NFL schedule release primer: Biggest things to know
A general view of the NFL shield logo. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL schedule release primer: Biggest things to know before next week's unveiling

We already know which NFL teams are playing each other this season, and soon, we will officially know when they'll meet.

As first reported by Sports Business Journal's Ben Fischer, the NFL informed teams on Tuesday that the 2024 regular season schedule will be released on May 15. 

In preparation for the unveiling, here are the answers to some of the biggest questions about this season's schedule.

How can I watch the NFL schedule release?

NFL Network and ESPN2 will broadcast the 2024 schedule release, which can also be streamed on NFL+. Additionally, each NFL team will upload a video on social media pertaining to its respective schedules with its own unique spin. Hopefully, the Los Angeles Chargers social media team has come up with a new idea after posting anime-themed schedule release videos for the last two years.

What rookie matchups are most anticipated?

Quarterback Caleb Williams, the first overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, will go up against the two signal-callers selected immediately after him, Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye, as rookies. Williams and the Bears hit the road to square off Daniels' Commanders while they'll play host to Maye's Patriots. 

Additionally, Williams could clash with No. 10 overall pick J.J. McCarthy up to two times in the regular season if the former Michigan Wolverine can supplant free-agent signing Sam Darnold for Minnesota's starting QB job. 

Which new faces are returning to old places?

Falcons QB Kirk Cousins: As long as the NFL doesn't schedule Vikings-Falcons in London, Cousins will return to Minnesota in 2024, the first season of his four-year, $180M deal. Cousins spent the last six seasons with the Vikings, throwing for 23,265 yards, 171 touchdowns and 55 interceptions while leading the team to the playoffs twice. The 35-year-old will also visit the Washington Commanders, the team that drafted him in 2012, at some point during the season. 

Steelers QB Russell Wilson: Denver cut ties with Wilson, who was acquired in what can now comfortably be said as one of the worst deals in NFL history, back in March following two disastrous seasons with the team. It's embarrassing enough that the Broncos paid Wilson roughly $124M for 11 wins, but paying him $39M this season just to lose to his new team would be another level of humiliation. 

Eagles RB Saquon Barkley: The two-time Pro Bowler shockingly decided to head down the New Jersey Turnpike and ink a three-year, $38M deal with Philadelphia. Barkley spent the last six seasons as the face of the New York Giants, finishing his tenure as the team's fourth all-time leading rusher (5,211 yards). His return to MetLife Stadium will arguably be the most intriguing matchup of any player who switched teams this offseason, given that Barkley has already been heckled by New York fans at NBA playoff games. 

Raiders DT Christian Wilkins: The Dolphins tried to re-sign Wilkins last offseason, but the former first-round pick bet on himself and cashed in during free agency after racking up a career-high nine sacks. Las Vegas inked Wilkins to a four-year, $110M deal to form one of the most dominant defensive lines in the NFL. Considering Miami's interior offensive line suffered key losses this offseason, Wilkins is well-positioned to stick it to his old team. 

Giants edge-rusher Brian Burns: The Panthers are hosting a contest in Munich, Germany, this season as part of the NFL international games, but if they don't play the Giants abroad, Burns will head back to Charlotte. Burns, a first-round pick in 2019, failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension with Carolina and was traded to New York in March. Although the Panthers offensive line improved this offseason, the unit still allowed the second-most sacks last season (65), potentially setting Burns up for a productive game. 

What other compelling storylines can we look forward to this season?

Super Bowl LVIII rematch: The reigning champion Chiefs will face three teams they took down in last season's playoffs during the 2024 regular season, but no matchup will be more intriguing than San Francisco. The most watched telecast of all time (123.4M average viewers across all platforms) exceeded the hype as Kansas City knocked off the 49ers in a 25-22 overtime thriller. 

Harbaugh Bowl III: Jim Harbaugh will be able to rekindle his sibling rivalry during his first season back in the NFL, as the Chargers will host his brother John's Ravens. John, the older Harbaugh, is 2-0 against Jim's teams, with the more notable being Baltimore's Super Bowl XLVII victory over San Francisco. 

Bills pay a visit to WR Stefon Diggs: While he won't be returning to Buffalo this season (unless the Bills and Texans face off in the playoffs, of course), Diggs has an opportunity to exact revenge against his former team. After seemingly years of drama between Diggs and the organization, the Bills traded the four-time Pro Bowler and two draft choices to Houston last month for a 2025 second-round pick. If Diggs' revenge game against the Minnesota Vikings in 2022 (12 catches for 128 yards) is any indication, he should deliver an impressive performance.

Which teams have the hardest schedules?

According to theredzone.org, the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans have the toughest schedules based on their opponents' 2023 records.

It's not surprising that AFC North franchises boast the three most grueling schedules, considering each team finished above .500 last season, the first time a division has achieved that feat since 1935

Perhaps the Cincinnati Bengals, who finished 9-8 last season due to several key injuries, will be able to capitalize on having the easiest schedule in the division and make it back to the playoffs. 

Which teams have the easiest schedules?

Per theredzone.org, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the easiest schedules this season based on their opponents' 2023 records. 

Every NFC South team finished below .500 last season, and chances are there will be another tightly contested race for the division crown in 2024. Meanwhile, Williams, who's entering the NFL in the best situation of any No. 1 overall pick in history, will hope to follow in Houston's C.J. Stroud's footsteps and lead his team to the postseason as a rookie.

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