The NFL Schedule Throws NASCAR a Gut Punch, Mostly Because It Can
The NFL is behaving like the Oakland Raiders of the Al Davis/John Madden era. Rather than taking what the opposition gives it, the pro football league’s mentality is that it can take what it wants.
The 2022 NFL schedule released on Thursday will make sports fans in Arizona choose between what could be a mildly important divisional game and the Championship 4, the crowning race of the NASCAR Cup Series season.
Once it spotted the conflict, the NFL could have fixed what it had done with a simple change. Naturally, it didn’t.
The NFL schedule release is barely important
Thursday was one of the most meaningless “big” days on the sports calendar: the release of the NFL schedule. It allows some fans to start planning a trip to follow their favorite team to a road game. It allows others to pick a date for the annual family picnic that avoids when the local team is playing.
But as far as drama goes, there is none since teams know their upcoming opponents a day after the previous season. The 32 franchises play divisional rivals twice annually to account for six games. Eight more games against a division from each conference come from a set rotation. The final standings determine the three remaining games against teams finishing in the same place in their respective divisions.
Really, the only aspects passing as “suspenseful” are the revelations of the eight or nine home dates per team and the assignments of primetime games on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday nights.
Of the 272 regular-season games disclosed on Thursday, one might have grabbed the attention of NASCAR fans: The Arizona Cardinals hosting the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 6.
The NFL goes head-to-head with NASCAR’s Championship 4
As NFC West rivals, the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks play each other twice each NFL regular season. This fall’s games will be Oct. 16 in Seattle and Nov. 6 in Phoenix, and it’s the latter that NASCAR fans may have noticed already.
The NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 is scheduled for the same day in nearby Avondale. The race starts at approximately 3 p.m. ET, and the NFL game kicks off an hour later. Fans of both sports must choose one or the other. The dilemma is particularly tough on those with season tickets for the Cardinals. Attending the race means giving up those tickets for a home game.
It would have required minor juggling, but the NFL could have avoided the head-to-head conflict with 15 seconds of schedule juggling.
Merely flipping the home dates for the two Seahawks-Cardinals games would pose an issue by giving Arizona three straight home games beginning Oct. 9 and then four in a row on the road (the last of which is in Mexico City) beginning Oct. 30. It would also give Arizona four consecutive road games followed by four straight (wrapped around a bye) at home.
Three straight home games aren’t an issue in the NFL’s eyes, but the league goes to great lengths to avoid that many in a row on the road, and four is really a no-no because of concerns about competitive disadvantages.
The simple NFL schedule fix to accommodate the NASCAR Championship 4
Rather than juggling the home dates of the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks, the NFL could have made one easy move to avoid clashing with the NASCAR Championship 4 in the Phoenix market.
The Monday Night Football game in Week 9 of the NFL schedule pairs the Baltimore Ravens with the New Orleans Saints, which doesn’t look any more compelling six months ahead of time than the Cardinals vs. the Seahawks. Flipping the two games would be a no-harm, no-foul solution.
Pro football is the American sports world’s 800-pound gorilla, and NASCAR has started moving out of its way by pushing the Daytona 500 back a week to avoid going up against the Super Bowl. With a chance at respectful reciprocity, the NFL office either missed the obvious scheduling conflict with NASCAR (and the easy fix) or saw it and didn’t care.
Either way, it creates an unnecessary inconvenience for some sports fans in Arizona as well as media outlets that will be stretched thin covering two big events on the same day.
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