While the NFL says it’s ready to change course as needed based on complications that arise from the novel coronavirus, the league also continues to go forward with its plans for the 2020 season.
And that includes releasing the regular-season schedule on Thursday.
Confirming speculation that had grown over the last week or so, the NFL officially announced on Monday afternoon that the 2020 regular season schedule will be unveiled Thursday at 5 p.m. Seattle time.
The schedule will arrive a little later than it typically has.
In past years, the schedule was announced a week or so before the NFL draft.
The league, though, had been thought already leaning toward waiting to release the schedule until a week or two after the draft — and after it knows where the top picks are going to play so it can set up the best TV matchups possible — before the coronavirus erupted.
Still, the later date is also undeniably convenient this year to buy the league a little more time to assess things before releasing the schedule.
Some have wondered why the league is releasing the schedule now given the current uncertainty.
But the league has so far been determined to keep to its usual routine, while adapting as needed, such as conducting the draft virtually as well as allowing teams to hold their offseason programs virtually.
The league is apparently also going to release a schedule of preseason games, according to a report from Adam Schefter of ESPN Monday. Some had wondered if the league would bother with trying to hold preseason games in the current climate.
However, the NFL did also announce on Monday that it will not play any games internationally in 2020.
The league had been planning to play one game in Mexico City and four in London, and there had been a thought that Seattle might be included in one of those contests.
Among the teams that had already been slotted to host are three that are on Seattle’s schedule in 2020 — Arizona (Mexico City), Atlanta and Miami (each London). The Seahawks had been specifically rumored as potentially playing again in London, likely against Miami.
The Seahawks played their only international regular-season game in 2018 when they beat the Raiders in London at Wembley Stadium.
And Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said nothing but positive things about the trip so it had been thought the Seahawks were just fine with going again two years later as an away opponent (what teams resist more is giving up a home game).
This week’s release of the schedule will set dates, times and TV affiliations for games.
Opponents have already been set through the league’s scheduling formula.
For Seattle, that means home-and-road games against its three division rivals (which makes six games), four games against each team from another NFC division (which this year means the NFC West plays the NFC East), four games against each team from a division in the AFC (which this year is the AFC East) and then two games against the teams who finished in the same place as Seattle in the other two NFC divisions it’s not playing (which this year means playing a home game against the team that finished second in the NFC North and a road game against the team that finished second in the NFC South).
However, it’s been reported that the league will likely produce the schedule in a manner in which it can make changes if the start of the regular season has to be delayed.
One thought is that every team will play home and road games in each of the first two weeks, and then again in each of the next two weeks, so the schedule could be cut if needed to 14 games, and then to 12, while still preserving the same number of home and road games for each team.
It’s also thought the schedule is likely to be backloaded with division games so that if the schedule has to be cut even more, there could be as much perceived fairness as possible in how division champions are decided.
In what was a quirk of the way the calendar broke this year, the NFL season was already slated to start as late as it can under the current formula of beginning on the Thursday following Labor Day (Labor Day this year is on Sept. 7). So that sets the first game of the regular season on Thursday. Sept. 10.
That has the Super Bowl scheduled for Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla.
However, it’s thought the NFL is also assembling models for moving the Super Bowl back, if needed, and beginning the season as late as October, in which it could eliminate bye weeks and the week off between the conference title games and the Super Bowl and still play a 14-game regular season.
What the league apparently plans to release this week, though, is its usual 16-game schedule, hoping for the best that matters will improve enough so it can go off as planned.
Here is a look at Seattle’s home and road opponents for 2020:
HOME: Arizona, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco, Dallas, Minnesota, New England. New York Giants, New York Jets.
AWAY: Arizona, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco, Atlanta, Buffalo, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington.