Here are 20 fun facts, or random quirks, to consider when perusing the 2014 NFL schedule:
1. Peyton Manning takes on the Colts for Week 1 of the new season. In the Super Bowl era (1966 -2013), only three SB-winning quarterbacks have started a season opener against the club that originally drafted them into league — Brett Favre (vs. Falcons in 2002), Steve Young (vs. Buccaneers in 1997) and Joe Theismann (vs. Dolphins in 1984).
2. In the 43-year history of Monday Night Football (1970-2013), the Lions had never been assigned a prime-time home opener for Week 1. But that will change on Sept. 8, when Detroit hosts the New York Giants.
By the way … the Week 1 clash will mark back-to-back road trips to Detroit for the Giants. The clubs met at Ford Field last year (Week 16).
3. The Broncos and Seahawks — last year’s Super Bowl combatants — will tangle in Seattle on Sept. 21 (Week 3).
Seventeen years have passed since the last Super Bowl rematch for the following regular season. In 1997, the Packers — who outlasted New England in Super Bowl XXX that previous January — rolled over the Patriots in Foxboro (28-10).
4. How’s this for unusual: The Buccaneers — the NFL’s only team with back-to-back home tilts to open and close the 2014 season — will have just four home games (Raymond James Stadium) between Weeks 3-15.
5. Peyton Manning’s Broncos have a bye week on Sept. 28. It’s the earliest bye week for a Manning-led club since 2000 … when the Colts enjoyed a Week 3 bye.
6. No NFL fan base travels like Steelers supporters, and this season will be no different. Pittsburgh has seven roadies in the Eastern Time Zone (Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Atlanta, Carolina, Jacksonville, New York Jets) … and just one in the Central Time Zone (Tennessee).
7. The Steelers have four separate back-to-back blocks of road games — Baltimore-Carolina (Weeks 2-3), Jacksonville-Cleveland (Weeks 5-6), New York Jets-Tennessee (Weeks 10-11) and Cincinnati-Atlanta (Weeks 14-15).
8. Here’s one more black-and-gold factoid: Pittsburgh is the only NFL team with two separate blocks of four-roadies-in-five-games this season.
To counterbalance that, the Steelers have three straight home tilts (Weeks 7-9) and then back-to-back home games to cap the regular season (Vs. Chiefs, vs. Bengals).
9. Neither the Cowboys nor Jets will face an intra-division opponent until Week 7 — the longest such streak to start this season.
10. Nine different teams (Saints, Vikings, Bengals, Bears, Lions, Cowboys, Steelers, Raiders, Patriots) have three consecutive home games at some point during their respective seasons.
On the flip side, just four clubs (Rams, Buccaneers, Broncos, Bengals) have three straight road tilts at some point.
11. The Falcons won’t see the Georgia Dome from Weeks 7-11 — the result of three roadies (@ Baltimore, @ Tampa Bay, @ Carolina), one bye and one “home” game in England against the Lions (Oct. 26).
By the way, that London affair has an American kickoff time of 9:30 a.m. EST.
12. The NFL will once again stretch its byes to cover Weeks 4-12, but here’s a wrinkle to that process: There will be five two-team byes (Weeks 4, 5, 7, 8, 12).
Which brings us to this: As part of the new partnership involving CBS and NFL Network for Thursday nights, covering Weeks 1-7, all seven matchups are intra-division games.
13. The Bengals are the only NFL team with three straight home games (Weeks 8-10 vs. Baltimore, Jacksonville, Cleveland) AND three straight road outings (Weeks 11-13 vs. New Orleans, Houston, Tampa Bay).
14. California teams are usually at a disadvantage during ther regular season, travel-wise. But the 49ers caught a break with this year’s schedule:
San Francisco doesn’t leave the West Coast for the final six games — taking on the Redskins, Seahawks, Chargers and Cardinals at home … and making reasonable trips to Oakland and Seattle (Weeks 14/15).
15. CBS will air the Bears-Lions clash on Thanksgiving Day, even though no AFC clubs will be playing during that time slot. (CBS has the AFC package.)
