More Football Daydreaming: Breaking Down the NFL Schedule, Part Two

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I’m geeking out so hard about the 2015 NFL season that I had to turn my simple NFL schedule review into a two-part column. Here is the link to part one, where I went through weeks 1-8 and identified the games I’m most excited for and the matchup that I feel is going to be the most overhyped each week.

Now I’ll continue with weeks 9-17. And if for some reason you can’t bring yourself to read all this, I suggest skipping down to the end where I tallied up which teams had the most appearances in the “most excited for” category and which had the most “overhyped games” on its schedule. Enjoy.

Week 9

Overall Excitement Level: Extra Low

  • It looks like one of those weeks where all the good teams are facing all the bad teams. Those are the worst weeks.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Denver at Indianapolis – The Colts are actually 2-1 against Denver since Peyton went West and Andrew Luck took over at quarterback. Obviously this is a huge game if both teams continue to be the class of their respective divisions. And you know the Broncos have a horrible taste in their mouths from their 2014 season ending at the hands of Indy. It’s a little surprising this is a Sunday afternoon game and not the Monday night game.
  2. Philadelphia at Dallas – Here we go again with the NFC East and a primetime game. This Sunday nighter will have DeMarco Murray playing in front of the Dallas fans for the first time since the Cowboys let him walk in free agency. And by this point of the season, we will know if Chip Kelly is smart, dumb or simply trolling us.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Chicago at San Diego – This is your Monday Night Football matchup. If Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers are still the starting QBs of these two teams, we’ll be hearing an awful lot about their futures with potentially different teams leading up to this. The problem is neither of these two guys has ever won anything of significance with their current teams so the talk about them is always overblown.

Week 10

Overall Excitement Level: A Solid Medium

  • A handful of divisional games and some matchups of teams that are supposed to be good heading into the season. And as a bonus, this week features a preview of the Super Bowl 50 matchup, most likely.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Miami at Philadelphia – This is a sneaky intriguing game. Both teams have shown promise the last couple years without any real results to show for it. Both teams made huge offseason moves in hopes of getting over that hump that separates the playoff teams from the 9-7 teams. This might be an extremely important out of conference tilt for both of them.
  2. New England at Giants – And here’s your Super Bowl 50 matchup! I’m joking, but not entirely. In 2007 these two teams faced each other in the regular season before the Giants ended New England’s perfect season in the Super Bowl. In 2011, the same thing happened, minus the perfect season being on the line. The Patriots have now lost three straight to Eli Manning, Tom Coughlin and this confusing franchise. I know people think I’m crazy, but every four years history seems to be repeating itself. And the Giants are currently 25/1 to win the Super Bowl. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Houston at Cincinnati – Oh, you don’t think this will be hyped? Well this is going to be Andy Dalton’s second primetime game of the season. His first is the week before against Cleveland. This man is known to be a wreck under the spotlight. What if he loses to the Browns the previous week? How much pressure will there be about replacing him if he fails to rise to the occasion once again? And we might be talking about two playoff teams here.

Week 11

Overall Excitement Level: There is no excitement

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Denver at Chicago – OK, if the Bears bottom out this year, I really won’t be excited for this one. But we are seeing John Fox against his former Broncos team. We are seeing Jay Cutler against his former Broncos team. (What? That storyline is like six years old? OK, fine.) It’s really all about Fox trying to get some revenge for being ousted after having an awesome four-year run that almost any team would have appreciated. Except, apparently, for a team run by Peyton Manning.
  2. Dallas at Miami – Similar to the Miami/Philly game, this is an interconference game late in the season that could have a ton of meaning if both teams perform similar to last year.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Buffalo at New England – For the second time, Rex vs the Patriots earns this award. Rex is obsessed with New England, and the media is obsessed with Rex. This is an easy pick.

Week 12

Overall Excitement Level: A High Medium

  • The real reason there’s some true excitement on my part for week 12 is because it’s Thanksgiving weekend. Not only do we get three games spread out across the Fattest Day of the Year, but the Sunday of this weekend only features 12 games, making it much easier to view the important stuff.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. New Orleans at Houston – What can I say? I’m high on this Texans team. And watching J.J. Watt against an error-prone Drew Brees should be plenty entertaining.
  2. Pittsburgh at Seattle – Last year the Cowboys went into Seattle with the league’s best rushing attack, a solid quarterback and an all-world receiver and beat the Seahawks. The Steelers could have those very same offensive components this year. Not saying it’ll happen, but they could be a team to escape the Northwest with a victory. Also, is Seattle still bitching about the officiating from the 2006 Super Bowl?
  3. New England at Denver – This is either going to be the 17th installment of Brady vs Manning or the first installment of Brady vs Osweiler. It’s strange. With Manning’s rapid aging and the escalated hatred by Pats fans for teams like Indy, Baltimore and the Jets, this just doesn’t feel like the rivalry it was a few years back. Still must-see TV on Sunday night.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Chicago at Green Bay – Thanksgiving Night! NFC North Rivalry! Brett Favre’s Jersey Retirement! Ignore the fact that the Bears are 4-7!

