The NFL released their 2011 schedule last night, while locking out their players for the 38th straight day. Perhaps it's no surprise then that the schedule release was somewhat muted compared to the hysteria of recent years. One of the highlights of seeing the NFL sked for the first time is checking out the national primetime matchups, especially who squares off on Monday Night Football. All games (except the Week 1 DH that begins at 7:30) are 8:30 ET starts on ESPN with Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, and Jon Gruden calling the action. Here's the MNF sked, with some thoughts below.
Week 1: New England @ Miami, Oakland @ Denver
Week 2: St. Louis @ New York Giants
Week 3: Washington @ Dallas
Week 4: Indianapolis @ Tampa Bay
Week 5: Chicago @ Detroit
Week 6: Miami @ New York Jets
Week 7: Baltimore @ Jacksonville
Week 8: San Diego @ Kansas City
Week 9: Chicago @ Philadelphia
Week 10: Minnesota @ Green Bay
Week 11: Kansas City @ New England
Week 12: New York Giants @ New Orleans
Week 13: San Diego @ Jacksonville
Week 14: St. Louis @ Seattle
Week 15: Pittsburgh @ San Francisco
Week 16: Atlanta @ New Orleans
The MNF sked has some intriguing games, but is mostly a letdown. After 13 divisional rivalry games on last year's schedule, this year MNF is down to 9 divisional games. From a brief glance, the sked doesn't have the great, must-see, highlight games that you would expect. Surprisingly, SB XLV reps Pittsburgh and Green Bay only get one game a piece. Even the rivalry games don't stand out as there would be better divisional matchups on the table. I would have hoped we could be spared from Vikings/Packers for another year (my God, it'll be the first Vikings/Packers game in Lambeau that Brett Favre will watch as a fan!!!). It also seems like this is the 34th straight year the Jets and Dolphins will play each other on Monday night. Cross-divisional matchups like Rams/Giants and Ravens/Jags don't exactly cause masses of NFL fans to start circling their calendars either.
It's interesting to look at the late-season MNF schedule since those games cannot be flexed like their Sunday Night brethren. The league is counting on those games to feature good teams and mean something. That's why I can't understand the three week run of Chargers/Jags, Rams/Seahawks, and Steelers/49ers. Seriously? St. Louis vs Seattle? Didn't we all have to suffer through that once already? The best matchups appear to be Weeks 9 and 16 featuring CHI/PHI and ATL/NO. Of course, with the topsy turvy nature of the NFL nothing's certain, but as we sit in April, the MNF schedule gets a C at best.