A 10-pack of thoughts on the NFL schedule release.
1. So much for secrecy
For weeks, the NFL kept a tight lid on the 256-game slate, releasing only scant details, such as the fact that the Jets would host both a Monday night game in Week 1 and the third game on the Thanksgiving slate.
Apparently, the Commissioner's decision to go rogue during an NFL.com live chat on Tuesday afternoon opened the floodgates. Over the next few hours after he announced that the season would begin on September 9 with the Saints hosting the Vikings, the entire schedules of the Steelers, Saints, Giants, and Lions were leaked.
The league can't be happy about the development. Though schedule leads are not uncommon, the league seemed to be intent on holding back as much as possible until the official announcement of the schedule.
So how does it get out? In the afternoon, the league office begins to tell the teams their individual schedules. If the league ever wants to achieve full secrecy, the better approach could be to tell no one.
2. Steelers could face a tough start without Big Ben
Assuming that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger receives a four-game suspension, the schedule-maker didn't do the Rooneys any favors.
The Steelers open at home against the Falcons, who didn't make the playoffs but who have finished above .500 for consecutive years for the first time in team history, before heading to Tennessee and Tampa. Then, the first quarter of the season ends with a visit from the Ravens. It could lead to a 2-2 or 1-3 start.
That said, the Steelers' schedule doesn't have a ton of gimme games. Sure, they play the Browns twice, but they lost to them once in 2009. The woeful Raiders come to town, a year after the woeful Raiders won there.
Meanwhile, the Steelers play five prime-time games, but none before Week 8. Surely, the schedule was tweaked a bit in light of the looming suspension of Roethlisberger.
3. Favre hears the siren song of the schedule maker
As Vikings quarterback Brett Favre tries to decide whether to return for a second year in Minnesota and a 20th overall, he now knows that he'd get an immediate shot at redemption for one of the most deflating games of his career.
Vikings at Saints. September 9. Prime time.
Four weeks later, Favre would get a chance to return to his one-year home, New York, for a game against the Jets.
Throw in two games against the Packers, a game against the Cowboys, a rematch with the Cardinals (who drubbed the Vikings in 2009), a trip to face the Patriots, and games against the Giants, Eagles, and Redskins, and 2010 presents plenty of intriguing challenges for Favre.
Indeed, there are almost enough challenges to persuade him to stay in Mississippi.
4. Ravens benefit from Steelers' troubles
When the Steelers traded receiver Santonio Holmes to the Jets, the Ravens were thrilled. No longer would they have to be torched two (and maybe three) times a year by Holmes.
The Ravens dodged another bullet by getting the Jets in Week 1, when Holmes will be suspended.
And if Roethlisberger gets at least a four-game suspension, the Ravens will go to Pittsburgh on a day in early October when Ben isn't there.
5. Christmas in the desert
In past years, the NFL tried to avoid playing games on Christmas. Now, they embrace it.
Though the league has yet to schedule a full slate for Dec. 25, the NFL no longer avoids it.
This year, the Cowboys will travel to Arizona for a Christmas night get-together on NFL Network.
Cue the language not suitable for Christmas from Dallas fans throughout the country who don't have access to the league-owned network.
6. Another reason to be thankful
Over the past few years, the league has taken full advantage of the reality that football fans will pretty much watch whatever games we get on Thanksgiving.
Though broadcasting rotation guaranteed that the Lions would host the Jets or the Patriots to start the day, conventional wisdom indicated that the second game would feature the Cowboys hosting the Bears.
Conventional wisdom was never so glad to be wrong.
The league instead has diverted what otherwise would have been an excellent Sunday night or Monday night game to the fourth Thursday in November.
The evening ends with the Jets hosting the Bengals, not a great game but good enough to give us all a reason to spend the evening hours in the household of a family member with NFL Network.
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