2015 NFL season
The 2015 NFL season, the 96th season in the history of the National Football League (NFL), is scheduled to begin on Thursday, September 10, 2015 with the annual kickoff game featuring the defending Super Bowl XLIX champion New England Patriots hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. The season will conclude with Super Bowl 50,[note 1] the league's championship game, on February 7, 2016, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
- 1 Preseason
- 2 Regular season
- 3 Postseason
- 4 Rule changes
- 5 Free agency
- 6 Head coach/front office personnel changes
- 7 Stadiums
- 8 New uniforms
- 9 New officials
- 10 Media
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
Training camps for the 2015 season will be held in late July through August. Teams may start training camp no earlier than fifteen days before the team's first scheduled preseason game.
Prior to the start of the regular season, each team will play at least four exhibition games. The preseason schedule will get underway with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Sunday evening, August 9. The Hall of Fame game is a traditional part of the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame induction weekend celebrating new Hall of Fame members. It will be played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium which is located adjacent to the Hall of Fame building in Canton, Ohio. The game, which will be televised in the U.S. on NBC, will feature the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers. The 65-game preseason schedule will end on Thursday, September 3, a week before the start of the regular season, with each team having played four preseason games, except for the Steelers and Vikings, who will play five games. The preliminary preseason schedule was released April 9.
The 2015 regular season will feature 256 games to be played out over a seventeen-week schedule which begins on the Thursday night following Labor Day. Each of the league's 32 teams will play a 16-game schedule with one bye week for each team scheduled between weeks four and twelve. The slate will also feature seventeen games on Monday night, two of which will be played at the end of the first week of the regular season. Additionally, there will be no Monday Night game at the end of the final week of the regular season, the same as in previous years. There will be games played on Thursday, including the opening game of the regular season on September 10 and three games on Thanksgiving Day. The regular season concludes with a full slate of 16 games on Sunday, January 3, all of which are expected to be intra-divisional matchups, as it has been since 2010.
- Scheduling formula
Under the NFL's scheduling formula, each team plays each of the other three teams in their own division twice. In addition, a team plays against all four teams in one other division within the conference, on a 3-year rotation; and one division from the opposite conference, on a 4-year rotation. Two games on a team's schedule are against the two teams in the team's own conference in the divisions the team was not set to play who finished the previous season in the same rank in their division (e.g. the team which finished first in its division the previous season would play each other team in their conference that also finished first in its respective division). The order in which all 32 teams will play their opponents is yet to be determined, however, one of their Intra-division games will be played on the final week of the regular season, on January 3, 2016. The pre-set division pairings for 2015 are as follows:
Highlights of the 2015 schedule include:
- NFL Kickoff Game: The 2015 season will begin on Thursday, September 10, 2015, with the Super Bowl XLIX champion New England Patriots hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers at 8:30 PM ET on NBC.
- International Series: Three games will be played at Wembley Stadium in London, United Kingdom in 2015, with two games being played in back-to-back weeks for the first time. The Miami Dolphins will play host to the New York Jets on October 4 (CBS), the first ever divisional game played in the International Series. The Jacksonville Jaguars will then host the Buffalo Bills on October 25, in the third of four consecutive home games for the Jaguars in the International Series. Finally, the Kansas City Chiefs will host the Detroit Lions on November 1 (Fox), making 2015 the Lions' second consecutive year in the International Series. All three matches will kick off at 9:30 a.m. ET.
- Thanksgiving Day games: These games will occur on Thursday, November 26, 2015. For the second consecutive season, the AFC was shut out of Thanksgiving, with all six slots going to NFC teams. As usual, three consecutive games will be played, with the Detroit Lions hosting the Philadelphia Eagles in the early slot on Fox and the Dallas Cowboys hosting the Carolina Panthers in the middle slot on CBS; this will be the Panthers' first ever Thanksgiving appearance. The Green Bay Packers will host the Chicago Bears in the primetime game on NBC, where the Packers will also retire longtime quarterback Brett Favre's No. 4 jersey.
- Christmas: Christmas, December 25, falls on a Friday in 2015. In an unusual move for the league, the Oakland Raiders will host the San Diego Chargers at 8:25 p.m. EST (5:25 p.m. local time) on December 24. The game will be aired on the NFL Network. This is the second ever night game on Christmas Eve (the first was in 2007, which was also played in the Pacific Time Zone). The league has traditionally avoided playing night games on Christmas Eve and, in years past, moved games that would usually play on the night of Christmas Eve to another day of the week, an option the league did not exercise in 2015.
