Monday, May 27, 2024

2024 NFL schedule release winners, losers: Who got help, and who didn’t?

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The NFL’s 2024 regular-season schedule has finally dropped – with all the pomp and circumstance only this league can generate for a once mundane “event.”

This year’s 272-game docket will include a new distribution partner, games played on an unusual day of the week, an international venue making its debut and other various oddities – including ESPN carrying four “Monday Night Football” doubleheaders, all but one with kickoffs staggered by 45 minutes.

But after we pored through the lineup, a few obvious winners and losers have emerged from the 2024 schedule, so let’s take a closer look at those on both sides of the equation:

WINNERS

NFL social media departments

The annual reveal of the schedule has become the de facto digital Super Bowl for those grinding away on Instagram, X, TikTok and elsewhere on behalf of the clubs as they disseminate their upcoming calendar. Common themes are use of celebrities, pop culture, fans and flat-out creativity. USA TODAY Sports social media sensei Jordan Mendoza cites the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angles Chargers and New England Patriots among this year’s standouts.

Cord cutters

It’s not like the NFL hasn’t already embraced streaming games associated with its primary broadcast partners. But more are being exclusively distributed on platforms like Prime Video, Peacock and ESPN+. Now Netflix has joined the party with Wednesday’s announcement  that it will own the Christmas package for the next three seasons – including this year’s Yuletide contests between the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers followed by the Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans.

Caleb Williams

The Chicago Bears have been absent from the playoffs since 2020, but you’re going to see plenty of their rookie quarterback – drafted first overall last month – and a new-look offense as this team’s expectations skyrocket. The Monsters of the Midway are slotted into five exclusive broadcast windows, including at Detroit on Thanksgiving. And even without Williams, they were 3-1 under the lights last season.

Packers and Eagles

They’ll play the league’s first-regular season game in South America – Week 1, on Friday, Sept. 6 (on Peacock). But we knew that. However the contest should be a reprieve for two clubs that likely will have coped with very humid conditions in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania for the duration of training camp and preseason. The environment in São Paulo should be a spring-like reprieve when the teams meet, the average temperatures at that time of year in the mid-60s, according to wunderground.com.

New York Jets fans

Despite what happened to Aaron Rodgers and Co. last season, the league is doubling down on Gang Green’s visibility – the NYJ in seven standalone broadcast windows over the first 11 weeks, including a Week 5 contest in London against the Minnesota Vikings and, possibly, former Jets QB Sam Darnold. The Jets’ six prime-time dates are tied for most in the league.

Taylor Swift fans

The Kansas City Chiefs have eight standalone windows, including Black Friday and Christmas, scheduled as they pursue the first-ever Super Bowl three-peat – ample opportunities for the pop star to cheer on beau Travis Kelce in front of their (her) adoring fans. K.C. will play on every day of the week this season except Tuesday, the first club do that since the 1927 New York Yankees (yes, there was an NFL version, too). CBS apparently falls into this category, the network set to broadcast eight Chiefs games – at least double any of its broadcast competitors – though Fox scored the Super Bowl 58 rematch with San Francisco.

LOSERS

Taylor Swift haters

Yeeeaaah, sorry. But it’s going to be a challenging schedule to navigate for the two-time defending champions, who open against teams they vanquished in the past two AFC title games (Ravens, Bengals).

Side note: The Dolphins, Saints and Colts all had to schedule home games around Swift’s “The Eras Tour” amid its Sunday visits to South Florida, New Orleans and Indianapolis.

Jets haters

Yeeeaaah, sorry. But New York’s overexposure worked out in your favor in 2023.

Jets players

They’re about to get whipsawed around the globe with nary any semblance of a routine for two-plus months – amid massively refueled expectations and with HC Robert Saleh and GM Joe Douglas hoping to save their jobs. The Jets even start with two roadies, a Week 1 Monday nighter at the 49ers followed by a trip to Nashville to visit the Tennessee Titans. However, survive that gauntlet and the Jets emerge from their Week 12 bye with five Sunday 1 p.m. ET kickoffs in December – circadian consistency at what’s supposed to be the most important point of the regular season.

The NBA

Once the primary purveyor of pro sports on Christmas, the Association now appears to be permanently stuck in the backseat with the NFL reversing course from its stated stance last year and opting to play on Dec. 25 this year – even though it falls on a … Wednesday.

Ravens

For the second straight year, they won’t be home for Christmas, dispatched to play the Texans in Houston. But maybe it’s not so bad given the eventual AFC North champions rocked the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara last year on Christmas night.

Cowboys

No prime-time game until Week 4? Pearls clutched.

AFC North

Last year, it became the only division in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to have all of its teams finish with winning records. This year, the Ravens, Steelers and Browns own the league’s three hardest schedules based on their opponents’ 2023 winning percentages. Woof. Someone (or someones) are falling below .500 in 2024.

Bryce Young

Williams, the top pick of the 2024 draft, will be routinely featured. So will Texans QB C.J. Stroud, the second pick of the 2023 draft, Houston set for six standalone broadcast windows. Heck, Williams and Stroud will meet on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 2. And then there’s Young, the No. 1 pick of the 2023 draft, and his Carolina Panthers … the only team not scheduled to play in prime time this season.

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Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on X, formerly Twitter @ByNateDavis.

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