16. On paper, the fourth-place Raiders — six games against the AFC West, four against the NFC West, four against the AFC East — might have the NFL’s toughest schedule.
However, let’s look at the bright side here: Oakland visits New York (Jets), New England, Cleveland and Seattle early in the season (first nine weeks); and Peyton Manning’s Broncos might be resting for the playoffs on the season’s final Sunday.
17. The Cowboys and Eagles don’t play one another until Weeks 13 and 15. The last time the NFC East rivals didn’t meet until late November? The infamous 1989 season — Jimmy Johnson’s inaugural Dallas campaign — when the Eagles supposedly had a bounty on certain Dallas players, en route to decisive defeats of 27-0 and 20-10.
18. The Ravens might not have a single bad-weather game all season. Baltimore’s last cold- weather road trip involves Pittsburgh for Week 9. After that, the Ravens’ final three roadies take place in New Orleans (Nov. 24), Miami (Dec. 7) and Houston (Dec. 21).
19. The Dolphins might incur an extreme-weather slate in the final seven weeks: On the warm side, it’s home outings against the Bills, Ravens, Vikings and Jets. On the cold side, it’s late November/mid-December trips to Denver, New York (Jets) and New England.
And last but not least …
20. How’s this for a TV executive’s 12-year run of luck:
Tom Brady (Patriots) and Peyton Manning (Colts/Broncos) haven’t been in the same division since 2001. And yet, the quarterbacks’ teams have met every year since 2003.
For 2014, Denver travels to New England on Nov. 2 (Week 9).
Michael Pineda is the guy who drove 80 mph in a 65-mph zone, got pulled over for speeding and then proceeded to drive 100.
He will be a national punch line, fodder for everyone from Twitter smart alecks to late-night talk-show hosts. But, I’m sorry, if Pineda failed the Yankees, then the Yankees failed him, too.
Every new Yankee says that the franchise coddles its players like none other, caters to their every whim and need. But clearly, a breakdown in communication occurred with Pineda — an inexcusable breakdown, considering that Pineda is not some newcomer, but a pitcher who has been in the organization for more than two years.
Yet Pineda, 25, was ejected from Wednesday night’s game against the Red Sox for violating Rule 8.02(b), which states, “The pitcher shall not … have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance.”
Pine tar is a foreign substance, but most pitchers use it to maintain a grip on the ball in cold weather. Teams generally let the infraction pass without alerting the umpires, as long as the pitcher’s use is not absurdly obvious.
Pineda’s use was absurdly obvious, not once but twice — and against the Red Sox no less, the Yankees’ biggest rival.
Sox manager John Farrell declined to press the issue when Pineda had pine tar on his hand in an April 10 game at Yankee Stadium. But Wednesday night at Fenway Park, with the substance gleaming on Pineda’s neck in the second inning, Farrell asked plate umpire Gerry Davis to check Pineda. Davis used his finger to wipe the pine tar off Pineda’s neck and ejected him. A suspension is certain to follow.
Maybe it’s all Pineda’s fault, and he simply did not heed the Yankees’ warnings to be more discreet. Maybe he applied the pine tar so quickly and inconspicuously that no one in the Yankees’ dugout noticed. In any case, as general manager Brian Cashman told reporters afterward, “We as an organization are responsible.”
That means Cashman, manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild — and even the veteran players who are supposed to instruct younger players such as Pineda on how to conduct themselves, both on and off the field.
The Pacers got back into their series with the Hawks on Tuesday, but the news wasn’t all positive.
Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner fought during practice on the eve of the playoffs, Yahoo Sports reports. The two reportedly needed to be separated and one witness told Yahoo Sports “this stuff happens, but the timing wasn’t ideal.”
“We’ve been on the ropes a little bit,” Pacers forward David West told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday night. “Every team goes through that. But I thought we did a great job of dealing with whatever issues we had. The great thing about this group has always been that we’re very open with one another, always been able to get through the ups and downs of a long NBA season.”
