NFL working with researchers to make schedule fairer, report says

Posted at 2:06 PM, Apr 16, 2019

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With the NFL slated to unveil the 2019 schedule on Wednesday evening, ESPN reports that the league is working with researchers in an attempt to make the schedule more "fair."

A group of researchers at the University at Buffalo submitted a paper to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference 4 years ago.

Researchers analyzed the total number of games played by an NFL team against other teams coming off a bye week between 2003 and 2012. The thought is that teams that play against teams coming off a bye more often are put at a disadvantage because their opponents will be healthier and more rested.

The Atlanta Falcons played 18 games against teams coming off bye weeks, the most in league. The Buffalo Bills, the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans eached played 14 games against teams coming off byes. During that same span, the Arizona Cardinals only played three games against teams coming off a bye week, the least in the league. The Cincinnati Bengals and the Carolina Panthers each played four games against bye week teams.

The paper proposes an approach it says would lead to a less imbalanced schedule. Some of the proposals in the paper include:

  • Games between divisional opponents should be separated by at least two weeks.
  • A team should play each of its divisional opponents at least once in the second half of the season, i.e., between weeks 9 and 17, inclusive.
  • Dividing the season into a set of predetermined stretches of weeks, each team should play at least a certain number of divisional games in each of these stretches.

According to ESPN, the NFL agreed to collaborate with the researchers back in 2018. You can read the paper in its entirety here.