There are always some crazy quirks when it comes to the NFL schedule and this year is no different. Although the league office does its best to make all 32 teams happy, the fact of the matter is that making everyone happy just isn’t possible when you’re putting together a schedule that consists of 272 games.
Some teams will be happy about the quirks on their schedule while plenty of other teams won’t be.
So who got the craziest quirks? Let’s find out.
The Cleveland Browns arguably have the most interesting quirk on the schedule and that’s because they’ll be doing something that no NFL team has done in 30 years: They get to play back-to-back games against the same opponent.
After playing in Baltimore in Week 12, the Browns will have a Week 13 bye before playing host to the Ravens in Week 14. This marks the first time since 1991 that an NFL team has played back-to-back regular-season games against the same opponent. Thirty years ago, it was the Chargers and Seahawks who played each other back-to-back.
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The Jets and Dolphins were actually scheduled to play each other in back-to-back games last year, but that didn’t happen because their schedules got re-arranged due to the pandemic. For Cleveland, the two-game stretch against the Ravens will mark first time since 1957 that the Browns have played back-to-back games against a single team.
On the other hand, the Ravens won’t be playing back-to-back games against the Browns. Baltimore got dealt a tougher hand and will have to play the Steelers in Week 13 while the Browns are on their bye.
Speaking of the Ravens, we’re going to start with them as we take a look at nine other quirks on the schedule.
- Home sweet home. The Ravens will be playing four straight home games in 2021, marking just the seventh time that’s happened over the past 30 years (2020 Steelers, 2016 Raiders, Dolphins, Packers, 2015 Titans, 2008 Texans). Of the previous six teams to play four straight home games, five of them went either 4-0 or 3-1 during their home-stand. The 2015 Titans are the only team that didn’t finish above .500 (0-4).
- Bear down. The Bears don’t have to play consecutive road games at any point this season. This marks just the fourth time since 2010 that’s happened. The good news for the Bears is that in the three previous instances (2019 Ravens, 2013 Packers, 2012 Falcons), all three teams ended up winning their division.
- Washington’s wild finish. The Football Team will close the season with five straight games against division opponents. To put that in perspective, only three other teams will even play four division opponents over the final five weeks (Cowboys, Eagles, Panthers). This marks the first time since 1995 that a team will have to close the season with five straight division games (The 1995 Buccaneers went 1-4 over their five-game divisional stretch and fell out of the playoff race).
- Rough road to start the season. There are only four teams in the NFL who will have to play their first TWO games on the road and those teams are: The Cowboys, Broncos, Vikings and 49ers.
- Rough road to end the season. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are only two teams that close the season with two straight road games and those two teams are the Chiefs and Panthers.
- Bye, bye, bye. The Patriots are facing three teams that will be coming off a bye this year, which is the most in the NFL. That’s not ideal since teams will be getting extra rest and preparation time prior to playing New England. On the flip side, the Panthers will be facing zero teams coming off a bye.
- Monday shut out. The Broncos weren’t given a Monday night game this year, marking the first time since 1991 that that’s happened. Heading into 2021, the Broncos had the longest active streak of consecutive seasons with a Monday game.
- Fly Eagles Fly. Not only do the Eagles have the easiest strength of schedule this year, but they don’t have to play a single road game this season against a team that had a winning record last year. As a matter of fact, of the Eagles’ 17 opponents in 2021, only three of them had a winning record in 2020. Also, the Eagles won’t be flying much as they won’t have to get on a plane for the rest of the season following their Nov. 14 game (Week 10) at Denver.
- Thirsty Thursday. It’s starting to seem like the NFL is trying to permanently move every Cowboys game to a Thursday. Through the first 13 weeks of the season, the Cowboys will be playing three Thursday games. The three Thursday games is tied for the most any team has played in a season since 2000 (2019 Bears and 2000 Lions also played three Thursday games).
Even though we’ve reach our 10 quirk limit, we’ve decided to throw in a BONUS QUIRK and it has to do with bye weeks.
Week 14 bye. The Colts, Dolphins, Eagles, Patriots all landed a Week 14 bye, which is notable for two reasons. First, it’s the latest scheduled bye any team has been given since the NFL expanded to 32 teams in 2002. Second, the Buccaneers had the latest bye week last year and they went on to win the Super Bowl, which could be good news for the one of the four teams here. Also, if the crazy bye week trend below holds, that means that either the Colts, Dolphins, Eagles or Patriots will be winning Super Bowl LVI.
There are also several other scheduling notes that aren’t really quirks, but are probably worth mentioning. Starting in Week 2, the Cowboys play eight straight games against teams that finished under .500 last year. The Steelers and Panthers both close the season with four straight games against teams that made the playoffs last year. For Pittsburgh, that means games against the Titans, Chiefs, Browns and Ravens. For Carolina, that means games against the Bills, Saints and Buccaneers twice.
Also, when the Chargers face Washington in Week 1, it will mark just the fourth-time ever that the reigning offensive rookie of the year (Justin Herbert) has played against the reigning defensive rookie of the year (Chase Young) in a season-opener.