Perhaps the best proof of the NFL’s dominance in America comes from the concept of the schedule release. Since early January, the who and the where of the upcoming 256-game slate has been known. The supplying of the “when” every April ends up trumping the various other sports that, unlike the NFL, will actually be playing games.
This year, the week to watch in April for the release of the 2016 regular-season schedule is the 18th.
Typically, the schedule isn’t released on a Monday or a Friday. That makes Tuesday the 19th, Wednesday the 20th, and Thursday the 21st the most likely dates for the official announcement of the schedule.
The more important games on the slate include the regular-season opener (September 8 in Denver), when the Broncos will celebrate their Super Bowl 50 win by facing a team like the Texans, Patriots, or Panthers. The trio of Thanksgiving games also will draw plenty of interest, as will the NFL’s plans for Christmas Day, which lands on a Sunday in 2016.
The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday, the NFL shifted the Sunday games to Saturday and staged a prime-time game between the Bears and Packers on Christmas night. With a captive audience similar to the one on Thanksgiving, could the league decide to drop multiple games on Christmas Day?
The Thursday night schedule also will provide intrigue, with CBS and NBC splitting the package this year.
Fans also will look at the various prime-time games to see when their favorite teams will play, and topics for attention/consternation will include how many times a team is facing opponents emerging from a bye.
Still, ultimately the schedule release tells us only when games that we already know will happen will be played. But the sports world will nevertheless be riveted by the news — and the schedule-release show on ESPN and/or NFL Network inevitably will feature analysts picking the outcome of games to be played eight months later.