The Ravens are in the tournament, so life is good.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the Ravens should have no complaints about the AFC playoff schedule.
The Ravens will open versus the Chargers on Sunday, January 6th at 1 PM. While Chargers fans in Southern California are complaining about a 1 PM start time, the Chargers received a huge break not to be playing at 3:30 on Saturday. Let’s review:
- A 3:30 Saturday game would mean the Chargers would be playing on the road on 6 days rest
- No team ever wants a Saturday road game in the Wild Card or Divisional round, but 2 teams get that each weekend
- The home team in such games benefits not only from the short week in the Wild Card round, but also from the longer week to prepare for the Divisional game.
What makes this sting a little more is the fact the Ravens/Chargers game was flexed to Saturday night in week 16. That forced the Ravens to:
- play what was essentially their first playoff game
- after traveling across the country
- on short rest
- with the Chargers coming off their mini-bye from a Thursday game in Week 15
That scheduling disadvantaged the Ravens significantly and had the Chargers converted, they would have won their division and the number 1 seed in the conference. So, one could certainly call it a playoff game for them as well.
So why didn’t the NFL grant the Ravens the advantage in the rematch? I don’t think it’s a case of wanting the Chargers to play at 1 PM, because that has rarely been done to West coast teams. To the best of my knowledge, it is not formulaic, meaning there is no hard-and-fast rule the #3 seed always plays home on Saturday.
It would be perfectly reasonable to have game times entirely determined by seeding. Since that’s not the case, however, the powers that be determined it either wouldn’t be fair to the Chargers to play Saturday late afternoon or evening in Baltimore or was somehow otherwise to the advantage of the league.
The NFL is not new to scheduling inequities and have addressed some in recent years. For example:
- For several tiebreaker and competitive reasons, Week 17 games are always divisional opponents
- For competitive purposes, Week 17 start times are adjusted so that teams in contention or with seeding at stake play at the same time
- The league allows a team returning from London the option for a bye following the game
The NFL has long chosen not to address scheduling inequities regarding which teams play multiple opponents coming off a bye, but that can easily be fixed by always having divisional games follow a bye. It’s just a matter of time before that change is made.
But back to the problem at hand. If one chooses to complain about scheduling inequities, it’s best to come with a solution, so here’s mine:
- The Wild Card and Divisional games in each conference will both be on the same day (either Saturday for all 4 games or Sunday for all 4 games)
- The AFC and NFC will alternate playoff days by season (to levelize network advertising/marketing concerns)
- The matchup involving the furthest West team will be the later game on each day
- The AFCC and NFCC could be split to Saturday and Sunday by this process, since the break prior to the Super Bowl is more than adequate whether 14 or 15 days.
Now let’s get back in the spirit.
The Ravens are playing in the Wild Card round on Sunday and if they win may face a Saturday game in Kansas City.