The 2015 playoffs will begin with the Wild Card playoff round on the weekend of January 9–10, 2016. The Divisional round games will then be played on the weekend of January 16–17, with the winner of each of the games visiting the top two seeded teams in each conference. The Conference championships will be held on January 24 with AFC Championship Game at 3:00 PM ET on CBS and the NFC Championship Game at 6:30 PM ET on Fox.
Super Bowl 50 will be held on the first Sunday of February, The game will decide the 2015 NFL Champion and will be played at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California on February 7, 2016. The game will air on CBS. Instead of naming it Super Bowl L with Roman numerals like in previous Super Bowls, this game will be marketed with the Arabic numeral "50". According to Jaime Weston, the league's vice president of brand and creative, the primary reason was that the league's graphic designers had difficulty designing a suitable, aesthetically pleasing logo with only the roman numeral "L".
The following rule changes were passed for the 2015 NFL season at the owner's meeting on March 25, 2015:
- Allow a certified medical trainer to call a medical time-out when a player appears disoriented and/or concussed. This time-out is not to be charged to the team whose player is injured, even inside the two-minute warning. The only substitution allowed is for the injured player and for a single player from the opposing team to match up.
- Making the practice of a receiver declared ineligible lining up in the slot formation illegal; ineligible receivers must line up inside the tackle box. This was in response to the New England Patriots using this tactic in the 2014-15 NFL playoffs against the Baltimore Ravens.
- Extended the restriction for peel-back blocks to include all of the offensive team instead of just those inside of the tackle box.
- Expanded the definition of a "defenseless receiver" to include intended receivers in the air during and after an interception.
- Making offensive backs who chop a defender engaged above the waist by another offensive player subject to a chop-block penalty (15 yards).
- Pushing teammates at the scrimmage line during punts/field goals is illegal.
- Expanded instant replay to include whether time should be put back on the game clock at the end of a quarter, half, or an overtime period.
- Linebackers can now be numbered 40-49.
- The line of scrimmage for extra point tries will move to the 15-yard line from the two-yard line. Two-point conversions will still be spotted at the two-yard line.
- Defenses will be allowed to return turnovers on two-point tries or blocked PAT kicks to the opposing end zone for two points, mirroring the NCAA rule adopted in the 1988 season.
The 2015 NFL League Year began on March 10, 2015 at 4PM ET. On March 7, clubs started to contact and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who became unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2014 contracts at 4PM ET on March 10.
On March 10, 2015:
- Clubs exercised options for 2015 on all players who have option clauses in their 2014 contracts.
- Clubs submitted qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.
- Clubs submitted a Minimum Salary Tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2014 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.
- Top-51 began. All clubs must be under the 2015 salary cap.
- All 2014 player contracts expired at 4PM ET.
- 2015 league year and free agency period began. (4PM ET)
- Trading period for 2015 began. (4PM ET)
Head coach/front office personnel changes
|Team||2014 head coach||2014 interim head coach||Reason for leaving||2015 replacement||Story/Accomplishments|
|Atlanta Falcons||Mike Smith||Fired||Dan Quinn||Smith compiled a record of 67–50 (.573), including the postseason, in seven seasons with the Falcons. He is the only coach to lead the franchise to consecutive winning seasons and consecutive playoff berths. Quinn, who never held a head coaching position prior to 2015, had served as defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks; under league anti-tampering rules, the Falcons had to wait several weeks, while the Seahawks completed their playoff run, before formally hiring Quinn.|
|Buffalo Bills||Doug Marrone||Resigned||Rex Ryan||Marrone compiled a record of 15–17 (.469) in two seasons with the Bills and resigned on December 31, 2014. His tenure was marked by the team's first winning season since 2004 but also by tensions with general manager Doug Whaley and players, especially Mike Williams, who requested a trade during the season. Marrone's contract had an opt-out clause which allowed him to resign his position within three days of the end of the season and still collect his full salary for the rest of the contract (he had one year remaining) if the team changed ownership which it did when the Bills were sold to the Pegula family in September. Marrone joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as offensive line coach. On January 12, 2015, the Bills hired Rex Ryan as their head coach. Ryan had spent the previous six seasons as head coach of the New York Jets.|
|Chicago Bears||Marc Trestman||Fired||John Fox||Trestman compiled a record of 13–19 (.406) in two seasons with the Bears, and had finished the 2014 season with a 5–11 record. He and general manager Phil Emery were both dismissed on December 29, 2014. Trestman then became offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens. Fox was hired on January 16, 2015 to become the head coach. Fox spent the past 4 season as the head coach of the Denver Broncos.|