Week 13

Overall Excitement Level: A Solid Medium

  • Believe it or not, there are eight games this week where both teams either made the playoffs in 2014 or nearly did. That’s good enough for me.

Games I’m Most Excited For: 

  1. Baltimore at Miami – The Ravens have gone into Miami two straight years and won. Last year it was in week 14 and it was a key game because the Ravens went to 8-5 and the Dolphins fell to 7-6. That was kind of the end of the line for Miami. This year could be exactly the same with both teams desperately needing this game.
  2. Seattle at Minnesota – Intriguing because Minnesota is absolutely going to be a major sleeper going into this season. Actually, they won’t be because everyone will talk about how they’re a sleeper and then they’ll quickly be overrated. But if they happen to play up to expectations, this could be a huge test for them. Teddy Bridgewater will have almost two seasons of games under his belt at this point so we’ll all be looking at this as a benchmark game for him too.
  3. Indianapolis at Pittsburgh – Last year these teams combined for 85 points in a game Pittsburgh won 51-34. No reason to think this year will be much different in terms of two fantastic offenses and two horrific defenses. And I can’t imagine a scenario where this week 13 game isn’t important for both teams.

Overhyped Game of the Week: 

  • Jets at Giants: Because it’s New York. Because Eli will either be having a great season or an awful season. Because Geno Smith/Ryan Fitzpatrick/Marcus Mariota(?) will be struggling big time for the Jets. Because Tom Coughlin will probably be on the annual hot seat.

Week 14

Overall Excitement Level: It’s not a full erection, but definitely a chubby.

  • Some possibly good games like Minnesota/Arizona, Pittsburgh/Cincy and New England/Houston don’t even crack my top three. There’s also a good possibility of seeing a lot of anger at MetLife Stadium when Marcus Mariota and the Titans go there to play the Jets and the home fans get to see what their team didn’t trade up for.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. San Diego at Kansas City – The Philip Rivers AFC West Farewell Tour kicks off with a game in Arrowhead. He plays all three AFC West rivals on the road between week 14 and week 17. Of course there’s a chance this game is actually meaningful. It could either have wildcard implications, or if Denver falls flat, this could be for the division.
  2. Dallas at Green Bay – You think the Cowboys are looking forward to this one? Maybe Dez Bryant will make a catch or two and over-exaggerate showing the ball to the refs to make sure they see he has actually caught it? The Cowboys return to the scene of the crime from the NFC Divisional Round this past January. High expectations for this one.
  3. Seattle at Baltimore – A Sunday night game between what should be one of the best teams from each conference. If the AFC North is especially tight at this point, Baltimore knows going into this week that either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati have to get a win since they face each other. The pressure will be on to beat the two-time defending NFC Champs.

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Buffalo at Philadelphia – Depending on what’s happening with these two teams at this point in the season, we’re going to hear one of two things over and over and over leading up to this game: 1) Chip Kelly was stupid to get rid of LeSean McCoy and the Eagles’ offense just isn’t the same without him, or 2) Buffalo screwed up by trading for and then extending the contract of a running back who came off a bad year and is getting to that age where running backs’ performances seem to fall off a cliff.

Week 15

Overall Excitement Level: Moderate

  • The schedule really blows in week 15, but we’re talking about the third-to-last week of the regular season. How can it not be somewhat exciting? And this is probably a good time to mention that the second half of this column feels especially futile because the exciting games are going to be largely determined by each team’s record since unlikely playoff contenders always emerge. Maybe the most interesting aspect of week 15 will be trying to figure out whether the Browns lose in Seattle by 50 points or just 40 points.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Houston at Indianapolis – If things go how I’m expecting, this game is going to effectively determine the AFC South Champion. For me it’s very easy to root for Vince Wilfork, Bill O’Brien and of course J.J. Watt (and it’s ridiculously easy to root against the sore loser Colts).
  2. Denver at Pittsburgh – One of the few true bright spots on this week’s schedule. This probably could have been the overhyped game considering we’ll hear 48 straight hours during the week of Peyton Manning vs the cold weather. But both teams should have winning record and be fighting for either a spot in the playoffs or specific seeding.
  3. Detroit at New Orleans – This is either a game with major playoff implications or a game where we get to laugh at both teams for letting their most important player go in the offseason (Ndamukong Suh for Detroit, Jimmy Graham for New Orleans).

