Question of the Day: Which NFL team benefits the most or is disadvantaged the most by its schedule? [Updated]
Writers from around the Tribune Co. give their opinions on the recently released 2011 NFL schedule.
Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Sun
San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh already has a daunting challenge of turning around a team without an established quarterback. On Tuesday, the NFL schedule makers didn’t do the $25-million rookie head coach any favors, especially in the second half of the season.
The tough stretch begins with a showdown against his brother John on Thanksgiving night, which forces San Francisco to make a cross-country trip to Baltimore only four days after playing Arizona at home. But that’s just the start of the 49ers’ late-season, frequent-flier miles.
San Francisco ends the regular season by traveling for three of its final four games, including road trips to division opponents Seattle and St. Louis. There's no break for the final home game, which is a prime-time matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Harbaugh was hired because he turned Stanford into a national contender, but it won’t take him too long to see there are no Sacramento State teams on this schedule.
Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune
The two teams that got the fewest breaks with the schedules are the San Diego Chargers and Chicago Bears.
The Chargers have to travel 26,740 miles. They will play four games in the Eastern time zone and another in the Central time zone. Their opponents had a 133-123 record last year. They face a particularly rough stretch beginning Oct. 23, with road games against the Jets and Chiefs, followed by home games against the Packers and the Raiders, which will be played on a Thursday night.
The Bears, meanwhile, will travel 20,802 miles. They have an extra preseason game as well as a trip to London in their future, both of which could exact a toll. Their first three opponents, the Falcons, Saints and Packers, had a combined winning percentage last season of .708.
[Updated at 12:17 p.m.:
Nick Fierro, Allentown Morning Call
The Tennessee Titans only travel 7,000 miles for the season and face the 25th hardest schedule, based on last year's records. However, they've turned over their coaching staff and don't know who their quarterback will be when they finally do get back to business, so it's doubtful they will be able to take advantage.
The team you have to feel for most is St. Louis, which made an encouraging leap under second-year Coach Steve Spagnuolo last season, missing the playoffs by just one game. This year, the Rams could be better but still be 0-3 (following games against Philly, the New York Giants and Baltimore) by the time they host Washington on Oct. 12. Then it's an early bye week, followed by trips to Green Bay and Dallas. Ouch.]
Photo: San Francisco 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh. Credit: John G. Mabanglo / EPA