|Denver Broncos||John Fox||Mutual decision||Gary Kubiak||In four seasons with the Broncos, Fox compiled a record of 49–22 (.690) including postseason games, won his division all four seasons, and appeared in Super Bowl XLVIII, but was bounced from the playoffs in the divisional round the other three years. By mutual agreement, Fox left the team on January 12, 2015, following the most recent divisional playoff loss. Kubiak was hired on January 19, 2015 to become the head coach. Kubiak, formerly head coach of the Houston Texans from 2006 to 2013, spent the past season as the offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.|
|New York Jets||Rex Ryan||Fired||Todd Bowles||Ryan compiled a record of 50–52 (.490), including postseason games, in six seasons as head coach of the Jets. Ryan led the Jets to two AFC Championship Game appearances in his first two seasons, losing both, but failed to earn a winning season or playoff berth in his last four. He and general manager John Idzik, Jr. were both dismissed December 29, 2014. Bowles was hired on January 14, 2015, to become their head coach after serving as defensive coordinator for Arizona Cardinals since 2013; he previously served as interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2011.|
|Oakland Raiders||Dennis Allen||Tony Sparano||Fired||Jack Del Rio||Allen was fired on September 29, 2014 after a 8–28 (.222) record as Raiders head coach, and an 0–4 start to the 2014 season. Sparano, formerly head coach of the Miami Dolphins, finished the season as interim head coach, compiling a record of 3–9. Allen joined the staff of the New Orleans Saints and Sparano became tight ends coach for the San Francisco 49ers. Jack Del Rio was hired on January 14, 2015, to become their head coach after serving as defensive coordinator for Denver Broncos since 2012; he previously served as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003–2011.|
|San Francisco 49ers||Jim Harbaugh||Mutual decision||Jim Tomsula||Harbaugh compiled a record of 49–22–1 (.688), including postseason games, in four seasons with the 49ers, and led the team to three NFC Championship Game appearances and a berth in Super Bowl XLVII. After a mediocre 8–8 season in 2014 (the first time his team did not make the playoffs) and amid tensions between Harbaugh and the 49ers front office, Harbaugh left to become head coach at his alma mater, the Michigan Wolverines football team. On January 14, 2015, Jim Tomsula was promoted to head coach after serving as defensive line coach with the team since 2007; it is his second time at the helm, as he previously served as the 49ers' interim head coach for one game, after Mike Singletary's firing in 2010.|
|Team||Position||2014 office holder||Reason for leaving||2015 replacement||Story/Accomplishments|
|New York Jets||GM||John Idzik||Fired||Mike Maccagnan||Idzik was fired after two seasons with the New York Jets. On January 13, 2015, the Jets hired Maccagnan as new general manager of the team. He was the director of college scouting for the Houston Texans prior to his hiring.|
|Chicago Bears||GM||Phil Emery||Ryan Pace||Emery was fired after three seasons in Chicago. Pace was hired on January 8, 2015, after serving as the director of player personnel with the Saints since 2013.|
|Philadelphia Eagles||EVP-FO||Tom Gamble||Howie Roseman||Roseman, who served as General Manager of the Eagles from 2010 to 2014, was promoted up to Executive Vice President of Football Operations. The General Manager position Roseman leaves behind will remain unfilled, and head coach Chip Kelly will fulfill the duties of that position.|
New Minnesota Stadium
It is expected that this will be the Minnesota Vikings' final season playing at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus before moving to their new stadium in Downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, which still remains under construction.
Potential NFL relocations
On July 29, 2014, reports surfaced that the Oakland Raiders may consider relocating to San Antonio in 2015 after owner Mark Davis met with San Antonio civic leaders the week before at the encouragement of former Raider Cliff Branch, which Davis was in town to visit for a local ceremony for Branch. The Raiders themselves had acknowledged Davis being in San Antonio for the event for Branch before news broke about a possible relocation, but wouldn't confirm nor deny that Davis also mentioned being there discussing moving his team east. Among the two existing NFL teams in Texas, Houston Texans' owner Bob McNair and Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones — the latter of which has San Antonio as part of his territorial rights and previously voiced support of an NFL team moving there when the New Orleans Saints temporarily played in San Antonio in 2005 due to damages to the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina — both favor an NFL team playing in San Antonio.
Though San Antonio is a smaller market than the San Francisco Bay Area, the Raiders wouldn't be sharing the market with another NFL team, and would only compete with the NBA's San Antonio Spurs among major sports teams. Additionally, the Raiders would use the Alamodome as a temporary home until an NFL-specific stadium could be constructed. The team's lease at the O.co Coliseum expired after the 2014 season.