Overhyped Game of the Week:

  • Tampa Bay at St. Louis – This won’t be overhyped at all, but I did want to take a moment to recognize what will be the final home game for this current installment of the St. Louis Rams. And the NFL went ahead and put it in the terrible Thursday night slot against Tampa Bay. I’ve never seen so much disrespect.

Week 16

Overall Excitement Level: High

  • It’s week 16 for crying out loud! Get excited!

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  1. Cleveland at Kansas City – Because we’ll probably be watching a game between two teams who have yet to throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver on the season. And for the Chiefs, that would make it a 31 game streak of no TD passes to receivers coming into this one if my prediction is right. Who wouldn’t want to watch a game that’s intriguing for all the wrong reasons?
  2. Indianapolis at Miami – The schedule makers do not like the Dolphins apparently. Their final five games go like this: vs Baltimore, vs the Giants, at San Diego, vs Indianapolis, vs New England. Sure, four of those games are at home, but I don’t see an easy opponent in there. Anyway, here’s another game that can determine some key AFC playoff spots.
  3. Pittsburgh at Baltimore – This second meeting between these AFC North teams will probably be as nasty as the first.

Overhyped Game of the Week: 

  • Cincinnati at Denver – A game featuring Peyton Manning and primetime Andy Dalton will get talked up a ton. This is the final Monday night game of the season. And possibly Dalton’s final primetime start as a Bengal.

Week 17

Overall Excitement Level: Through the Effing Roof!

  • It’s the final week of the season. The final time we get the RedZone Channel in 2015 (technically all these games take place in 2016, but you get my point). And every game is a divisional matchup. Even the NFL can’t mess this up.

Games I’m Most Excited For:

  • All of them – Seriously, who knows? We could be in a situation where 11 of 12 playoff spots are locked up. Or it could be the exact opposite. Maybe six of eight divisions will still be up for grabs on the final day. I’m not going to bother giving any sort of excitement or overhyped list because the entire day is going to be exciting and overhyped!

Now that we’ve gotten through that way-too-early look at the schedule, let’s tally up the counts and see what sticks out.

Here are the teams with the most “most excited” games on my list:

  1. Dallas (9 times)
  2. Indianapolis (8)
  3. Baltimore (6), Denver (6), Pittsburgh (6)
  4. Miami (5), New England (5), Seattle (5)
  5. New Orleans (4)

This tells me I’m a lot more excited about AFC teams than NFC teams. It also makes me feel so very dirty. I’m most excited about watching the Cowboys and then four of the Patriots’ biggest rivals in the AFC? Just terrible. But sadly this proves out why the suits at the broadcasting companies are always putting Dallas on national TV.

Here are the teams that didn’t get a single “most excited” on my list:

  • Arizona, Atlanta, Carolina, Oakland, St. Louis, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Tennessee

Not too surprising there. I think all those teams are either going to be terrible (Arizona, Oakland, Tennessee, etc) or mediocre without any true star power (Atlanta, Carolina, San Francisco). And the poor NFC West has three of its four teams on this unexcited designation. Seattle can probably start planning for at least one home playoff game.

As for the winners of the “overhyped” games, here’s who had the most of those:

  1. Chicago (4), New England (4)
  2. Buffalo (3), Jets (3), Philadelphia (3)
  3. Cincinnati (2), Detroit (2), Green Bay (2)

Interestingly enough, teams can be in an overhyped game either because they’re the good team who is going to destroy a talked-up team that isn’t very good (like New England and Green Bay will be doing to several opponents). Or they can be on the other end, receiving the punishment from the good teams (like Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo and the Jets will be doing).

There wasn’t a single team that got on the overhyped list but had no “most excited” games. I have no idea of that stat’s meaning.

Thanks for reading. I think you can tell that I desperately wish the NFL season wasn’t still so far away. I’m not an NFL Draft overreactor so you probably won’t see a football post from me for a couple months. Be sure to get your fill of all the other sports before September rolls around!

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