The 16 opponents for the Ravens in 2017 as well as the home/road location of those games were all a function of the 2016 season and the NFL’s rotational schedule.
That means most complaints about who and where the Ravens must play should fall on deaf ears.
The lone wild card this season is the London game, which creates a neutral-site game from what would otherwise be a road game in Jacksonville. However, if you went to Jacksonville last season, you know that’s about as close to a neutral site as you can come, particularly for Ravens fans.
What we can debate is the relative difficulty of schedules based on the when factor.
I developed a scoring system 2 years ago to help quantify scheduling difficulty. Let’s review:
An ideal scoring system for schedule fairness should be normalized to league averages, so we’re not just counting how many times our team was screwed, but comparing it to the normal number of times an average team is screwed. To that end, I’ve tried to have each category work out close to 0 aggregate points for the league. I can’t quite make that work, but there is no egregious bias from 0.
So what are the primary categories and how did the Ravens do in terms of “when” this year?
Playing outside the US
(-10 for a home game, -2 for a road game, +2 for no game there, +2 if bye follows London game): It’s a huge deal to lose a home game to an international city. Fortunately, the Ravens play there as the road team. As you know, the Ravens play at home versus Pittsburgh the following Sunday, reportedly at the request of the team to avoid an early bye (-2).
Playing on Thursday
(+3 for a home game, -3 for a road game—excluding week 1 or after a bye, +3 for a 2nd Thursday game): Any home Thursday game is good with the extra time to rest and prepare for the following opponent. They get the Dolphins in Week 8, sandwiched between road games at Minnesota and Tennessee. Unfortunately, they don’t get to punish a divisional foe with either the short road week or by playing them the week after on the mini bye (+3).
Opponents playing on Thursday the prior week
(None +3, -3 for each such opponent in excess of 1): The Ravens play 2 games against team coming off a Thursday game. They play the Lions at home in Week 13 and they play the Colts at home in Week 16. The Week 16 game is especially irritating, because it’s on a Saturday, so the Ravens will be playing on short rest (-3).
Monday Night Football
(no appearances +2, each appearance in excess of 1: -2, home game following MNF +1, road following MNF -1, bye following MNF +2): The Ravens host the Texans on MNF, but don’t have any Monday road games (0). The week after, they play at home versus the Lions (+1). Monday night games are like sausages; you don’t want them any more when you realize what they do to you.
Opponents playing MNF the prior week
(None -2, +2 for each such opponent in excess of 1): The Ravens play games against the Bears, Packers, and Steelers, all coming off previous Monday games. That’s the Ravens’ single biggest scheduling advantage (+4).
(actual week of bye -8): The average week of the NFL bye for 2017 is 8.31 (same as in 2016). The Ravens have a bye in week 10 (+2). We can only hope they don’t pay dearly for that requested late bye.
Opponents coming off a bye
(none: +7, for each in excess of 1 -7): Once again the NFL has failed to correct one of its biggest scheduling disparities. There are 32 teams and 32 byes to be assigned. Each team should play exactly 1 team coming off a bye. It’s that simple and amazingly easy to schedule in that manner with the use of all divisional games following byes. The Ravens play at Tennessee in Week 9 coming off the Titans’ bye (0).
(-5 to +5 for other elements not considered here such as torturous travel not implied by opponents/location, long road trips, and team-specific weather considerations): The Ravens face almost 7,000 miles of travel following their game in London and face 2 of their toughest opponents, the Steelers and the Raiders. They also play the annoying Saturday game versus the Colts following their Thursday game in Week 14. These are both bad and this season the Ravens don’t have an offsetting positive that is not included in the basic scoring system above (-3).
That’s a total score of +2. Divisional scores last year were Cle (16), Bal (9), Pit (1), and Cin (-8), so you can see significant variation is possible. The Ravens have a fair schedule, but not nearly as good as the 2016 slate.
This weekend I’ll take a look at the schedules for the other AFC North teams.