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Notebook | NFL Experts Weigh In on Aaron Rodgers' Return to the Field

Schedule Update: Five International Games, Christmas Day Doubleheader, Prime Streaming a Playoff Game


It was only a coincidence at the NFL League Meetings last March in Arizona. 

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter was chat-walking with Jets general manager Joe Douglas when the pair encountered Packers GM Brian Gutekunst.

"The three of us, and I thought 'wow, this is interesting,' " Schefter told Eric Allen of 

A few weeks later the deal was done. And it was Schefter who broke the story of the trade that brought four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers to the Jets.

"The trade got consummated and it was obviously a huge deal, there was a different energy around the whole thing. And now the question again: Can he stay healthy? Can he be healthy? Will he be healthy?"

Even as the Jets have assiduously added players in free agency, particularly on the offensive line to protect Rodgers, those questions are at the forefront of everyone's mind ahead of the 2024 season and Rodgers' return from a torn Achilles tendon. As we all know, Rodgers' season ended four plays into the Jets' first offensive series against the Bills last Sept. 11.

"We were there that night and it was unbelievable," Schefter said. "The energy in the building, then boom, all the energy was sucked right out of the building the moment he went down. There aren't many [games] that have gone that high in emotion and finished that low. I live in the New York area and have so many friends who are Jets fans. Diehards. Some texted me excited that they won the game in OT, and I'm thinking: 'You don't get it. You won the battle and lost the war. It's over. Enjoy tonight, there aren't going to be many more happy nights in the season.' "

A determined and re-energized Rodgers will again grab the spotlight in coming OTA, training camp and then the regular season.

"I don't think it will be like last year, I don't think there are wild expectations, a little more measured," Ian Rapoport of NFL Network told Allen. "There is the same success potentially out there. I'll be at camp again, but there won't be absolute pandemonium, 'oh my god we got Rodgers,' which is fine. Everyone will settle in a little bit and it will be like [covering] a regular good team, which is a great place to be. It'll never be quiet it's New York. I've heard people say [they'll be] under the radar. I'm like no, it's never going to be that way, but not like last year, which is a totally fine place to be."

It's likely that Rodgers will use the preseason to round back into football shape and show that he's fully recovered from surgery. But for any player coming back after tearing an Achilles tendon (and the Jets have another: OL Alijah Vera-Tucker),nothing is guaranteed.

"Look, he's still a 40-year-old quarterback coming off an Achilles," said Jonathan Jones, the Lead NFL Insider for "No matter the process, there still really isn't historical precedent in sports. Anyone who thinks they know how he's going to come out and play, you don't. You're guessing. There's nothing to measure that against. Any quarterback who tears an Achilles, you wouldn't think they would be very good. But he's Aaron Rodgers. He's different. Can he make a miraculous recovery? I don't know that."

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network pointed to the long, "special relationship" between Rodgers and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and their ability to adjust and fine tune as needed.

"When we've seen him at his best, he could extend plays, but he's a 40-year-old quarterback and he'll probably need to run some backside options, boom, getting out on one-step routes, getting the football out of his hands," Pelissero said. "What can he do to help the O-line is get the football out of his hands, so they don't have to block 40 times? Hack's offense gives him the authority to have a bunch of different plays [to call] at the line. Three-step drop, take a shot. That's what he's done well. It's going to keep him healthy and take the pressure off the O-line."

NFL Doubleheader on Christmas
Are you ready for some football ... on Wednesday, Christmas Day 2024?

The NFL certainly thinks so and this season will offer a midweek December doubleheader. The decision to play on the holiday marked a turnaround after league officials had earlier ruled it out.

Both the teams that will be playing and which networks/streaming services will carry the games have yet to be determined. The NFL schedule will not be released until May and the league plans to put the two games up for bids among its TV partners -- CBS, NBC (Peacock), Fox, ESPN (ABC) and Amazon Prime Video.

Over the past 75 years, the NFL has played a game on a Wednesday only two times; and it's only the second time a Wednesday game has been on the official schedule. 

The two Christmas games will mark just the third season in 75 years that the NFL has played a Wednesday game and just the second time in 75 years that league actually put a Wednesday game on the schedule. In 2012, the Giants hosted the Cowboys to kickoff the season (to avoid a Thursday night conflict with the Democratic National Convention). The other Wednesday game, between Baltimore and Pittsburgh in 2020, had to be rescheduled during the coronavirus pandemic.

The four teams that will play on Christmas Day will all play on the previous Saturday, Dec. 21.

"It will not be a regular thing," said Commissioner Roger Goodell. "It will be when Christmas falls on a Wednesday. But the time period between games has been done before. We have not seen any elevation of injuries. You all, and we, have had a major focus on Thursday night when we first put it in, and we've still not seen any kind of elevation of injuries. So I think we have this down."

The league also announced that the Eagles, as host, would open their 2024 regular season (with an opponent to be determined) on Friday night, Sept. 6 in São Paulo, Brazil. The game will be carried by NBC's Peacock streaming service. The NFL season will begin the previous night with the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs hosting (opponent TBD).

NFL teams will also play three games in London (Minnesota, Chicago and Jacksonville are designated as "home" teams) and one in Munich (Carolina as the "home" team). 

Finally, the Amazon Prime Video streaming service, which carried Thursday night games the past two seasons in addition to the Jets-Dolphins game on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) last year, will carry a wild-card playoff game in the 2024 NFL season.

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