The NFL starts on Thursday. Finally, after a summer of talking about Tom Brady’s balls. I’ve been looking at the schedule and I found something interesting.
Plenty of other places have mentioned who has the easiest or the hardest schedule. Many have just shown which teams have the hardest schedule in terms of their opponents’ winning percentage for last season. It looks like this:
Looking at the above the Steelers have the hardest schedule, while the Falcons have the easiest. Observe how the 4 NFC South teams are in the top 6 easiest schedules, that’s because that division is terrible and no team had a winning record last season. Also check out how Seattle have the 4th hardest schedule by that metric.
But this doesn’t take into account bye weeks or the difference in rest days that teams have. We’ve all heard about the advantage that a team has coming off a bye week. You just need to watch a NFL game to think that your body’s going to need to few days rest to get over the abuse it’s received. So if your team has more days to prepare and recover than your opponent, you’ll have an advantage, yes?
So I calculated the difference in days rest for each game of the season. For example:
- The Patriots play on Thursday
- The Bills play on Sunday
- The Patriots are at the Bills on the Sunday of week 2.
- Therefore the Patriots will have 3 extra days rest for this game than the Bills.
I’ve set all week 1 fixtures to 0 difference in days’ rest, so I’ve ignored preseason games. And I’m not taking into account accumulative days’ rest. For each fixture, I’m just looking at the last time each team played. Looking at the total difference in days’ rest each team has compared to their opponents over the whole season, we get this:
Ok, what the hell does that tell me?
It shows that in terms of rest between games compared to their opponents, Seattle have got it tough. Over the whole season they have a total of 22 days less rest between the previous game compared to their opponent. Washington have the 2nd worst schedule by this metric with -17 days. But we already know the Redskins suck and I don’t want to talk about them!
The damage for the Seahawks comes in their home games, with a whopping -24 days rest compared to their opponents! This is due to the Panthers, Steelers & 49ers all coming off bye weeks before their trips to CenturyLink Field. Plus the Rams have a Thursday night game prior to their game at Seattle.
Seattle’s bye week comes in week 9. In week 10 they play at home to the Arizona Cardinals, who are also coming off a bye week. So no advantage in that sense for the Seahawks.
After spotting this I had a look at my trusty NFL database, which has games going back to the 1995 season to see where Seattle’s -22 lies:
Since the ’95 season Seattle have the 6th worst schedule, in these terms.
So that’s it. Seattle already have a tough schedule, which is made even worse when you look on the extra days’ rest their opponents have coming into their fixture. I’m going to liquidize both testicles and bet on Seattle winning under 11 games
Not so fast. Hold on to your happy sacks. Let’s get a sense of how much an advantage extra days’ rest is:
So looking at the broad results above. The home team with the bye only wins 2% more than normal, while the away team coming off a bye week wins 5.7% more than normal. I thought the home team would have more of an advantage than that, I bet you did too. Plus the away bye is better than the home bye? Ok so let’s look a bit deeper than those broad results, and we’re all about going the extra mile here at Winners Win. So I did some further work using logistic regression, so I could account for team strength, so we’re comparing like with like. Even accounting for the strength of the 2 teams: you would only expect a team coming off a bye week, while their opponent isn’t coming off a bye week, to win by 2.5% more than normal. Normal being where there is no difference in numbers of the days since the 2 teams last played a game:
Wow. Glad I’ve held onto my spuds.
Yes, me too. Obviously Seattle are a great team and the odds for under 11 games has lengthened as the new season has drawn nearer. Plus I imagine that their home field advantage is larger than average due to their unique stadium. Plus in this post I haven’t looked into the effect, if any, travelling large distances has on teams. Maybe that’s a future post.