After parts of it had been predictably introduced and leaked in dribs and drabs over the previous days, the NFL’s 2023 regular-schedule and all 272 of its video games had been formally revealed Thursday evening. And suffice it to say, this yr goes to have a considerably completely different vibe than maybe what the league’s followers have change into accustomed to.
As we’ll see, Aaron Rodgers’ change of address is mere microcosm of an emphasis on an more and more stacked AFC because the stability of energy seemingly continues to accrue throughout the NFL’s junior convention. However that evolution is mere half and parcel of sorting although the winners and losers now that the league has winnowed down its quadrillion schedule choices − critically − to this explicit docket:
Jets: Rodgers’ new workforce, just lately one often shoehorned into Thursday evening slots, is suddenly relevant again − opening Sept. 11 (yep) at residence towards the Buffalo Payments on Monday evening, the NYJ’s first “MNF” look in three years, whereas touchdown within the Sunday evening showcase (two occasions) for the primary time since 2011. The primary “SNF” look is available in Week 4, when the reigning champion Chiefs come to The Meadowlands for what’s scheduled to be Rodgers’ first assembly with league MVP Patrick Mahomes, COVID-19 stopping Rodgers from posting in Kansas Metropolis two years in the past. And chew on this Jets followers (and haters): New York solely has two 1 p.m. ET kickoffs earlier than December and looks as if the presumptive favourite to be featured on HBO’s “Exhausting Knocks.” If that wasn’t sufficient, with one contest a “highway” sport “at” the Giants on Oct. 29, Rodgers and Co. will solely have to actually journey seven occasions … given the brand new QB1 ample free time to discover his extracurricular pursuits in his new Huge Apple yard.
Packers: Rodgers could also be gone, however the TV execs apparently nonetheless love Inexperienced Bay. Jordan Love, the brand new Chief of the Pack, and Co. are ticketed for 5 prime-time dates … although it ought to be famous three happen after November, giving networks the choice to flex away if Love breaks Titletown’s collective coronary heart.
Damar Hamlin: The person on the heart of the most gut-wrenching episode the league has witnessed in years will return to the sector the place he collapsed in January, the Payments visiting the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 5 for a Sunday evening sport. Ought to be an amazing alternative for Hamlin to acknowledge the individuals of a metropolis that had such an instrumental function in saving his life.
ESPN: The Worldwide Chief is basically beginning to improve its stock. This season will embrace three “Monday Evening Soccer” doubleheaders and an ESPN+ unique for the Jaguars-Falcons sport in London. General, ESPN will air 25 video games, together with Rodgers’ debut for the Jets, a doubleheader on the Saturday of Week 18 (January 6), one matchup within the wild-card spherical and one other a divisional playoff showdown. Oh, did we point out Joe Buck and Troy Aikman might be on the decision in Kansas Metropolis on Nov. 20 when the Chiefs and Eagles meet in a rematch for Tremendous Bowl 57?
Flex scheduling: One other new asset for ESPN, Monday evening video games scheduled between Weeks 12 and 17 at the moment are eligible to be rotated out.
NFL social media departments: The schedule launch has actually change into a extremely aggressive surroundings for all 32 of the league’s social groups. More and more artistic and sometimes humorous, my colleague Jordan Mendoza ranked all 32 teams’ social media reveals … and, like most, Jordan granted the Titans what could also be a uncommon 2023 win.
Dan Campbell: His Lions had been flexed into the ultimate regular-season sport of the 2022 season and kick off 2023 on opening night in K.C. Good alternative for extra informal followers to change into acquainted with the passionate Campbell and a younger workforce that includes DE Aidan Hutchinson, WR Amon-Ra St. Brown and first-round rookie RB Jahmyr Gibbs.
Kellen Moore: The Dallas Cowboys’ deposed offensive coordinator, now in the identical function for the Los Angeles Chargers, will get to face his former workforce and HC Mike McCarthy − whose post-Moore reflections on Dallas’ offensive method have not precisely been glowing − coming off a bye week … whereas the Cowboys can have simply performed the always-physical 49ers on the highway. Favorable situations for Moore to take intention and get a bit payback.
Charles III: The UK’s new king can get pleasure from stay NFL soccer for 3 straight weekends (Oct. 1-15) with visits from bona fide playoff contenders and their celebrity quarterbacks (Jaguars, Payments, Ravens), one of many league’s most bodily imposing gamers (Titans RB Derrick Henry) and perhaps its most compelling rookie (Falcons RB Bijan Robinson). Not a foul option to begin your reign.
Germany: After internet hosting its first regular-season contest final yr, Deutschland will get a pair in 2023 − together with this yr’s finest worldwide matchup (Dolphins-Chiefs). Now it is as much as Frankfurt to copy, no less than, and maybe construct on the joyously raucous surroundings Munich showcased final yr.
Not-so-dirty South: Most NFL pundits will not expect a lot from the AFC or NFC South this yr, Jacksonville maybe the one workforce within the bunch that appears prone to obtain double-digit victories. Nevertheless it will not damage that the South divisions function groups with the six best schedules of 2023, based mostly on final yr’s profitable percentages: Falcons, Saints, Texans, Colts, Titans, Panthers. Ought to make it fairly a bit simpler for the obvious have-nots to battle the heavyweights for wild playing cards.
Black Friday: For the primary time, the league will slot a sport on the day after Thanksgiving, the Jets hosting the Dolphins on Nov. 24. Even higher, kickoff might be at 3 p.m. ET, giving loads of time for the turkey tryptophan to put on off and for viewers to complete searching for purchasing bargains on-line or at brick-and-mortar venues. However if you’re caught on the mall, Amazon Prime has an early Vacation reward, permitting without cost streaming even for those who’re not a Prime member.
