Expert Analysis


4 min read

2024 NFL Schedule Release: What Players Look at When Schedule Comes Out

Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Williams
Once training camp starts this summer, NFL players like Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Williams will have very little time off until their season is over. (David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)

You are not like NFL players.

OK, you probably already knew you aren't 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, don't run a 4.3-second 40-yard dash and, unfortunately, don't have the physical gifts necessary to play professional football.

You also aren't like an NFL player when the schedule comes out.

You will dive into your routine when your team's schedule comes out Wednesday night. For some fans, that means looking at which away games they want to go to and making travel plans. For others, that means looking at the home schedule and pondering which games they want to attend. 

Plenty of season ticket holders think about which tickets they will use and which they will sell or give to others. Then, there are the fans who go through the schedule and assign a win or a loss to every game, arriving at their prediction for the season.

NFL players don't do any of those things. Believe it or not, a bunch of them won't even look at the schedule.

For the ones who do, this is how most players I've spoken to through the years review their team's coming slate.

When is the Bye Week?

The first thing most NFL players look at when checking out the schedule is their team's bye week. 

Players want to know when they will have time off because it's in short supply. From the day they report to training camp until the season ends, most players are in their team facility every day if they aren't on the road for an away game. They're there every day except for the bye week — the only time players have off for those six months.

Players' first instinct is to look for when they don't have to work and will have free time — similar to how you would be at your job. Is their free time early, late or in the middle of the season? Does it coincide with a home game for their high school team or college alma mater? Is there any chance the bye week falls on the same weekend their buddy is getting married?

Regardless of the specifics, players want to see when that weekend is and start to think about the possibilities for that precious downtime.

When Are the Thursday Games?

The Thursday games are the close cousin of the bye week. The primary motivation for looking at when your team plays on a Thursday is, you guessed it, another weekend off. For the same reasons as the bye week, players are eager to see what other free time, if any, they will have during the season.  

Some players strongly dislike playing on a short week, but all love having that weekend off after the game. Now that the NFL will play two Christmas games on Wednesday this year, players will look at those games similarly. They will be happy to get a few days off to celebrate the holiday season with family after playing in front of a gigantic television audience on Dec. 25.

When Are The Prime-Time Games?

Speaking of gigantic television audiences, the next thing most players look at is the number of prime-time games on their schedule.

While some players love the spotlight that comes with being the only game on, not to mention the glorious feeling of playing under the lights, there are at least as many with great disdain for these games.

While some players love the spotlight that comes with being the only game on ... there are at least as many who have great disdain for these games.

The reason? 

It comes back to the same thing as the bye week and Thursday games: time. Prime-time games involve sitting in the hotel room all day, a long, boring experience. Playing Sunday at 1 p.m. means you wake up, eat breakfast, get to the stadium, play a game and then have the rest of the evening from about 4:30 p.m. on to do whatever you like with family and friends.  

Some games have Personal interest

This varies from player to player, but some will check and see when they play a game against a college teammate or when they are close to their hometown, their significant other's family or whatever.  But it's not the same for everybody, and some guys don't have anything personal they are checking for. 

So yeah, you still aren't like NFL players, even when just looking at the schedule.