One of the first things I look at each year when the NFL schedule is released is how many teams the Falcons have to play coming off bye weeks, on short rest, across country, etc. This way I can be fully armed with indignant excuses about scheduling injustices should the Birds have a bad year. Like my grandfather always said, "If at first you don't succeed, blame someone else."
Well, Falcoholics, you'll be chagrined to learn that the Falcons have the 31st most unfair schedule in the league. Join me after the jump and I'll tell you why.
Let's get something straight right off the bat: this is not an advanced statistical analysis. This is sports bar-level analysis that gives you ammunition in a topical sports argument. Strength of schedule, home/away splits, and historical trends are not playing a role here. The only thing I am considering is perceived scheduling imbalances between two teams in a given week.
So what is a schedule imbalance? A schedule can create certain advantages and disadvantages for a team. In terms of advantages, the team could be coming off a bye week or a half-bye week (playing a Thursday night game the week prior, effectively 10 days off) and playing a team that did not have a bye period. The team could be facing an opponent that played Monday Night Football and is working on a short week. Or finally, the team could also be hosting a visitor that had to fly across country.
I've gone through the 2012 schedule and tallied up these advantages and disadvantages to see who won the scheduling game and who lost. For this analysis, I used the following point system:
- Coming Off a Bye Week = 1 point
- Coming Off a Half-Bye Week = .5 points
- Playing a Team Traveling Cross-Country = .15 points
- Playing a Team Coming Off a Short Week = .25 points
(By the way, these point totals aren't supposed to represent anything other than the strength of your argument that a schedule is unfair. If you want to argue they are worth different amounts, be my guest, but it won't impact the end results.)
The imbalance analysis looks at all teams and there opponents and tallies how many of these imbalances are playing a role. Here's an example of how this works. In Week 8, the Falcons are playing the Eagles, who are coming off a bye, so 1 point for the Eagles. But the Falcons are also coming off a bye, so 1 point for them. These points cancel out, making this a regular game. There's no imbalance because both teams have the bye week advantage.
I mentioned before the jump that the Falcons have the 31st most unfair schedule in the league. How does that work? Take a look:
|Week||Opponent||Home/Away||Falcons Imbalances||Opponent Imbalances||Schedule Imbalance Score|
|3||Chargers||Away||Short Week AND Cross-Country Travel||None||-0.4|
|4||Panthers||Home||None||Coming off Half-Bye Week||-0.5|
|6||Raiders||Home||None||Coming Off Bye Week BUT Cross-Country Travel||-0.85|
|8||Eagles||Away||Coming Off Bye Week||Coming Off Bye Week||0|
|11||Cardinals||Home||None||Coming Off Bye Week||-1|
|14||Panthers||Away||Coming off Half-Bye Week||None||0.5|
So the Falcons get a -2 score for the total year on schedule imbalances, good for 31st in the league. But not last! That would be the dreaded Eagles, who with a score of -3.75 have the most imbalanced schedule in the league. They play three teams coming off a bye week (not counting Week 8 vs. Atlanta, because the Eagles are coming off a bye as well), and two teams coming off half-byes (one of those on a short week). Say what you will, but the folks over at Bleeding Green Nation have a right to complain. The full data set is at the end of this post.
For the most part, the schedule imbalances look pretty random. Bad teams, like the Vikings, Panthers, and Colts all have advantageous schedules, but so do the 49ers, Patriots, and Bengals, who were playoff teams last year. It would be interesting to go back and see if this information correlated at all with win/loss records, but I have nary the time or effort required to do so!
On a final note, the Saints have the 3rd most advantageous schedule in the conference, and 7th most in the league. So when you are stuck somewhere listening to a Saints fan complain about everything that has gone wrong with his or her precious season of destiny, at least you'll be able to tell them the schedule had nothing to do with it.
|NFC Team||Schedule Imbalance Score||Conference Rank||League Rank|
|AFC Team||Schedule Imbalance Score||Conference Rank||League Rank|