The 2015 NFL schedule: 10 takeaways

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The 2015 NFL schedule was released on Tuesday night.

We knew before then which opponents every team was going to play, we just didn’t have the set dates. Now we can finally circle dates on our calendars. Or we would, if physical calendars were still things that exist.

Here are 10 takeaways from the 2015 NFL slate.

The Patriots aren’t being punished by their schedule

If Roger Goodell is planning to punish the Patriots for “Deflategate” – spoiler alert: he’s not – he’s not doing it via their schedule. The defending Super Bowl champs open their season versus the Steelers. On paper, that seems somewhat tough. But the game is at home. And the Steelers will be without the suspended Le’Veon Bell. And pretty much the entire Steeler defense retired this offseason. Tom Brady will be working against James Harrison and leftover clumps of Troy Polamalu’s hair. It won’t matter if the Patriots have a Super Bowl hangover or an actual hangover or both during week 1, they’ll open up their season 1-0.

More Steelers might retire when they see their schedule

The Steelers have the hardest schedule in 2015, with their opponents having a combined winning percentage of .578 in 2014. That was known even before Tuesday. But the way the games are scattered throughout the season won’t help Pittsburgh return to the playoffs. After their 0-1 start in the season opener, the Steelers have the 49ers, Rams, Ravens, Chargers, Cardinals, Chiefs and Bengals. There’s not a breather game in there. Then they get the Raiders, who they’ve somehow managed to lose to four out of five times in the past 10 years – an accomplishment nearly as remarkable as six Super Bowl trophies. After their week 11 bye, the Steelers will look to make a playoff push. Only that will be rather difficult. Week 12 sends them to Seattle, followed by games against the Colts, Bengals, Broncos and Ravens. If there’s a silver lining for Mike Tomlin and the Steelers, it’s that they’ve struggled to beat bad teams in recent years while handling good teams. If that trend continues, the Steelers could go 13-3 with their only losses coming to the Browns and Raiders.

Brett Favre is our Thanksgiving guest

The Packers will reportedly hold their long-delayed ceremony to honor Brett Favre when they host the Bears on Thanksgiving night. Perfect. Favre is like that relative who overstays his welcome at family gatherings and has some creepy stuff in his past. Bringing Favre back is perfect for Thanksgiving. Let’s just hope ol’ Brett doesn’t trim his nose hair at the table.

Make plans for week 3

But not plans to watch NFL action. Plans to do something else. If there’s a week on the 2015 NFL calendar you should use to enjoy life in a way that doesn’t include sitting on your couch all day watching television, it’s week 3. The marquee game is … Broncos-Lions? After that the best games are … Bills-Dolphins? Eagles-Jets? Patriots-Jaguars? Yikes. The NFL gave us all a bye week, one entire Sunday off, from having to care about NFL football. Use it wisely. (Watch late-September baseball.)

The Eagles will remain interesting

Enjoying the offseason of Eagles? Then you’ll love the regular season. Philadelphia opens the season under the spotlight of Monday Night Football. Then they play the Cowboys (DeMarco Murray!). Then the Jets (Tim Tebow!). Then Washington (NFL punchline!). So the first four weeks of the season will give us non-stop Eagles news and analysis. DID CHIP KELLY’S MOVES WORK? IS CHIP KELLY A GENIUS? IS CHIP KELLY ON THE HOT SEAT? And that’s just the first four weeks. Later in the season the Eagles play at the Patriots and, of course, we’ll have Kelly in the news at the trade deadline for dealing DeMarco Murray for Johnny Manziel. (Maybe not exactly that trade, but definitely something bordering on insane like that.)

The Falcons have the easiest schedule, sort of

While Pittsburgh’s opponents had a cumulative winning percentage of .578 in 2014, the Falcons’ opponents had a .409, giving Atlanta the “easiest schedule”. Formula .409: For cleaning away the stink of Atlanta’s 2014 season!

But there’s a difference between Atlanta’s “easy” schedule and New England’s easy schedule, which is ranked the 22nd toughest. It’s hard to see a path anything short of a team-wide disease causing paralysis that keeps the Patriots out of the playoffs. Whereas the Falcons are still the Falcons and to make the playoffs need both an easy schedule and vastly improved play. Which won’t be easy.

The Jaguars schedule is somehow worse than ever

This is true: this column was originally going to be highlighting the best and worst game of each week of the NFL season. Then halfway through writing the column, it became clear that almost every “worst” game featured the Jaguars. So I had to change things up. (Like the Jaguars do at quarterback every few years. Zing!)

Granted, no one was expecting to see Jacksonville’s schedule roll out and exclaim: “Wow! There’s 16 awesome games!” But the Jaguars have 16 games of total, thorough and complete irrelevance this season. In addition to their usual six games against the AFC South – two bad games each against the Titans and Texans and two likely bludgeonings at the hands of the Colts – Jacksonville is matched up against the NFC South and AFC East this season. As you’ll recall, the entire NFC South was an embarrassment last year and the AFC East has for all of modern football history been the Patriots and no one else.

Imagine being in the Jaguars ticket office and trying to sell this home schedule: Panthers, Dolphins, Texans, Bills, Titans, Chargers, Colts, Falcons. Awful. It’s easy to make fun of Florida teams for their difficulty in drawing fans, but anyone who buys Jaguars season tickets this year should be given an intervention by their loved ones. “We noticed you are making poor life choices and we want to know you have people in your life who love you. Don’t go to these games. You can still turn your life around.”

Winston and Mariota could open the season against each other

The owners of the first and second picks in the draft, the Buccaneers and Titans, open the season against each other. So we could see a Jameis Winston-Marcus Mariota game for the very first time! (Not counting when we saw their teams play each other three months ago in the college football playoffs.) That game would be amazing because it would team the usual week 1 NFL overreaction with analysis of who “won” the draft after a single game. The perfect storm of hot takes!

Of course, Winston and Mariota could not go one, two in the draft. Or they could, but one – or both – won’t start week 1. If any of those scenarios occur, all we have here is a typical Bucs-Titans game. Let’s hope for the first scenario.

The Packers get to replay their NFC playoff games/nightmare

Hey, remember that Dez Bryant (non-)catch? You’ll get to relive the athleticism and artistry of Dez Bryant (not) catching the ball in week 14 when Green Bay goes to Dallas. The Packers also get a rematch in week 2 with the Seahawks, who they dominated for the vast majority of the NFC title game, only to be done in by Mike McCarthy. Can McCarthy do it again? Tune in!

Unfortunately, the NFL isn’t giving us a rematch of the Cowboys-Lions wildcard game and the non-pass interference. That’s a mistake almost as bad as that call.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning play

In case you were worried they wouldn’t match up this year, they are. For the 17th time in their careers. Week 12 in Denver. It sure will be fun to hear a full week of debate about which quarterback is better for the 17th time. (It’s Tom Brady.)

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by DJ Gallo, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 22nd April 2015 16.18 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010