When NFL schedule makers began digging in after the Super Bowl over putting together the complex puzzle of a 272-game schedule, Tom Brady had just retired, Russell Wilson was in Seattle and the free-agent craze hadn’t even begun.
After sifting through more than 100,000 schedules with the prospect of a quadrillion-plus prospects, the NFL released Thursday’s final schedule showing Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Wilson and their new team in Denver getting prime-time television windows into the week. Was. 1.
The Bucks were given the starting spot on Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys, while Wilson’s debut for the Broncos will take place in Monday night’s opening game against his former Seahawks team in Seattle.
“In the old days, building this thing by hand, we could have Russell Wilson go to Denver in week 8 or 9,” said Mike North, NFL vice president of broadcast planning. “Maybe we could have adjusted a thing or two, but maybe not the bulk stop and restart. Now thanks to the way technology enables us to attack this process, we can stop, take a break, reevaluate and talk to our partners, talk to our bosses And within a few days we had a whole new path and a whole new plan that would maximize every one of those Denver games, every one of those Tampa Bay games.
“We probably weren’t going to do that before the quarterbacks left.”
While free agency and draft changes are always a factor that schedule makers have to deal with, this year’s retirement switch by Brady and new homes for Wilson and Deshan Watson were high-profile ones that had a big impact on schedules.
The Broncos and Bucs were among the 13 teams that got a maximum of five prime-time windows, along with Super Bowl participants the Rams and Bengals, as well as other big-draw teams such as Buffalo, Dallas, Kansas City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Greene, and Buffalo. Bay, Pittsburgh, New England and Chargers.
North said that other deals, such as Tyrek Hill’s trade from Kansas City to Miami, also played a part in the schedule with the Dolphins’ game against Pittsburgh, when they beat the Steelers in their perfect season in the AFC title game as of Sunday. strengthened the position. Night game in week 7.
What was once done by hand on a cork board by an NFL executive is now controlled by a cloud of computers provided by Amazon that can run through all kinds of permutations each night before choosing a schedule from the league , it believes that optimizes fairness as best as possible for both teams and network TV partners.
The league tries to balance which networks get the most high-profile games. CBS was given a Bills-Chiefs playoff rematch; A matchup between Brady and Patrick Mahomes will be played for NBC on Sunday night; A rematch of an NFC championship game between the Rams and 49ers goes to ESPN on Monday night; Amazon just got attractive quarterbacks Mahomes and Justin Herbert for the first game of its new special Thursday night package; And Fox gets what could be the final game between Brady and Aaron Rodgers for its doubleheader package.
Computers have been installed before and after five matches played in England, Mexico and Germany to deal with stadium conflicts, international travel through nearly 26,000 “rules” and diffuse the “pain” of prolonged schedule disparities. trying to. The amount of games played against teams coming out of road trips or byes.
“It is, you know, a miracle, frankly, that we’ve ever done by hand,” North said. “Software, hardware, technology, search engines, AWS cloud computers, they allow us to look at a lot more options. We’d still have landed on one so hopefully we’ll be proud. But it’s a very different process and We really can’t do this without the technology that we have available.”
There were some quirks in the schedule such as the Bengals playing all three road division games in prime time and the Patriots playing four straight prime-time games. North said the issue with Cincinnati was that the league wanted them to play against Miami and Buffalo in prime time and that they were at home, leaving other games on the road.
Both the Patriots and the Bills were placed early in the Thanksgiving event, with New England playing Minnesota on the night. Two of the six teams that play on Thanksgiving typically also play the following Thursday night, with the NFL opting for a Patriots-Bills game.
The Patriots also requested back-to-back games from West, and the NFL slotted the Arizona and Las Vegas games over the next two weeks and selected them for prime time.
Another oddity: The New York Jets began their season with all games against the AFC North: at home vs. Baltimore, Cleveland, home vs. Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. The only other teams to open the season against the entire division since the league expanded to 32 teams were New Orleans in 2004 and the Giants in 2002 – both versus NFC West.
This year’s schedule has a few new wrinkles, from a Christmas Day tripleheader to a Monday night doubleheader in Week 2, with a Tennessee-Buffalo game starting at 7:15 p.m. ET on ESPN and a Minnesota-Philadelphia game night at 8:30 p.m. ET. starts at . on ABC.
This is a change from previous years when ESPN aired a Week 1 doubleheader with games being played back to back and the second game starting at 10:20 pm.
“We will learn something from this year,” North said. “We will see what the fans tell us. And then next year, when we get three such opportunities to put ESPN and ABC side by side, we can try three different approaches.
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