On September 3, 2014, the city of Oakland reached a tentative deal to build a new football stadium in Oakland, which would result in the Coliseum being demolished; Davis did not respond to the proposal, which would also force the Oakland Athletics to build a new stadium of their own (which they have yet to agree to do), while Alameda County (co-owners of the current stadium) indicated they would probably not support the plan. Davis has, in the meantime, continued to negotiate with San Antonio officials and had team officials scout the Alamodome to determine if it would be suitable for the NFL.
On February 19, 2015, the Raiders and San Diego Chargers announced plans for a privately-financed $1.7 billion stadium that the two teams would build in Carson, California if they were to move to the Los Angeles market. Such a move would mark a return to the nation's second-largest market for both teams; the Raiders played in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994 while the Chargers called LA home for their inaugural season in the American Football League. The Chargers are currently the only NFL team to play in Southern California, with San Diego being a Script error: No such module "convert". distance from Los Angeles and currently have Los Angeles as a secondary market. The Chargers have been looking to replace Qualcomm Stadium (which, like the O.co Coliseum opened in the late 1960s) since at least 2003, and have had an annual out clause in which it can move in exchange for paying a fine to the city of San Diego for its remaining years on its lease.
Due to both television contracts and NFL bylaws, if both of the longstanding division rivals were to move to LA, one of the teams would have to move to the NFC West, something that Mark Davis volunteered the Raiders to be willing to do. The Raiders moving to the NFC would be considered ironic seeing that Davis's father Al Davis was a staunch opponent of the NFL during its rivalry and eventual merger with the AFL. If such a realignment were to occur, one of the existing NFC West teams would take their spot in the AFC West. The early rumor was that the Seattle Seahawks, who played in the AFC West from 1977 to 2001, would be the favorite to switch conferences with the Raiders. However, that team's growing rivalry with the San Francisco 49ers (who are assured of staying in the NFC West) now point to either the Arizona Cardinals or the St. Louis Rams (if the latter stays in St. Louis) moving to the AFC West to take the Raiders spot. If the Rams stay in St. Louis, switching them to the AFC would allow for a yearly home-and-home with the cross-state Kansas City Chiefs.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams and the St. Louis CVC (Convention & Visitors Commission) began negotiating deals to get the Rams home stadium, the Edward Jones Dome into the top 25 percent of stadiums in the league (i.e., top eight teams of the thirty two NFL teams in reference to luxury boxes, amenities and overall fan experience). Under the terms of the lease agreement, the St. Louis CVC was required to make modifications to the Edward Jones Dome in 2005. However, then-owner, Georgia Frontiere, waived the provision in exchange for cash that served as a penalty for the city's noncompliance. The City of St. Louis, in subsequent years, made changes to the score board and increased the natural lighting by replacing panels with windows, although the overall feel remains dark. The minor renovations which totaled about $70 million did not bring the stadium within the specifications required under the lease agreement. On February 1, 2013, an Arbitrator (3 panel) selected to preside over the arbitration process found that the Edward Jones Dome was not in the top 25% of all NFL venues as required under the terms of the lease agreement between the Rams and the CVC. The Arbitrator (3 panel) further found that the estimated $700 million in proposed renovations by the Rams was not unreasonable given the terms of the lease agreement. Finally, the City of St. Louis was Ordered to pay the Rams attorneys' fees which totaled a reported $2 million.
Publicly, city, county and state officials have expressed no interest in providing further funding to the Edward Jones Dome in light of those entities, as well as taxpayers, continuing to owe approximately $300 million more on that facility. As such, if a resolution is not reached by the end of the 2014-2015 NFL season and the City of St. Louis remains non-compliant in its obligations under the lease agreement, the Rams would be free to nullify their lease and relocate.
