Holidays mix up all the football schedules, both pro and college
I’m going slightly off course with today’s column to concentrate on the wider scheduling of football during the upcoming holidays.
First off, it’s getting to be a bit weird this weekend with the NFL schedule as the league changed from originally five Saturday games, all at indeterminate times, to now having three. Oh yeah, and they now all have a specific starting time. That would be weird if they just let teams show up whenever they felt like it, eh?
Also I see that all three games are on the NFL Network.
The Sunday night game (New England at Las Vegas) was changed to the New York Giants at Washington, which had been a Saturday game.
They at least did leave alone tonight’s game (San Francisco at Seattle) and Monday night’s with the Packers hosting the Los Angeles Rams.
It’ll all be a bit odd on Christmas and New Year’s, too, with those holidays falling on Sundays this year (actually 2023 in the case of New Year’s).
Most of the league schedule will be played on Christmas Eve Saturday, with three games listed on Christmas Day Sunday including the Packers-Dolphins in Miami, and also a Boxing Day Monday night game.
Remember Boxing Day, the day after Christmas? It’s apparently big over in jolly ol’ England.
The following weekend, I would’ve expected the NFL to move all of its Sunday games one day earlier or one day later in deference to New Year’s Day college bowl games.
But no, they’re keeping just about all of their games on New Year’s, and instead, all the major bowl games — the College Football Playoff and the traditional ones like the Cotton, Rose and Orange bowls — move to either Dec. 31 or Jan. 2.
So we have the Fiesta and Peach bowls as the CFP playoff semifinals on New Year’s Eve, of course with the Fiesta Bowl being played at 4 p.m. and featuring Michigan vs. TCU.
The Peach Bowl has Georgia and Ohio State starting at 8 p.m., and with the way these college playoff games take foooor-evvvvvver, they might still be playing when the clock strikes midnight in our Eastern time zone. Hopefully it’ll be over by midnight Central, though.
Also on New Year’s Eve are the Sugar Bowl and Music City Bowl. The Music City Bowl? That sounds like one that should be played closer to Christmas, not New Year’s.
Anyway, moving in the other direction to Jan. 2 are the Cotton and Rose bowls, but also the Citrus Bowl and the ReliaQuest Bowl. What’s a ReliaQuest?
And the national championship game — Michigan vs. Ohio State, anyone? — won’t be until Monday, Jan. 9, so you can count on there not being an NFL Monday night game that weekend, the final week of the regular season, unless they play it at 3 in the afternoon. And that won’t be happening.
So onto this week’s picks, some games maybe not when you were expecting them to be:
Today, 8:15 p.m.
San Francisco at Seattle — San Fran hardly missed a beat last weekend with Brock Purdy at quarterback. With the Seahawks reeling, I expect that to continue. 49ers, 27-20.
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Indianapolis at Minnesota — Indy’s got one thing going for it — the Colts didn’t play last weekend. Doesn’t sound like much of a vote of confidence. Vikings, 33-20.
Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
Baltimore at Cleveland — As much as Cleveland looks putrid, the Browns have two starting QBs — Deshaun Watson and Jacoby Brissett — while the Ravens may not even have their primary backup as Tyler Huntley went down last week following Lamar Jackson getting dinged the week before. This pick may look silly if Baltimore gets either back, but I’ll take the Browns, 20-16.
Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
Miami at Buffalo — Two teams in need of their backup cameras, but weather could spell the difference when a Florida team comes north in December. Bills, 23-16.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Atlanta at New Orleans — Only in the NFC South can you be 4-9 and in the thick of a playoff race. That’s what the Saints are.
And while New Orleans is in last place, it’s only two games behind all-alone-in-first-place Tampa Bay. With the Falcons benching QB Marcus Mariota, I’ll take those Saints, 24-19.
Pittsburgh at Carolina — Carolina’s coaches say they’re all blood and guts and about being physical, whereas the Steelers are trying to figure out who’ll play QB. Give me the team with answers, not questions. Panthers, 24-17.
Philadelphia at Chicago — I’ll worry about Philly when it has a three-game lead with two weeks go for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Until then, it’s full speed ahead. Eagles, 34-19.
Kansas City at Houston — It takes a competent offense to take advantage of the Chiefs’ weakness on defense. So KC should be OK this week. Chiefs, 38-13.
Dallas at Jacksonville — Without a strong defense, I don’t see how the Jags can keep up. Cowboys, 33-20.
Detroit at New York Jets — I keep underplaying the Lions, but this game makes me think of when the Lions played New England — and didn’t score a point. This New York group also has a dominant defense paired with an, at best, pedestrian offense. Jets, 26-22.
Sunday, 4 p.m.
Arizona at Denver — Both starting QBs look to be out. Do the Broncos have a backup, since they don’t seem to do anything else correctly? Arizona at least has Colt McCoy. Cardinals, 27-20.
Tennessee at Los Angeles Chargers — Two ships passing in the night, the Titans going backward and L.A. full speed ahead. Chargers, 23-19.
Cincinnati at Tampa Bay — Cincy’s on top of a real division; the Bucs only lead the NFC South. Bengals, 35-24.
New England at Las Vegas — A patented late-season run for New England, assuming Bill Belichick takes over offensive play calling from whichever hack ex-head coach he has to take that away from. Patriots, 20-11.
Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
New York Giants at Washington — Washington’s Ron Rivera should know what to do with a week off, facing a Giants team that is the one that really needs a week off. Commanders, 29-20.
Monday, 8:15 p.m.
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay — The Packers had a week off, but the Rams did sneak out three extra days after their Thursday game a week back. Still, take the Packers 20-13.
Last week — 8-5, 62 percent. Season — 123-83-2, 60 percent.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.