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How the NFL created their 2017 schedule and how the 49ers might have it worse than the Patriots

The San Francisco 49ers have to do a LOT of traveling this year.

Every year, MMQB’s Peter King sits down with the NFL schedule-makers to learn about the process and any difficulties that came up during the formulation process. The league planned to announce the schedule on a Thursday and it wasn’t until the Monday before- just three days prior- that the schedule was created.

The schedule was accepted by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but it wasn’t without flaws.

“When Goodell initially saw the first iteration of the schedule his group found acceptable, Katz said the commissioner was ‘generally complimentary,’” King writes. “But one of the problems Goodell and the schedule-makers couldn’t get over was that one NFL club (Katz wouldn’t say which) had a three-game road trip, which included a trip to the opposite coast, followed by another road game. They would have played the schedule. They didn’t want to play the schedule.”

Which team drew the short straw that the league couldn’t “get over”? I’ve written at length about how the Patriots schedule is extremely bizarre from a historical perspective, but the Patriots aren’t the only team with some tough stretches. King highlights a team that has a three-game road trip (including a game on “the opposite coast”), followed by a home game, and then a fourth road game.

Now it’s not clear if the league ultimately changed the schedule to accommodate this one team, but we can run through all the schedules to see if any team matches this description.

The Patriots don’t qualify because their scenario is different. The Patriots play five of six on the road, but they end with a three-game road trip all on the east coast (Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers). The trip starts with two road games- against the Denver Broncos, and then in Mexico City against the Oakland Raiders- so the Patriots final schedule appears to be more difficult than the one NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and company were upset about including.

The Cincinnati Bengals (Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos), Denver Broncos (Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles), and Philadelphia Eagles (Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants) all play three road games in a row, but they follow up with multiple weeks at home.

The Minnesota Vikings play the Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, and Carolina Panthers on the road, before hosting the Cincinnati Bengals and heading on the road to face the Green Bay Packers. This doesn’t include an “opposite coast” game, so it’s not the Vikings.

The Atlanta Falcons fall in a similar boat with three road games against the New England Patriots, New York Jets, and Carolina Panthers, but none count as a cross-country game. The Falcons then host the Dallas Cowboys before traveling to the west coast to face the Seattle Seahawks.

The Jacksonville Jaguars count, in my opinion, because they will play “host” of the Baltimore Ravens in London, before traveling to face the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers. London certainly represents the opposite coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The Jaguars will then host the Los Angeles Rams before traveling to play the Indianapolis Colts.

But if we’re sticking with the exact “three-game road trip including cross-country game, home, back on road” formula, there is only one team that qualifies.

The San Francisco 49ers go on the road to face the Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Washington (their cross-country game), before hosting the Dallas Cowboys, and going back across the country to face the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s a brutal amount of travel.

At least the Patriots get to stay on the east coast for their three-game road trip. Going from Washington to San Francisco and back to Philadelphia in the span of three weeks has got to be one of the toughest stretches of the year.


Which stretch is more difficult?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Patriots: @Broncos, @Raiders (Mexico), vs Dolphins, @Bills, @Dolphins, @Steelers
    (296 votes)
  • 44%
    49ers: @Cardinals, @Colts, @Washington, vs Cowboys, @Eagles
    (237 votes)
533 votes total Vote Now