If freeway traffic gets bad enough, does it actually move backward?
We could find out this NFL season when, in the rarest of scheduling rarities, the Rams and Chargers will play simultaneous home games at the Coliseum and StubHub Center, respectively.
That hasn't happened in the same market since before 1983, when the New York Giants and Jets began sharing a stadium (unless you clump the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders in the same Bay Area market.)
Regardless, the competing Rams and Chargers games lend new meaning to the mantra "Fight for L.A." and take place in Week 2 (Washington Redskins at Rams, Miami Dolphins at Chargers), Week 14 (Philadelphia Eagles at Rams, Redskins at Chargers) and Week 17 (49ers at Rams, Raiders at Chargers).
The NFL won't always have the luxury of that particular scheduling quirk. The Rams and Chargers will eventually share a stadium in Inglewood that's expected to be completed for the 2019 season. That's when scheduling will get even trickier.
"Truth be told, this is as easy as it's going to get for us," said Michael North, the NFL's senior director of broadcasting. "Because as soon as they start sharing a stadium, they're the Jets and Giants, and obviously only one can be at home each day."
That's not to say the process of assembling a slate of games is simple. The league released its 2017 schedule Thursday after months of round-the-clock matchup making by a four-person crew headed by Howard Katz, senior vice president of broadcasting and media operations, and including North, Charlotte Carey (broadcast manager) and Blake Jones (director of broadcasting).
At the high point of number-crunching, as many as 400 computers were churning through millions of scheduling possibilities. The league came up with more than 52,000 "legal and playable" schedules, eventually trashing all but one.
Among the challenges and peculiarities of this particular schedule:
— The Coliseum and StubHub Center were especially accommodating about allowing NFL games right on the heels of USC and L.A. Galaxy games. Three times this season, the Rams will play on the same field where the Trojans played the day before. It happened twice last year.
The Galaxy's schedule was already set before the Chargers decided to move to Los Angeles and play in the soccer stadium. Had back-to-back games been a non-starter for the people at StubHub, that could have presented real problems for the Chargers, because the Galaxy plays home games in Weeks 2 and 4 of the NFL season. Had the venue not accommodated them, the Chargers could have been on the road for three of their first four games — a difficult way to get rolling in a new market. Instead, they open on the road, then play three in a row at home.
— Good news for Raiders fans in Los Angeles: You won't miss a monster matchup against the New England Patriots in Mexico City. At first, that Week 11 game wasn't going to be on TV locally because the Rams are at Minnesota in the morning on Fox and the Chargers host the Buffalo Bills in the afternoon on CBS. That was going to be it for Los Angeles before the Sunday night game.
Realizing that was going to leave a lot of people unhappy, the NFL stepped in and "cross-flexed" the Bills-Chargers game to Fox. That means there will be a "double doubleheader" in Los Angeles that Sunday — two games each on two networks — and that happens four times this season.
— Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was angry last season when his team had to cross two time zones to play a Thursday night game at Kansas City. The Raiders lost, 21-13. Well, the teams are facing each other on Thursday night again, only this time it's the Chiefs traveling to Oakland in Week 7. Meanwhile, the Chargers will have to cross two time zones for a Thursday game when they travel to Dallas for a Thanksgiving date with the Cowboys.