Christmas: Why are we inviting fractious household reunions by placing soccer on all day? Did not the league study the folly of a Yuletide tripleheader final yr, the Rams actually asking their season ticketholders to donate their seats moderately than having SoFi Stadium filled with empty seats … for what was in the end a 51-14 Rams walkover of the Broncos? Oof. And earlier than you level to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers surviving in time beyond regulation on Christmas evening, assume again to the very fact TB12 was picked off twice by an also-ran Cardinals workforce led that day by QB Hint McSorley. This yr, we get Raiders-Chiefs, which looks as if a lump of coal within the stocking even when Kansas Citians are prone to end up in drive. And Giants-Eagles? Y’all understand how Philly treats Santa. And Ravens at 49ers ought to be compelling … even when no Harbaugh brothers on the Christmas desk.
Tom Brady: New England is inviting their retired hero again to Gillette Stadium for Week 1 … and can cap the celebration by getting spanked by the Eagles? The Patriots let him go as soon as and apparently by no means need him to come back again if that is what he has to witness.
Mexico: The NFL will not enterprise south of the border in 2023 as Mexico Metropolis’s Estadio Azteca continues present process renovations.
Schedule launch programming: Did NFL Community really want to dedicate 5 hours of stay programming … to disclose a schedule? ESPN restrained itself to 2 hours, although it was relegated to ESPN2. However on an evening when there have been a pair of NBA playoff video games and two NHL playoff video games, appeared a bit extreme. And given the large Boston, Philadelphia, Denver, Phoenix, Dallas and Seattle TV markets had been amongst these targeted on precise video games of consequence, possibly do not drive the NFL speaking heads to parse matchups no less than 4 months away?
Tyreek Hill: The previous Kansas Metropolis wideout was clearly relishing the chance to return to Arrowhead Stadium in 2023, telling Chiefs followers he’d be “y’all worst enemy” when he confirmed up with the Miami Dolphins. Oops. The NFL gave Hill the deuces and despatched the Cheetah and the Fins to Germany for the reunion together with his unique workforce, one coming off a championship season achieved with out him.
Administration of Chiefs’ schedule: Along with their Christmas responsibility towards the Raiders and first soiree with Hill, a yr after he was traded, occurring in Europe, it is laborious to sq. different elements of the Chiefs’ docket. In principle, certain, their Week 17 AFC championship sport(s) rematch with the Cincinnati Bengals may be a battle for home-field benefit. However quite a lot of issues have to interrupt in that path − together with the general efficiency and well being of each groups − to match the hype of beginning the season with Cincy coming again to “Burrowhead.” Kicking off the 2023 marketing campaign with the reigning champions internet hosting the Detroit Lions − and, certain, they’re going to most likely begin out as NFC North front-runners − is good, but it surely feels just like the Chiefs might be favored by a landing. Would not all of us be higher off by flipping the Lions’ go to to Week 17, a sport nonetheless prone to have vital playoff ramifications for either side, whereas elevating the curtain with the Bengals (of their all-white uniforms) in barbecue nation?
Bryce Younger and C.J. Stroud: The highest two picks of the 2023 draft ought to sq. off Oct. 29 when Younger’s Carolina Panthers host Stroud’s Houston Texans … in 1 p.m. ET obscurity. Given how laborious it’s to search out nationwide time slots for groups that usually do not get pleasure from big followings, we could not have no less than tossed this one into the midseason Thursday evening rotation?
Eagles: The NFC could also be perceived as a little bit of a cakewalk this yr, however the reigning convention champs should navigate the league’s hardest schedule − Philadelphia’s opponents with a collective .566 profitable proportion based mostly on 2022 data.
AFC East: Rodgers’ arrival ought to make it extra aggressive − prime to backside − than it is ever been within the twenty first century. However earlier than we make it the primary division to collectively qualify for postseason, contemplate that its members all face schedules ranked among the many league’s seven hardest. Appears a possible formulation for critical cannibalization.
Prime pine: The Cardinals, Falcons, Texans and Colts were all benched from showing in prime-time video games in 2023, although Atlanta and Indianapolis might be in unique worldwide home windows.
Jaguars: Three years in the past, the Jags had been scheduled to change into the primary workforce to play a number of video games abroad, however the COVID-19 pandemic postponed Jacksonville‘s seeming inexorable march towards twin citizenship. Nonetheless this yr, the Jaguars might be taking part in in London for Weeks 4 and 5 … which makes any observer marvel if this can be a precursor to a “research overseas” program amid the revelation the workforce probably won’t be able to play in Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field for two full seasons because the stadium is renovated, probably beginning in 2025. Bollocks, mates.
Payments: They “host” the Jags at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in that Week 5 matchup of 2022 divisional champions. Buffalo will get to face Trevor Lawrence and jet lag with Jacksonville extra acclimated than ever to their United Kingdom environs.
Aaron Rodgers: Stress’s on, boss. Six (possibly seven) nationwide phases, together with Black Friday, and a season-opening minefield that features the Payments, Cowboys, Patriots, Chiefs, and Eagles earlier than the Week 7 bye? AR8 will naturally be anticipated to finish the league’s longest present playoff drought, one which dates to 2010, however he’ll should work laborious to do it below the brightest of spotlights, a glare that can solely be augmented by the New York media market.
Comply with USA TODAY Sports activities’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.