The 76ers traded Turner to the Pacers for veteran Danny Granger, who was a locker-room leader in Indiana. The Pacers struggled shortly after the deal, going 12-13 since March 1, but still earned the No. 1 seed in the East.
Indiana, which was stunned in Game 1 by No. 8 seed Atlanta, evened its best-of-7 series with a 101-85 win Tuesday.
DeMar DeRozan put his playoff jitters aside and turned in an All-Star performance for the Toronto Raptors.
DeRozan scored 30 points, Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 14 rebounds and the Raptors beat the Brooklyn Nets 100-95 on Tuesday night, evening their first-round playoff series at one game apiece.
A first-time All-Star this season, DeRozan struggled in his postseason debut on Saturday. He went 3 for 13 from the field and scored 14 points in Toronto’s 94-87 loss.
On Tuesday, DeRozan eclipsed that total in the fourth quarter alone, scoring 17 of Toronto’s 36 points.
“We knew he was going to bounce back from the first game,” Brooklyn’s Deron Williams said. “He took over the game, hit some crucial shots, some tough shots. We’ve got to do a better job of stopping him, especially late.”
DeRozan made nine of 21 shots and went 12 for 14 at the free-throw line, hitting nine of 11 attempts in the final quarter.
“He bounced back, refocused,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “Making those free throws down the stretch was huge. For him to come through after a tough first game and everyone doubting him, I was really happy with that.”
So was Raptors guard Kyle Lowry.
“Tonight he showed what he can do,” Lowry said of DeRozan. “He did an unbelievable job of attacking, being aggressive.”
Amir Johnson scored 16 points and Lowry had 14 for the Raptors, who outrebounded the Nets 52-30. It was Valanciunas’ second straight playoff double-double.
“There was no way we were going to lose that game,” Amir Johnson said. “It was a must-win for us.”
Joe Johnson scored 18 points, Williams had 15 and Mirza Teletovic 14 for the Nets, who will host Game 3 on Friday night.
Blake Griffin scored a career playoff-high 35 points without a foul and the Los Angeles Clippers led all the way in routing the Golden State Warriors 138-98 Monday night to even their first-round series at a game apiece.
Chris Paul added 12 points and 10 assists for the Clippers, who started the game on a 14-4 run and kept on going, maintaining a sizeable double-digit lead through the final three quarters. They finished with a franchise record points for a playoff game.
All the foul trouble that plagued Griffin and Paul in the Clippers’ four-point loss in Game 1 belonged to the Warriors this time.
Stephen Curry scored 20 of his 24 points in the third quarter, when the Warriors never got closer than 25 points, while playing with four fouls. Klay Thompson finished with seven points – 15 under his average – and four fouls.
Terrelle Pryor is heading to Seattle.
The Raiders traded the 6-foot-5, 211-pound quarterback to the Seahawks, FOX Sports NFL insider Alex Marvez has confirmed. Pro Football Talk first reported the news. The Seahawks surrendered a seventh-round pick for Pryor, according to multiple reports.
Pryor, who was a third-round pick in the 2011 supplemental draft, had one year left on his rookie deal worth $765,000.
The Raiders, who were set to begin offseason training activities, were likely to release Pryor if they didn’t get a deal done. Now, Pryor will compete with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson to back up Russell Wilson.
The Seattle Seahawks and All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman are hopeful to reach a deal before next month’s NFL Draft that could make Sherman the highest paid player at his position.
Sources report that the contract will be worth more than $13 million per season, surpassing the one year, $12 million deal Darrelle Revis just signed with the New England Patriots.
Sherman, who was a fifth round pick in 2011, is due to make $1.4 million in 2014 – the final season of his current contract.
The NFL Draft is May 8-10.
The Seahawks are also looking to re-sign safety Earl Thomas who is entering the final year of his contract and due to make $4.6 million.
Quarterback Russell Wilson, who is one of the lowest-paid starting quarterbacks in the league and the third-highest paid signal caller on the Seahawks roster at $662,000, has two years left on his rookie deal. Under the collective bargaining agreement, he cannot renegotiate until after the 2014 season.