The NFL announced today its 17-week, 256-game regular-season schedule for 2014, which kicks off on Thursday night, September 4 in Seattle, includes expanded flexible scheduling, and concludes on Sunday, December 28 with 16 division games.
The season begins with the NFL’s annual primetime kickoff game. The opener on September 4 on NBC (8:30 PM ET) will spotlight the defending-champion Seattle Seahawks hosting the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field.
Week 1 is a FOX national weekend with the key doubleheader game on Sunday, September 7 (4:25 PM ET) featuring the San Francisco 49ers at the Dallas Cowboys.
NBC’s Sunday Night Football gets underway on September 7 when the Denver Broncos host the Indianapolis Colts (8:30 PM ET).
Kickoff Weekend concludes on Monday, September 8 with an ESPN Monday Night Football doubleheader. The Detroit Lions will host the New York Giants (7:10 PM ET) in the first game followed by the San Diego Chargers at the Arizona Cardinals (10:20 PM ET).
ESPN will televise one game each Monday night in Weeks 2-16. There will be no Monday night game on the final regular-season weekend (Week 17) to provide more flexibility for the scheduling of the opening weekend of the NFL playoffs.
For the first time, flexible scheduling may be applied in Weeks 5-10. During that period, flexible scheduling can be used in no more than two weeks by shifting a Sunday afternoon game into primetime and moving the Sunday night game to an afternoon start time.
Also, for the first time, a select number of games are being “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring potentially under-distributed games to wider audiences.
“Flexible scheduling” will be used in Weeks 11-17 as it has been in recent years. In Weeks 11-16, the schedule lists the games tentatively set for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon start time. Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights. A flexible scheduling move would be announced at least 12 days before the game. For Week 17, the Sunday night game will be announced no later than six days prior to December 28. The schedule does not list a Sunday night game in Week 17, but an afternoon game with playoff implications will be moved to that time slot. Flexible scheduling ensures quality matchups in all Sunday time slots in those weeks and gives “surprise” teams a chance to play their way into primetime.
The regular season will conclude with Week 17 on Sunday, December 28. For the fifth consecutive year, all 16 games scheduled for Week 17 are division contests, enhancing the potential for more games with playoff ramifications. Over the final three weeks there are 33 division games, the most in NFL history.
The season finishes in Arizona with the Pro Bowl on Sunday, January 25 (ESPN) and Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, February 1 (NBC). Both games will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Other highlights of the schedule:
Thanksgiving will feature an NFL tripleheader of division rivalry games on Thursday, November 27. The first will send the Chicago Bears to Detroit to face the Lions (12:30 PM ET, CBS) in an NFC North matchup. The late afternoon game will feature the NFC East with the Philadelphia Eagles visiting Dallas (4:30 PM ET, FOX). The holiday concludes in the NFC West with Seattle at San Francisco on NBC (8:30 PM ET).
The NFL will take another step in its international development with three regular-season games being played in the United Kingdom for the first time, all at Wembley Stadium, including the first-ever nationally televised 9:30 AM ET kickoff. In Week 4 on Sunday, September 28, the Oakland Raiders will host the Miami Dolphins in London (1:00 PM ET, CBS). In Week 8 on Sunday, October 26, the Atlanta Falcons will host the Lions at 1:30 PM in the UK (9:30 AM ET, FOX), giving fans a fourth game window on an NFL Sunday while allowing a global audience to tune in at a new, earlier time. The 2014 International Series concludes in Week 10 on Sunday, November 9 when the Jacksonville Jaguars host the Cowboys (1:00 PM ET, FOX).
NFL Network and CBS will team to feature a schedule of 16 games – 14 on Thursday night and two late in the season on Saturday. Beginning in Week 2 with Pittsburgh at Baltimore, CBS will air seven early-season games on Thursday night that will be simulcast on NFL Network. NFL Network will televise seven late-season Thursday night games in the run-up to the playoffs. In Week 16, NFL Network (4:30 PM ET) and CBS (8:15 PM ET) will combine for a Saturday doubleheader. The kickoff times for each of the games – Philadelphia at Washington and San Diego at San Francisco – will be determined at a later date.
The NFL’s 32 teams will each play 16 games over 17 weeks. Byes will begin in Week 4 and end in Week 12.
The playoffs will include four division winners and two wild cards from each conference. The playoffs begin with Wild Card Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, January 3-4. The two division winners with the best records in each conference will earn first-round byes.
Wild Card Weekend winners join the top two division champions in each conference in the Divisional Playoffs on Saturday and Sunday, January 10-11. The AFC and NFC Championship Games will be played on Sunday, January 18. The winners meet two weeks later on Sunday, February 1 in Super Bowl XLIX.
FOX will present the NFC, NFC playoffs and NFC Championship Game. CBS will carry AFC games, seven early-season games on Thursday night, a Week 16 Saturday night contest, the AFC playoffs and AFC Championship Game. Except for games cross-flexed, the AFC-NFC interconference games (excluding primetime) are carried by CBS when the AFC team is the visitor and by FOX when the NFC team is on the road.
All postseason games are televised nationally. In addition to the regular-season packages, NBC will televise one Wild Card playoff game, one Divisional playoff game and Super Bowl XLIX. ESPN will broadcast one Wild Card playoff game and the Pro Bowl.
By NFL policy, ESPN and NFL Network games also will be carried on free, over-the-air television in the city of the visiting team and, if it is sold out 72 hours in advance of kickoff, in the city where the game is played.
The NFL is the only sports league that presents all regular-season and postseason games on free, over-the-air television in local markets.
WestwoodOne will broadcast on radio all NFL primetime games, the three Thanksgiving Day games and the entire NFL playoffs.