Coming up with the NFL schedule is an onerous task and a no-win proposition. There are so many different parties to keep happy (teams, coaches, front-office suits, television executives, stadium schedulers) and so many possible variables (bye weeks, primetime games, throwing every team on a Thursday, ensuring good games for Sunday’s two late games spread out over 17 weeks) that it’s no surprise teams have beefs with how the final result comes out. It’s inevitable and unavoidable. Someone is always going to be ticked off. (The Raiders, for instance, play four games in 18 days starting with their Monday night win in Mexico City.)
There have been a few schedule quirks this year that have understandably made teams upset, and we’re right now perhaps in the middle of the worst one: The Washington Redskins had to play a home game at 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday night against the Packers before schlepping to Dallas for the 4:30 p.m. ET Thanksgiving game, an 88-hour turnaround. The Vikings have a tough turnaround too — going to Detroit for the 12:30 p.m. ET game. But Minnesota played a 1 p.m. game on Sunday and has a shorter flight to its game. The Redskins were still shouting negotiating ploys at their general manager at midnight and probably didn’t get to sleep until 3 a.m. or later on Monday morning.
The Sunday-to-Thursday transfer is never easy for any road team, but generally the teams are playing a day game Sunday and a night game on Thursday, making the turnaround about 100 hours — rough but manageable. It’s not as if those 12 hours will doom the Redskins or they’d be that much fresher if they’d played a 1 p.m. or 4:25 p.m. ET game on Sunday, but it’s a seemingly unnecessary penalty that theoretically could have easily been rectified. Or, I don’t know, maybe the entire NFL schedule would have collapsed like a Jenga game board if they’d pulled Skins-Packers off SNF. Thus is the magic, mystery and majesty of the NFL schedule.
This isn’t the only schedule-related beef the Redskins have this year. They and (coincidentally) the Packers are the only two teams in the NFL to have a three-game road trip in 2016.
The NFL made up for Green Bay’s journey across the U.S. by giving it a four-game home stand that allowed the Packers to be in Green Bay from Sept. 19 to Oct. 28. The Redskins, meanwhile, aren’t at FedEx Field for more than back-to-back weeks.
Is coming up with a schedule for NFC East teams (who tend to play more games on primetime and in stand-alone games) difficult? It seems that way given the Redskins’ issues and this one by the Eagles, which actually might have the worst schedule quirk of 2016: In Weeks 7, 8 and 9, Philly played three straight games in which its opponent was coming off a bye week. The Vikings, Cowboys and Giants, respectively, each had been rested via their byes the previous week. Philly managed to go 1-2 in that stretch and actually scored the same amount of points as their three opponents in total.
No other team had to play three games (in this entire season) against teams coming off their bye. Only four other teams are face two teams coming off a bye this season, and just one (Jacksonville) had to do that back-to-back. Oh, and if that wasn’t bad enough, the Eagles had their bye in Week 4, when the team was on a hot streak to open the season 3-0. Since then the team is 2-5. (Give eight teams a bye every week from Weeks 7-10. Yes, there won’t be as many games, but I’ll think we’ll all survive a weekend without Tennessee-Houston.)
But the NFL either knowingly or randomly made up for that rough stretch for the Eagles: The final game in both of those three-game road trips for Washington and Green Bay? Both are in Philadelphia.