The 2020 NFL regular season will be released Thursday evening and it’s likely that the coronavirus pandemic will have played a big role in how it was formatted. On Wednesday, NFL insider John Clayton was a guest on 93.7 The Fan and he talked quite extensively about what the 2020 NFL regular season might look like Thursday night from a formatting aspect.
“The season will start with the inter-conference games first,” Clayton speculated. “Because you can see that if they have to shorten the season to 12 games, you wipe those out.”
That certainly makes a lot of sense to have each NFL team play their first four games out of conference in case the season needs to be shortened due an ongoing coronavirus pandemic. If that’s ultimately the case, the Pittsburgh Steelers first four games of the 2020 regular season would be against the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. Should the Steelers open their 2020 regular season at home, their first game would be against either the Eagles or the Redskins if it’s an inter-conference matchup.
Assuming teams play their four inter-conference games first to open the 2020 NFL regular season, Clayton then speculates that schedules will then have the non-common games next.
“Then after that you go into your non-common games,” Clayton said. “That’ll be like Week 5 and 6. And so, again, remember these are all home and away, so just kind of circling around like that.”
The Steelers two non-common games this year are against the Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills with the former being at home and the latter on the road.
“Then you’ll get the division games for about three weeks,” Clayton said. “You know, home and away.”
If Clayton is correct, that means the Steelers would play the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals right around the middle of the season. Two of those games would likely be at home or away with the third one being the opposite.
“And then they’ll go into the next phase, which will be the conference games,” Clayton said.
The Steelers four conference games in 2020 are scheduled to be against the AFC South division. They’ll play the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans on the road and the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts at home. That slate of games would likely begin in Week 10 at the earliest, according to what Clayton was communicating on Wednesday.
Finally, Clayton expects the 2020 NFL schedule to include all teams playing their final three games within their own division. That means in some sort of order that the Steelers would again play the Ravens, Browns and Bengals in their final three regular season games. Once again, two of those contests would more than likely be either home or away with the third one being the opposite of the majority.
“So I think that’s the pattern they can go because then what they have to do, if they have to start shortening games, you wipe out the inter-conference games and you preserve the 10 games within conference, which of course are important for seeding,” Clayton said.
Clayton’s explanation on what he thinks the 2020 NFL regular season schedule will look like Thursday night sure makes a lot of sense. He also offered a few thoughts on what the season could look like if weeks wind up getting eliminated due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“So, that I think is going to be the premise of how they’re going to do it,” Clayton said. “They’ll probably set it up in two ways. One, that they’ll start the season in September and have the Super Bowl February 8th. And then the next one in mid-October with the Super Bowl on February 28th, but no bye weeks.”
We’ll post the Steelers full 2020 regular season schedule Thursday evening immediately after it is released by the NFL. It certainly sounds more and more like the Steelers might open at home against the Eagles in 2020 and speculation on top of that is that a Week 1 meeting between the two teams might be the opening Sunday night contest on NBC as well.