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).