NFL Schedule Questions
How easy or how tough is my favorite team's schedule? That's been the question since the 2012 NFL schedule was released Tuesday. The most accurate answer is that we really don't know. Consider that a disclaimer.
Here's what I suspect...
Anyone in the NFC East can lay claim a tough schedule. Their four games against the AFC are against the North. The AFC East may have a nice break. They get the NFC West.
Other than being fortunate enough to catch a division in the other conference in a down year, the schedules are relatively even once again. The margin between 11-5 and 5-11 is pretty thin. Very few people saw the ’99 Rams coming. I’ll guarantee that when the ’99 schedule was released, everyone who saw the Rams on their favorite team’s schedule chalked up a sure win or two. I'm an old St. Louis football Cardinal fan. No one outside the Big Red's payroll saw 10-4 coming in April of 1974. After three consecutive years of 4-9-1?
It would appear that the Rams have a couple tough road games at the top of the schedule. St. Louis opens the season at Detroit on September 9th. The home opener is September 16 against the Washington Redskins. Game 3 is a trip to Chicago. Games four and five are home games against Seattle and Arizona. Both should be winnable. We only get seven Rams home games this year because the New England “home” game for the Rams will be played in London England.
The Bears open at home against Indianapolis. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they get a fast turnaround before a Thursday night game at Green Bay in week 2. Week three brings a visit from the Rams. Then it’s on the road to Dallas and Jacksonville. After that the questions start. Is anyone going to block for Jay Cutler this year? Are there going to be receivers skilled enough to get open at least some of the time? That would be a nice change.
When you look at the Rams schedule beyond the start of October, there are a lot of questions. Miami started getting things right around mid season in 2011. I get the feeling that they aren’t very deep. Give 'em a couple injuries in the wrong place and they skid like everyone else. Likewise for Buffalo. That’s a road game in December and you never know about the weather in western New York. I’m not a fan of Rex Ryan of the NY Jets. Period. That team is a circus. They’re an excellent candidate for an implosion. And yes, sometimes circuses manage to play outstanding football. We used to see that with the Oakland Raiders. Of course there are a lot of questions about the Rams. Will they get sufficient blocking to keep Sam Bradford from having to run for his life? Will they find some receivers and defensive backs who belong in and NFL starting lineup? If the answer is yes to either of the problems on offense, The Rams should be in the playoff hunt long after Thanksgiving.
Kansas City opens at home against Atlanta. The Chiefs are on the road in weeks two and three at Buffalo and New Orleans before returning home to take on San Diego.
Kansas City has the advantage of being in the AFC West. The football people aren’t in charge in San Diego. The current Charger roster core has played its best football. Oakland is still a mess in the wake of Al Davis’ death and ownership in Denver is leaning on the panic button for some reason. Remember, the Chiefs were a botched block on a field goal attempt from winning the division at 8-8 last year despite losing four of their best players for long periods due to injury and despite the play (if that's what you want to call it) of Tyler Palko at QB. The Chiefs have already done some work toward improving the roster. KC has made steady improvement each year since bottoming out in '08.
Lots of things will determine how tough the Chiefs schedule really is. In chronological order..
--What effect does Bountygate have on New Orleans? If players get suspended, the Saints have huge problems.
--When does the annual meltdown in Oakland start? Will the Raiders figure out that they aren’t good enough to overcome stupid penalties as a matter of routine?
--Are the old, tired Steelers we saw in December and January the current “real” Steelers?
--How much does Peyton Manning have in the tank? Can the Broncos o-line keep him off I-R? The surrounding talent in Denver isn’t close to what he worked with in Indy.