The NFL's Scheduling of Nine Division Games in Week One of 2020 Shows Confidence A Season Will Be Played
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Monday, May 11, 2020
Thursday marked the release of the 2020 NFL schedule under the expectation the season will be played on without a hitch, despite COVID-19 concerns
The release of a new NFL schedule usually indicates optimism for teams looking to either improve from the bottom, or to maintain their place at the top--but in 2020, the hopefulness that the season will not be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is the main concern.
The league unveiled its full slate of games last Thursday under the expectation that the season will go on without a hitch--with fans or without fans, the season is scheduled to start on September 10 when the Super Bowl champions in Kansas City host Houston in a playoff rematch of the 2019 AFC Divisional game.
Unlike the NBA, MLB, and NHL, the NFL has had the luxury of moving forward with its original calendar, despite concerns with the virus and how it will affect the sporting landscape.
“We will be prepared to make adjustments as necessary, as we have during this offseason in safely and efficiently conducting key activities such as free agency, the virtual draft off-season program, and the 2020 NFL Draft,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement Thursday, via NFL.com.
Intriguing storylines are provided through the 2020 schedule, and optimism that a season will be played as planned will rejoice football fans, and journalists alike.
“I was told, and I believe it, that there is an extremely small chance that there will not be an NFL season,” said NBC Sports Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk on May 4.
The optimism exists, and the release of a front-loaded schedule, filled with divisional games early on will excite football fans for a September start.
A total of nine division matchups will be seen in week one alone, including a marquee game in New Orleans when Tom Brady will make his Buccaneers debut against his new NFC South rival.
Conventional thinking would lead the NFL on a road towards scheduling inter-conference games before loading up with division matchups early on due to how easy they are in postponing.
The approach from the league is an interesting one, given the circumstances of the happenings in the world.
Expectations that the league would schedule inter-conference games for the first four weeks of 2020 were real prior to the schedule release, due to how the less valued games would be easier to throw away if the effects of the pandemic were to put a damper on the season.
Instead, the league has suggested how confident they are on playing the upcoming season as if it’s like any other one by scheduling meaningful games in week one.
“My understanding is this--(the NFL has a) strong degree of determination to go forward with week one,” said Florio on NBC’s Pro Football Talk on May 11. “Week one is happening. Period.”
Other than the delay the schedule release date, the NFL’s offseason has been smooth, calculated and productive. Free agency, draft-offseason program, the draft, and now the schedule--all successful and unaffected.
Contingency plans amid the virus are built into the schedule. All teams who play each other on week two will share the same bye week, and there will be no division games during the third and fourth weeks.
The NFL is confident, but when will time run out on the optimism? The speed of COVID-19 is moving at a pace that can’t be predicted, but with the 2020 schedule now out for the public’s viewing, it is clear the league is determined in fighting it.