This week has been quite the week for the drip-drop release of the regular-season schedule, demonstrating the giant NFL’s all-too-powerful capacity to advertise its product to the fans.
The international games came first. The first Black Friday deal was then unveiled. This was followed by the announcement of the first Monday night contest. Here’s the first game of the season. What about New Year’s Eve? Christmas? Prepare your holiday meals accordingly. And, yes, a midseason rematch of the NFC title game will air on Fox on a Sunday afternoon slot.
Talk about a couple of hints.
All of this occurred before the tap was turned on to reveal the “full schedule” in prime time.
In one sense, you have to give it to the NFL for using the drama to keep its consumers’ attention during the offseason – two weeks after the draft, a little more than two months after the combine, and three months after the Super Bowl.
Just keep in mind that some of the most important times on this calendar are still to be determined.
Prepare to be thrown for a loop by the most fluid NFL schedule in history (that, um, wasn’t thrown for a loop by the COVID-19 epidemic).
When NFL owners gather in Minnesota on May 22-23, likely, a proposal to allow for flexible scheduling for “Thursday Night Football” games on Amazon in Weeks 14-17 would be put back on the menu. The resolution, which required 24 votes to pass, fell two votes shy of adoption during the league meetings in Phoenix in March, with two teams (Carolina and Denver) abstaining.
Even though New York Giants co-owner John Mara fiercely opposed the plan during and after the meeting, calling it “abusive” to ticket buyers, the initiative has the support of Commissioner Roger Goodell and momentum propelled by numerous influential owners.
And you already know what that entails. Money speaks volumes. TV (including streaming broadcasts, for which Amazon pays the NFL $1 billion every year) has an impact.
Pay no attention to the players, particularly those from the better clubs, who will be chosen to move games from Sunday afternoon to prime time. I apologize to any fans who made travel arrangements to come from elsewhere. NFL owners recently decided to introduce flex scheduling for “Monday Night Football” games that are played in the late part of the season. And they voted to change the rule so that clubs can now be flexed twice into such brief weeks for Thursday night games, as opposed to only once per season previously. The next step for the Thursday night flex option appears to be very immediately approaching.
On Thursday, an NFL coach told the associated press that “it’s coming, as sure as an 18th game is coming down the line.”
There won’t be any opposition from the entire group of NFL players. NFL owners gained the ability to unilaterally flex more of the late-season games when the labor agreement with players was extended in 2020.
When expressing worry for the fans, DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, sounded a lot like Mara. Smith added that even while there isn’t strong evidence to support a difference in the injury incidence for Thursday night games, he is aware of the additional considerations associated with playing on short weeks and maybe in many instances.
We’re not only talking about the rate of injuries, Smith told the associated press. Things like load management, managing mental stress, and scheduling changes are included.
After the discussions in Phoenix, Goodell reaffirmed his frequently cited assertion that the injury rates for Thursday games are mostly unchanged from those for Sunday games and rejected Mara’s claim that fans are getting a raw deal. In addition, Goodell noted that since the NFL started flexing late-season Sunday night games in 2006, the league has averaged around 1 12 flexed games annually, suggesting that a significant revamp of the late-season Thursday window isn’t the best choice.
“So, it’s a very important thing for us to balance with that I would call season-ticket holders and the in-stadium markets,” Goodell said. “But we have millions of fans who also watch on television, so reaching them is a balance that you always strike and making sure we do it right.”
The NFL reportedly averaged 9.6 million viewers in the first year of its streaming partnership with Amazon in 2022, a 46% decrease from the previous season’s games on Fox and the NFL Network. Given the new platform for the main game, a drop-off seems inevitable last year. However, the NFL, which has an Amazon pact that runs through 2033, is also encouraged to assist boost viewership by scheduling compelling matchups later in the season. The flex games would be decided with at least 15 days’ notice.
The NFL owners frequently give Mara’s opinions a lot of consideration. But aside from his concern for the fans, which he voiced in March when he said, “To flex a game back to Thursday night, for me, is just abusive, and I am adamantly opposed to it,” Mara also didn’t seem to be pleased that the proposal was put forward without being thoroughly reviewed by the competition committee, of which he is a member.
There should be the time in the weeks between meetings to review the competition committee, if not to approve it. On the other hand, it’s a telling sign that the suggestion to allow flexing on Thursday nights wasn’t created by the competition committee.
To put it another way, it would take a miracle to sway the crowd the other way.
The timetable is established in the interim…except for the portions that have to be determined.