On January 31, 2014, both the Los Angeles Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Rams owner Stan Kroenke purchased 60 acres of land adjacent to the Forum in Inglewood, Los Angeles County, California. It would be, by the most conservative estimates, sufficient land on which a NFL-proper stadium may be constructed. The purchase price was rumored to have been between US$90–100 million. Commissioner Roger Goodell represented that Mr. Kroenke informed the league of the purchase. As an NFL owner, any purchase of land in which a potential stadium could be built must be disclosed to the league. This development has further fueled rumors that the Rams intend to return its management and football operations to Southern California. The land was initially targeted for a Walmart Supercenter but Walmart could not get the necessary permits to build the center. Kroenke is married to Ann Walton Kroenke who is a member of the Walton family and many of Kroenke's real estate deals have involved Walmart properties. On January 5, 2015, Kroenke formally announced his plans to build an NFL-caliber stadium on the Inglewood property. The city of St. Louis responded by unveiling a plan for a new, open-air, riverfront stadium that could accommodate either the NFL or a Major League Soccer expansion team on January 9 and hopes the city can use the NFL's bylaws to force the Rams to stay in St. Louis. On January 5, 2015, The Los Angeles Times reported that Stan Kroenke and Stockbridge Capital Group are partnering up in to developing a new NFL Stadium owned by Kroenke. The project will include a stadium of up to 80,000 seats and a performance venue of 6,000 seats while reconfiguring the previously approved Hollywood Park plan for up to 890,000 square feet of retail, 780,000 square feet of office space, 2,500 new residential units, a 300-room hotel and 25 acres of public parks, playgrounds, open space and pedestrian and bicycle access. The stadium is likely be ready by 2018. On February 24, 2015, the Inglewood City Council approved the stadium and the initiative with construction on the stadium planned to begin in December 2015.
With the Chargers, Raiders and Rams proposing their own stadiums as part of their Los Angeles relocation contingency plans, the proposed Farmers Field project was permanently scrapped in March 2015. Farmers Field was a proposal from Anschutz Entertainment Group to lure an NFL team to Los Angeles by promising a new stadium, but AEG placed restrictions on any relocation that the rest of the league found unacceptable, and the project had laid dormant since 2012.
- The Cleveland Browns premiered new uniforms on April 14, 2015. There are three jersey colors and three pants colors: orange, brown, and white, allowing for nine possible uniform combinations. The uniforms have "Cleveland" above the numbers on the front, "Browns" down the leg, and "Dawg Pound" inside the collar. The uniforms are the first in the NFL to utilize contrast stitching and chainmail/raised numbers. The city name in front and team name down the leg are also NFL firsts. On February 24, the Browns slightly tweaked their logo. The orange on their helmet is brighter and the facemask, which was gray, is now brown. The team also updated their secondary logo.
- The San Francisco 49ers unveiled a new black alternate uniform on May 1, 2015. The jerseys have red numerals with matching black pants. This will be the first alternate uniform in the team's franchise history.
- The Tennessee Titans will switch their primary colored jerseys from light "Titans Blue" to navy blue, the latter of which was the team's primary home jersey color from 1999–2007. Former president and CEO Tommy Smith stated that the light "Titans Blue" jerseys were being phased out.
Referee Bill Leavy retired after the 2014 season. On May 13, 2015, the NFL promoted line judge John Hussey to the referee position. In addition to Hussey's promotion to referee, the NFL hired nine more officials, including the first full-time female official in NFL history, Sarah Thomas, who will work as a line judge, as well as Walt Coleman IV, the son of referee Walt Coleman, who will work as a side judge.
This will be the second season under broadcast contracts with ESPN, CBS, Fox, and NBC. This includes "cross-flexing" (switching) Sunday and Thanksgiving afternoon games between CBS and Fox before or during the season, regardless of whether the visiting team is in the AFC (which CBS normally airs) or the NFC (which is normally carried by Fox). NBC will continue to air Sunday Night Football, the annual Kickoff game, and the primetime Thanksgiving game. ESPN will continue carrying Monday Night Football and the Pro Bowl. NFL Sunday Ticket will continue to be exclusive to DirecTV customers under an eight-year agreement that begins with this season. On May 12, 2015, it was announced that ABC would simulcast ESPN's wildcard game, marking the first time that ABC has broadcast any NFL game in nearly 10 years.
After its successful inaugural season under the arrangement, the NFL extended CBS's contract for Thursday Night Football into the 2015 season; as with the previous season, NFL Network will air all of the games in the package, but they will be produced by CBS—who will air the first eight games and half of a late-season doubleheader nationally over-the-air in simulcast. CBS will also serve as the broadcaster of Super Bowl 50.
On March 23, 2015, league owners voted to, as an experiment, suspend the NFL's blackout rules for the 2015 season; no games will be blacked out in their home markets because of insufficient ticket sales. These moves came after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's September 2014 decision to stop enforcing blackout rules on terrestrial television stations, and the fact that, ultimately, no games were blacked out at all during the 2014 season.
The NFL will also experiment with online streaming of games; the International Series game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills will not be broadcast on television outside of the teams' markets, but will instead be streamed online worldwide, in partnership with a distributor to be determined. Brian Rolapp, the league's executive vice president of media, explained that the experiment was part of the NFL's efforts to trial alternative distribution models for games, such as those that would appeal to cord cutters.
- For this Super Bowl only, the league will use the Arabic numeral "50" instead of the Roman numeral "L." See the postseason section for details.
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