Once the calendar hits April during the NFL offseason, every fan of every team seems to have the same question: “When does the NFL schedule come out?”
If you check out Twitter, it’s pretty much the second most-popular question on that website behind, “Is a hot dog a sandwich?”
When does the NFL Schedule come out?— Carlos Murhat (@SussexLoyal) April 2, 2017
Is a hot dog a sandwich?— Jackie McLaughlin (@jcmclaughIin) April 2, 2017
Unfortunately, we don’t know yet when the schedule will be released. However, we do know that the expected release date is supposed toApril 17 and April 21.
So why can’t the NFL just pick a date and roll with it?
The answer to that question is because the league has no idea when its four schedule-makers are going to be done putting the thing together. The NFL literally locks them in a room and keeps them in there until the schedule is done.
It’s not an easy job, either.
To put together the 256-game regular season schedule, the four NFL employees have to take hundreds of things into account. For example, in 2014, the schedule-makers had to account for a One Direction tour that was making its way across the United States that fall. In 2015, the schedule-makers had to account for the Pope’s . I mean, you can’t have a game in an NFL stadium if the Pope is there.
Besides oddities like that, the schedule-makers also have to take into account dozens of requests from teams. Here’s a brief look at what some of those request look like.
Let’s start with the Raiders. At league meetings last week, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said the team had two big requests (via the San Francisco Chronicle):
1. The Raiders don’t want to have to travel two time zones away for their Thursday night game. The Raiders had to travel to Kansas City last season for a Thursday game and Del Rio clearly wasn’t a fan of that (The Raiders lost 21-13). Since most TNF games are divisional games, the solution here would be to have the Raiders host their TNF game or have them play on the road vs. the Chargers or Broncos.
2. The Raiders’ other request is to have back-to-back East Coast games so they don’t have to travel back west after the game. The Raiders play at Buffalo, Philadelphia, Washington and Miami this year, so conceivably, all the NFL would have to do is put two of those games in a row.
The Eagles’ biggest request for 2017 is similar to the Raiders’ second request. Philadelphia asked that its two games in Los Angeles be scheduled in back-to-back weeks. The Eagles and Redskins are the only teams that will be playing both Los Angeles teams in Los Angeles in 2017.
“Looking at the schedule and looking at where we’re going, one of the proposals was to try to stay out on the west coast twice, for two games,” coach Doug Pederson said last week, via PhillyVoice.com. “We’ll see next month when it comes out if we were able to get that.”
If the Eagles’ request is granted, it’ll be the first time someone has played against two different teams in Los Angeles in the same season since 1994, when the Saints, 49ers, Falcons and Broncos all did it.
It looks like the Lions are tired of playing all of their early-season games on the road. For the past two seasons, the team has opened with three of four games on the road, and this year, the team would like to see that changed.
The Lions have requested more home games early in season this year after opening with 3 of 4 on the road frequently in recent seasons— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) March 29, 2017
The first four weeks of the schedule have beaten up the Lions in each of the past two seasons, with the team starting off 0-4 in 2015 and 1-3 in 2016. The problem for the Lions is that fixing their schedule isn’t easy. The league generally gives them two home games in a row in November -- for Thanksgiving and the game before Thanksgiving -- which doesn’t give the NFL a ton of leeway on other parts of the schedule.
The Dolphins had a bunch of requests for the NFL, with most of them told the Palm Beach Post.Week 4 trip to London to play the Saints, team president Tom Garfinkel
- The Dolphins don’t want a bye week after their trip to London. During the 10 years of the international series, only one team has requested not to have a bye after playing in London, and that was the Colts in 2016. The plan worked out well for the Colts as they beat the Bears one week after playing in England.
- The Dolphins also asked that their game in Los Angeles against the Chargers doesn’t come in Week 3. The team doesn’t want to have to fly all the way from California to London before facing the Saints in England.
- Finally, the Dolphins’ last request is that they open the 2017 season at home. The Dolphins have opened on the road in four of their past five seasons, with only the 2014 opener at home.
The Bengals’ front office is probably laughing at that final request from the Dolphins because they made a similar request, only their situation is slightly uglier: The Bengals haven’t opened a season at home since 2009.
Brown says Bengals have reached out to NFL to open at home, which haven't done in Green-Dalton Era— Geoff Hobson (@GeoffHobsonCin) March 29, 2017
That’s right, during Andy Dalton’s six-year career, that Bengals have never opened at home. The Bengals have opened on the road in seven straight seasons, which is borderline unfair when you compare it to the rest of the NFL. No other team has had to open on the road in even five straight seasons.
The Packers, Vikings, Giants have all opened on the road in four straight seasons, which is tied for the second-longest active road streak behind Cincinnati.
These are just a handful of requests that the schedule-makers will have to deal with over the next few weeks, so if the NFL schedule does get delayed, you may have to find something to do to pass the time, like argue whether a hot dog is a sandwich.
If you can’t wait for the schedule, you can.