Aaron Rodgers, Houston Texans, and the biggest takeaways from the 2024 NFL schedule

The 2024 NFL regular season has been unveiled, including over 70 national broadcasts between the league’s myriad of television and streaming partners. It’s a bit silly to deeply analyze these games in mid-May knowing how unpredictable the sport is, but that’s never stopped anyone before.

Having combed through the primetime matchups and other nationally televised contests (which include the International Series, Christmas Day on Netflix, and other standalone windows), here are some initial thoughts on this year’s schedule.

The NFL is going all-in on the Jets and Aaron Rodgers… with a caveat

Fans were repeatedly subject to truly offensive displays of offensive football by the New York Jets in 2023. This wasn’t supposed to happen with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, but that’s because his maiden season with New York ended after four snaps. Zach Wilson, Trevor Siemian, and Tim Boyle commandeered an offense that mustered five touchdowns in six nationally broadcast games.

Was the NFL going to ease up on the Jets hype after last year’s disaster? Of course not. They got the maximum six primetime games plus an NFL Network nationally televised London game against the Minnesota Vikings.

One key difference from last season is that all of the Jets’ national appearances are in the first 11 weeks. Their final six games are all 1 pm Eastern kickoffs, so if the season goes south again, there won’t be a need to consider flexing them out of primetime. It’s nevertheless a significant gamble to assume a 40-year-old Rodgers coming off the most devastating injury of his career will look anything close to his best form.

C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans are the expected breakout stars of 2024

When the 2023 schedule was released, the Houston Texans were given nothing but regionally televised kickoffs with minimal coverage distribution. By the end of the season, DeMeco Ryans’ squad was flexed into primetime for their playoff-clinching (and ultimately AFC South-clinching) victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

C.J. Stroud and fellow Rookie of the Year winner Will Anderson were at the forefront of the Texans’ improbable surge from cellar-dwellers to potential Super Bowl contenders. The NFL has quickly taken notice and is giving Houston the spotlight they have thoroughly earned. Their six nationally televised contests include a tantalizing early-season Sunday Night Football home opener against Caleb Williams and the Chicago Bears, a pre-Christmas Saturday matchup at the Super Bowl champ Kansas City Chiefs, Christmas Day tangle with the Baltimore Ravens, and an all-Texas showdown with the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11 on Monday Night Football.

Only the Week 8 Sunday Night Football matchup against the Detroit Lions is subject to flex scheduling, so the league is clearly a big believer in Houston following up on their unexpected success.

A Monday Night Football doubleheader with a paywall twist

Monday Night Football doubleheaders are here to stay. There were four last season (including the Week 18 twin bill on Saturday) and another five on the horizon this season. One notable change is the involvement of, yes, more subscription streaming.

ESPN+ aired International Series games in each of the last two seasons. In lieu of a London or Germany game, the streaming service will get into the MNF action for the first time with a Week 7 matchup between the Los Angeles Chargers and Arizona Cardinals. (The Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will air on ESPN as the “A-game”.)

The NFL has quickly normalized paywalled primetime football. Prime Video has the Thursday package, Netflix is now involved with Christmas Day streaming, Peacock gets one primetime offering, and now ESPN+ has swapped out morning kickoffs for nighttime.

More teams are getting the dreaded 4-day turnaround twice

In an effort to strengthen the Thursday Night Football schedule and expand the selection pool, the NFL changed its rules last season when it allowed teams to have multiple TNF appearances off of short weeks. There are 10 teams scheduled to make two Sunday-to-Thursday turnarounds: the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets, New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Chicago Bears. That’s up from five teams in 2023.

It’s actually 13 teams with a pair of 4-day turnarounds when you include the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Houston Texans, all of whom have a TNF appearance following a Sunday game, as well as a Saturday-to-Wednesday turnaround for Christmas Day. Player safety, anyone?

The Panthers are primetime poison until further notice

The Carolina Panthers have put in significant effort this offseason to rebuild their offensive line and improve their receiving group for Bryce Young. That doesn’t mean the league is particularly interested in giving them primetime slots after last year’s excruciatingly stinky 2-15 season, which included consecutive shutouts in Weeks 17 and 18.

Carolina’s lone national appearance is a Week 10 9:30 am Eastern kickoff on NFL Network versus the New York Giants in Munich, Germany. Rise and shine, Panthers fans, because unfortunately your team is the only one without any primetime action.

Sunday Night Football schedule

Monday Night Football schedule

Thursday Night Football schedule

NFL Network schedule

Christmas on Netflix games

Thanksgiving slate

NFL International schedule

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