to chase/neutralize/bash Lamar Jackson, the quarterback of your new nemesis.
Sunday, Dec. 15. Cleveland at Arizona. The Lincoln Riley Bowl. The last two Heisman winners, good pals Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, meet in the desert. Another note: Just imagine if someone had said a year ago that one of the interesting NFL games of 2019 would be Freddie Kitchens matching wits with Kliff Kingsbury. Good example of “NFL” really meaning Not For Long.
Sunday, Dec. 22. Giants at Washington. Week 16 for New York and Washington could be meaningless, wait-till-2020 stuff. But by this time, I’m assuming Daniel Jones is starting for the Giants, and a Daniel Jones-Dwayne Haskins matchup, which could be the first of many test matches between the two 2019 first-round QBs (they meet in Week 4 too, when Jones will still presumably be on the bench for the Giants). Dave Gettleman watches intently.