The 2023 NFL schedule is set, but much is still TBD as Thursday night’s flex option comes to a head

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In another sign of the NFL’s powerful ability to market its products to the masses, this has been quite a week for the release of the regular season schedule.

The international games came first. Then the first Black Friday offer was announced. After that the Monday night opener was announced. Okay, here’s the kickoff for the season. New Year’s Eve? Christmas? Plan your holiday parties accordingly. And yes, there is a midseason rematch of the NFC title game coming in the Sunday afternoon window on Fox.

Talk about a tease or two.

All of this came out before the faucet was turned on to reveal the “full album” in prime time.

In one sense, you have to give it to the league to play the drama as another opportunity to stay in the minds of the users during the offseason – two weeks from the draft, a little more than two months from the combine and three. months after the Super Bowl.

Just know that some of the most important slots with this schedule are TBD.

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Brace yourselves, NFL fans (and players and coaches too), for the most fluid NFL record in history (that wasn’t, uh, thrown for a loop due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

When the NFL owners meet in Minnesota on May 22-23, a proposal is expected to be back on the agenda to allow flexible scheduling for “Thursday Night Football” games on Amazon in Weeks 14-17. The measure, which required 24 votes, came just two votes short of being adopted at the Phoenix league meetings in March, with two teams (Carolina and Denver) abstaining.

Although New York Giants co-owner John Mara strongly objected during and after the meeting, calling the proposal “abusive” to ticket-buying fans, the proposal is gaining support from Commissioner Roger Goodell and the move promoted by several powerful owners.

And you know what that means. Money talks. TV (including streaming broadcasts, with Amazon paying the NFL $1 billion a year) moves the needle.

Don’t forget the players, and especially those from the best teams who are tapped to change games from Sunday afternoon to prime time. Apologies to fans who may travel from out of town. At their last meeting, NFL owners voted to allow “Monday Night Football” games to be flexible for the first time. And they voted to allow teams to flex twice in such short weeks for Thursday night windows, which could happen only once in a previous season. The next move for the flex option on Thursday night seems almost imminent.

As an NFL coach told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday, “He’s coming, as is 18th the game is coming down the line.”

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) reacts after a play against the Green Bay Packers in the first quarter at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) reacts after a play against the Green Bay Packers in the first quarter at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.

Don’t look for pushback from the general group of NFL players. In extending the labor contract with players who were struck in 2020, NFL owners were given the right to unilaterally extend more late-season games.

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, echoed Mara in expressing concern for the fans. Smith also said that while there is no solid data that shows a difference in the injury rate for Thursday night games, he is aware of the extra measurements for playing on short weeks and possibly in several cases.

“It’s not just the extent of the injury that we’re talking about,” Smith told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s things like (management) load and emotional stress and changing someone’s schedule.”

At the end of the meetings in Phoenix, Goodell reiterated his oft-cited position on Thursday’s injury rates being largely unchanged from Sunday’s games and pushed back on Mara’s contention that fans of his ‘ get a bad deal. And Goodell pointed out that since the NFL began moving games to Sunday night in late 2006, the league has averaged about 1 ½ games a year — a decision that isn’t a major overhaul. on the window of the end of the season Thursday the opinion. .

“So, it’s a very important thing for us to balance with what I would call the season ticket holders and the in-stadium markets,” Goodell said, “but we have millions of fans who also watch television, so the goal is to reach them. a balance that you always strike and make sure we get it right.”

The NFL reportedly averaged 9.6 million viewers for the first year of its streaming deal with Amazon in 2022, which was down 46% from the previous season’s games on Fox and the NFL Network. Fall seemed inevitable last year, with the new stage for the marquee game. But the NFL, with an Amazon deal that runs until 2033, is also motivated to help boost viewership by providing attractive matchups later in the season. The flexible matches would be decided with less than 15 days notice.

Mara’s words usually carry a lot of weight among NFL owners. But aside from the concern he expressed to fans – “Moving a game back to Thursday night, to me, is just insulting, and I’m strongly opposed to it,” he said in March – a apparently Mara was not too excited that the proposal came on the record without being thoroughly examined by the competition committee of which he is a member.

In the weeks between meetings, apparently there is time to investigate the competition committee, if they do not get an agreement. Then again, this might be an important sign that the competition committee didn’t seem to be involved in preparing the proposal for Thursday night’s flex.

In other words, it takes a miracle to move the room in the opposite direction.

In the meantime, the schedule is set… except for the parts that are TBD.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.

This article first appeared on USA TODAY: 2023 NFL schedule set, but Thursday night flex could create chaos

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