A complete, 256-game NFL schedule for 2020 is difficult enough to craft in a normal year when a global pandemic isn't casting a shadow of doubt over how much of the schedule can actually be played — and over where games can actually be played.
This year, the NFL's international series is casualty in the creation of the schedule, which the NFL plans to release Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.
The league announced Monday that all 2020 games will be scheduled to play in the United States "under consistent protocols focused on the well-being of players, personnel and fans." While the specific matchups and dates for the NFL's 2020 international games had not been set, the Jaguars were slated to host two London games at Wembly Stadium. The Dolphins and Falcons were to host one London game each, presumably both at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Cardinals were to host a game in Mexico City.
NFL SCHEDULE RELEASE:
Strength of schedule rankings & more for 2020
NFL update on 2020 season schedule.
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These coronavirus-related challenges are why the NFL waited a few extra weeks to release its schedule this year. NBC Sports' Peter King suspects the league was "making multiple schedules, in the case of a reduction to 14 or 12 or 10 games per team," but that "even a 16-game schedule could have major changes."
Marc Ganis, a sports business consultant who is plugged in with top NFL officials, told King he is "very confident of a 16-game season with a Super Bowl in February. ... I didn’t say I was confident in 16 games with a bye, or what week in February the Super Bowl would be, or if every team will play eight games in their home stadiums, or whether there will be fans at every game.
"There’s more information that’s needed before we have these answers. Teams are just going to have be flexible.”
With a three-hour TV show on NFL Network, the NFL will release a full, 17-week schedule that features the 2020 season-opener on Sept. 10 and Super Bowl 55 on Feb. 7. Teams and fans will have to accept that schedule with the presumption that it will be modified over the summer as the league receives more clarity on the viability of its season.
"At some point," a top NFL team executive told King, “we’re going to have start accepting inequalities. What happens when teams in four states are told, ‘You can’t have training camp?’ Do those teams not have camp? Do they travel to a state that allows a gathering of 100 or so people to work?
"Time will tell, but the way it looks now, there’s no way all states are going to be under equal rules by the summer."