Can an NFL team complete the rare task of defeating all five bird franchises in a single season? It’s never been done in the history of the league, but as The_Real_2Pac points out on the NFL subreddit page, a few teams have the opportunity this season.
We’ll let them explain:
Due to the yearly divisional matchup cycles, every 12 years the Redskins, Giants, and Cowboys are guaranteed to play the Eagles, Ravens, Cardinals, and Seahawks, and one of them might play the Falcons if they finished in the same place within their respective divisions the previous year. This last occurred in 2008 and will happen again this year.
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This also happens in the NFC South with the Panthers, Buccaneers and Saints, and will happen in 2022. For the NFC North and NFC West, teams have to get extremely lucky with their scheduling. In the West, teams are guaranteed 3/5 bird teams every four years, but must finish in the same standings (or get playoff matchups) to complete the gauntlet. The North only gets 3/5 bird teams every 12 years.
A few other teams this season technically have a chance at the bird gauntlet, but it’d be incredibly difficult. For instance, the Packers play the Falcons and Eagles in the regular season and could technically play the Cardinals and Seahawks in the playoffs, and then the Ravens in the Super Bowl. Similar situation for the Panthers, who play the Falcons and Cardinals in the regular season. They’d need to face the Eagles and Seahawks in the playoffs and Ravens in the Super Bowl.
The Reddit post says two teams came close to accomplishing this feat: The 2003 Rams, who beat everyone except the Eagles, and the 2008 Giants, who beat everyone except the Falcons.
Let’s look at the current bird schedules for our three teams in 2020.
Cowboys NFL schedule vs. bird teams
- Week 2: Falcons
- Week 3: Seahawks
- Week 6: Cardinals
- Week 8: Eagles
- Week 13: Ravens
- Week 16: Eagles
Dallas easily has the best chance to accomplish this task as it plays every team in the regular season, and even gets two tries against the Eagles. Also considering how good the Seahawks and Ravens are expected to be this season, there’s a chance the Cowboys can meet both of those teams in the playoffs as well for a second try.
Giants NFL schedule vs. bird teams
- Week 7: Eagles
- Week 10: Eagles
- Week 13: Seahawks
- Week 14: Cardinals
- Week 16: Ravens
- Playoffs: Falcons
Even if the Giants get through the regular season bird gauntlet, they’d only have beaten 4/5 bird teams. The Giants would need the Falcons to reach the playoffs, and have the seeding match up to where they’d actually play them. It’s at least possible, but it’s difficult.
Redskins NFL schedule vs. bird teams
- Week 1: Eagles
- Week 2: Cardinals
- Week 4: Ravens
- Week 15: Seahawks
- Week 17: Eagles
- Playoffs: Falcons
Same issue as the Giants. The Redskins would need to meet up with the Falcons in the playoffs. But this is easily the most unlikely of the three teams to accomplish this task considering the Redskins aren’t expected to make the playoffs. Even the Falcons making the postseason in 2020 would be a surprise.