There have been reports for a while that the NFL is targeting Thursday, May 11 to release its 2023 schedule, but that may now not be the date. Peter King included a lot of material on the schedule in his Football Morning In America column at NBC Monday, and what perhaps most stands out is that there’s at least a chance the league won’t be releasing that schedule Thursday night after all. King adds that some of the league’s biggest dates are not yet locked in:
The release of the schedule, which the NFL had hoped to have for a primetime show Thursday night, may be delayed. It’s still likely to be done in time for release Thursday at 8 p.m., but I was told over the weekend it may not be finished in time. The 2023 mega-games—opening Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights, Thanksgiving Day, the new Black Friday tilt, the Sunday night game on Christmas Eve and the Monday tripleheader on Christmas—are not set in stone yet. The mega-games are usually solid by early May. The schedule crew is slated to meet with commissioner Roger Goodell this afternoon in New York, at which time more clarity on the tentpole games is expected. I’m told as of the weekend the NFL was still in search of options on the 272-game regular season slate, with a series of computers continuing to spit out alternatives.
Getting the schedule right is obviously more important than just getting it out. Media and fans dissect the NFL schedule in great detail every year, and there are always plenty of complaints with it. Those would likely intensify even more if the schedule was finished without considering all the potential options. And, as King notes, there have been some late-breaking changes here in team primetime value, with Aaron Rodgers finally going to the New York Jets and Lamar Jackson signing a new deal with the Baltimore Ravens. But moving the schedule release creates plenty of its own problems.
For one, the longer a mostly-complete schedule is held, the more leaks seem likely to emerge. Those leaks already happen, and already reduce the TV value of the primetime schedule release special; a long delay for that full release and special might intensify that problem. Beyond that, that special has significant value for NFL Network, bringing in some of their largest offseason audiences, and Thursday night at 8 p.m. seems like a strong slot for it. It’s unclear if the alternative here is the next night (but Friday night is less ideal for TV audiences) or the next week (but that would add to the leak problem). As King writes, the schedule is still “likely to be done” as planned, but there’s a chance that it isn’t.
There are two other notes of particular interest on the schedule in King’s column. One is that with the conference of road teams no longer (largely) determining whether afternoon games go to Fox or CBS, there are a lot more possibilities for the schedule (which is part of the complication here). Another is that the March rule change to allow teams to play Thursday games up to twice instead of once may mean some bad teams don’t get a national TV slot at all, while stronger teams and/or better-drawing teams might get two Thursday games. That would certainly please Amazon, and Al Michaels. (And they could still also benefit from Thursday night flex scheduling, which is set for discussion at league meetings later this month.) But we’ll have to wait for this schedule release to see just how that turns out, and we don’t yet know just how long we’ll be waiting.
[Football Morning In America; NFL logo photo from Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports]