FOX Sports South invokes a whimsical, somewhat chronological look at 25 fun facts about the 2015 schedule release -- a countdown which laments the following time-tested notion: In the NFL, it's not who you play . . . but when you play 'em. (Photos: Tim Fuller/Kirby Lee/Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
Rookie baptisms by fire
FUN FACT NO. 1: The Park Avenue powers-that-be certainly have a dark sense of humor: If Jameis Winston (right) and Marcus Mariota (left) go 1-2 in the draft -- to the Buccaneers and Titans, or vice versa -- it would mark the first time in NFL history that quarterbacks, drafted 1st and 2nd overall, opened the season against one another. Of course, for this wonderful narrative to be consummated in Week 1, when Tampa Bay hosts Tennessee, Winston/Mariota or Mariota/Winston must become the inaugural picks . . . and then beat out their respective competition for the opening-day starts. (Photos: Gary A. Vasquez/Kevin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)
For the birds
FUN FACT NO. 2: In the 44-year history of "Monday Night Football" (1970-2014), the Falcons had only been assigned a MNF game once for Week 1 -- against the Eagles in 2005 (Michael Vick led the red-and-black Falcons to a 14-10 victory). For this year's opener, Atlanta hosts Philadelphia once again.
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FUN FACT NO. 3: This subjective factoid could be proven true over time: The beleaguered Browns (potentially led by QB Johnny Manziel -- above) may be Vegas favorites for their first three games (@ Jets, vs. Titans, vs. Raiders) . . . and then devolve into prohibitive underdogs for their final 13 outings (@ Chargers, @ Ravens, vs. Broncos, @ Rams, vs. Cardinals, @ Bengals, @ Steelers, vs. Ravens, vs. Bengals, vs. 49ers, @ Seahawks, @ Chiefs, vs. Steelers).
Early shot at redemption
FUN FACT NO. 4: Packers tailback Eddie Lacy (right) racked up 1,566 total yards and 13 TDs in 2014, and was particularly hot late: In his final 12 games (including the playoffs), he had at least 100 total yards and/or one TD 11 times. His only dud during that period? The 73-yard, zero-TD outing against Seattle in the NFC championship. And now, Lacy has a revenge opportunity in Week 2, with the Packers hosting Richard Sherman (left) and the 'Hawks. (Photos: Kirby Lee/Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)
A spectrum of Buffalo-based emotions
FUN FACT NO. 5: How's this for quirky? The Bills -- the NFL's only team with back-to-back home tilts to open and close the 2015 season -- will play just four home games (Ralph Wilson Stadium) between Weeks 3-15. Weather permitting, of course. (Photos: Troy Taormina/Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)
A gift 'four' the downtrodden
FUN FACT NO. 6: Here's something weird, especially since Nashville's LP Field doesn't have a professional baseball team as a co-tenant: From Weeks 3-7 (including the Week 4 bye), the Titans will play four consecutive home games (against the Colts, Bills, Dolphins, Falcons).
Good news comes in threes
FUN FACT NO. 7: Seven different teams (Browns, Lions, Patriots, Rams, Ravens, Seahawks, Steelers, Titans) have three consecutive home games at some point this season. But only Detroit (Weeks 5-7/11-13) and Baltimore (Weeks 8-11/14-16) have MULTIPLE blocks of three straight home outings in 2015. (Photos: Andrew Weber/Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)
The long and winding road
FUN FACT NO. 8: Running in contrast to the previous slide, three franchises (Falcons, Bills, Dolphins -- left) have three straight road tilts at some point. And one more note: QB Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers (right) have three December road dates against Midwest teams (Bears, Browns, Lions). Thankfully, for weather-sanity sake, Detroit plays in climate-controlled Ford Field. (Photos: Mike Dinovo/Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
FUN FACT NO. 9: Technically, the Blake Bortes-led Jaguars (above) are the only NFL team to enjoy four separate back-to-back blocks of home games -- Carolina/Miami (Weeks 1-2), Houston/Buffalo (Weeks 6-7), Tennessee/San Diego (Weeks 11-12) and Indianapolis/Atlanta (Weeks 14-15). But that doesn't factor into Jacksonville's annual trip Across The Pond, 'hosting' the Bills at London's Wembley Stadium on Oct. 25.
The Death Draw
FUN FACT NO. 10: Dez Bryant (middle) and the Cowboys are the only team to play last season's Super Bowl combatants in 2015 -- entertaining the Patriots in Week 5 (left) and Seahawks (right) in Week 8. (Photos: Kevin Hoffman/Brad Mills/Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)
Putting off the inevitable
FUN FACT NO. 11: In 2015, the Keenan Allen-led Chargers won't face an intra-division opponent until Week 7 (vs. Oakland) -- the NFL's longest such streak to start the season.
FUN FACT NO. 12: Just like last season, the CBS/Thursday primetime games for Weeks 2-8 will all be divisional contests -- which makes sense, since NFL officials like to limit travel on short weeks. But is this really necessary in a season where the NFC East plays the AFC East . . . and the NFC South takes on the AFC South? For the Falcons and wideout Julio Jones (above), the short plane rides to Jacksonville, Charlotte (N.C.), Tampa and/or Nashville would essentially be the same.
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The early-bye blues
FUN FACT NO. 13: The NFL has modified its stretch of byes this season, with open dates only covering Weeks 4-11 (unlike Week 12 last year). Here's something quirky, though: For Weeks 5-11, at least four teams will have the weekend off . . . but for Week 4, only the Patriots and Titans (above) will sit for that Sunday.
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FUN FACT NO. 14: The Cowboys haven't beaten the Packers since Sept. 2008 -- on a day when QBs Tony Romo (left) and first-year starter Aaron Rodgers (right) COMBINED for one TD pass. Ugh. (Photos: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)
Seven dishes potentially served cold
FUN FACT NO. 15: The 2015 schedule will include seven rematches from last season's NFL playoffs -- Seattle @ Green Bay (Week 2), Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (Week 4), New England @ Indianapolis (Week 6), Carolina @ Seattle (Week 6), Denver @ Indianapolis (Week 9), Dallas @ Green Bay (Week 14) and Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (Week 16).
FUN FACT NO. 16: It'll be an easy slate for Eagles fans who love to travel with the club. Philadelphia has seven roadies in the Eastern time zone (Atlanta, N.Y. Jets, N.Y Giants, Washington, Carolina, Detroit, New England) and just one outing in the Central (Dallas).
FUN FACT NO. 17: How's this for southern fried goodness? The Falcons won't leave the South region for their final seven games (Weeks 11-17) -- the result of hosting the Colts, Vikings, Panthers, Saints and traveling to Tampa Bay, Carolina, Jacksonville (in three consecutive weeks). Going one step further, Atlanta has only one game outside the Deep South after Week 3 -- a cross-country trip to San Francisco in Week 9.
FUN FACT NO. 18: In the Eli Manning-Tom Coughlin era (right -- 2004-14), the Giants have captured a Lombardi Trophy whenever drawing the AFC East during the regular season (2007, 2011); and both times, New York knocked off New England in the Super Bowl. For 2015, the Giants host Tom Brady (left) and the Patriots on Nov. 15 -- or Week 10. (Kirby Lee/Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)
FUN FACT NO. 19: Tom Brady (Patriots) and Peyton Manning (right -- Colts/Broncos) haven't been in the same division since 2001. And yet, their teams have met every year since 2003. This year, New England travels to Denver on Nov. 29 (Week 12). Last season, Brady vs. Manning became the NFL's first-ever meeting of active QBs with 150-plus victories. (Photos: Brace Hemmelgarn/Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)
FUN FACT NO. 20: Seahawks fans are still seeking a pound of flesh for the Super Bowl XL debacle from nine years ago, when a handful of questionable calls helped the Steelers claim victory in Detroit (February 2006). How is that possible? Well, because of a shift in the NFL's 2007 master schedule, Pittsburgh hasn't been to Seattle in 12 years. That long-awaited visit comes in Week 12. (Photos: Mike Dinovo/Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)
FUN FACT NO. 21: For a second consecutive year, not a single AFC team will play in the Thanksgiving tripleheader, which should offend just about every coach, player, owner and fan of the American conference. The Turkey Day matchups include: Philadelphia @ Detroit, Carolina @ Dallas and Chicago @ Green Bay. And no J.J. Watt, Jamaal Charles, Le'Veon Bell, A.J. Green or Arian Foster (above) in sight.
FUN FACT NO. 22: Including the 2015 slate, the Panthers will travel to New Orleans after Dec. 1 for every season of Cam Newton's pro career (above -- 2011-15). That cannot be a coincidence on the schedule-maker's part. After all, in 2014, Carolina became the first team in NFC South history to repeat as division champs.
The Steel Curse
FUN FACT NO. 23: Come Week 13, Andrew Luck (4,761 passing yards, 43 total TDs in 2014) will vie to become the third Colts quarterback to beat the Steelers since 1978. Peyton Manning is the obvious first answer, but who is the other? In 1984, Mike Pagel & Co. shocked Pittsburgh, thanks to one of the luckiest TDs of the '80s -- a pass tipped twice by WR Bernard Henry and hauled in by teammate Ray Butler for a 54-yard score. (Photos: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports)
FUN FACT NO. 24: Here are two fantasy tidbits worth mentioning: It's highly likely the Saints will have picture-perfect playing conditions for their final six games -- @ Houston (Week 12), vs. Carolina (Week 13), @ Tampa Bay (Week 14), vs. Detroit (Week 15), vs. Jacksonville (Week 16), @ Atlanta (Week 17). On the meh side . . . the fantasy owners who desperately need a Week 11 victory from QB Drew Brees (right) will be screwed, since New Orleans finally gets its bye. (Photos: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
A December to remember
FUN FACT NO. 25: The Cowboys and Redskins don't play one another until December (Weeks 13, 17). The last time these long-standing NFC rivals didn't meet until the final month of the regular season? Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, and not counting the strike-shortened season of 1982, that scheduling quirk had never occurred.