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NFL ready to release long-awaited schedule

4/11/2007 - NFL

Although the schedule isn't everything in determining the fate of an NFL team, it means a lot more than coaches want to admit.

On Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET, everything about the 2007 NFL schedule will be revealed. The schedule release day is becoming more and more like an unofficial holiday every spring. ESPN and The NFL Network each have planned two-hour specials. Fans have opportunities to study their schedule and map out their falls, particularly if they plan to travel to a few road games of their favorite teams.

Those who are traveling spring to their phones in order to book hotel rooms, particularly for some of the hard-to-get hotels over busy fall weekends. Other fans rush to book air travel. Teams scramble to get the right hotel locations.

From the competitive standpoint, how the schedule breaks down determines a team's chances. Last season, for example, the Colts had three AFC South home games scheduled during the first five weeks. Win those games and Indianapolis could take early control of its division. The Colts won the games and eventually won the Super Bowl. Cold-weather teams look for the chance to get four home games in the final six weeks of the season. Warm-weather teams hope for an extra September home game to wear out a visiting team not used to heat and humidity.

The newest twist involves the additional night games and flexible scheduling. The eight Thursday or Saturday games given to The NFL Network, plus NBC's post-Thanksgiving ability to move Sunday day games into the night also can have a big impact. NFL players and coaches love consistency, but the weekly challenge of playing a day game one week and a night game the next tends to mentally wear on a team.

Those stories will be unveiled Wednesday.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.