Ravens Play 2 Teams Fresh Off Bye
The 16 opponents for the Ravens in 2019 as well as the home/road location of those games were all a function of the 2018 season and the NFL’s rotational schedule.
That means most complaints about who and where the Ravens must play should fall on deaf ears.
What we can debate is the relative difficulty of schedules based on the when factor.
Some of you are probably familiar with my scoring system for scheduling fairness, but 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 got an unfavorable scheduling break, but comparing 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.
What are the primary categories and how did the Ravens do in terms of “when” this year?
Playing in London (-10 for a home game, -2 for a road game, +2 for no game there, +2 if bye follows London game): With 4 games in London in 2019, there is a net score of 0 for play there excluding the bye impact. I am making no adjustment for games played in Mexico City, which I believe is a loss for the home team, but not terrible for the road squad. The Ravens do not play in London this year. (+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): The Ravens play their only Thursday game in Week 15 versus the Jets. A Thursday home game is a significant advantage, but the Ravens lost an opportunity to play a divisional foe at home after playing at Cincinnati in 2018 (+3).
Opponents playing on Thursday the prior week (None +3, -3 for each such opponent in excess of 1): The Ravens play Buffalo coming off their Thanksgiving game in Week 13. That’s exactly as they should have expected (0).
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 play a single MNF game versus the Rams in Week 12. While they have a long trip home to play the 49ers the next week, it’s still better to be home than away the week after a Monday night game (+1).
Opponents playing MNF the prior week (None -2, +2 for each such opponent in excess of 1): The Ravens play only 1 game against a team coming off a Monday night game, but that’s Pittsburgh in Week 5 (0). This is the 2nd consecutive year the Ravens have played the Steelers after a Pittsburgh MNF game and calls for a subjective adjustment.
Bye Week (actual week of bye -9): For the second consecutive season, the average week of the NFL bye is 8.56. I didn’t change the formula last season, but I’m using an average of 9 for 2019 schedule scoring, which creates a small negative bias of -.44 per team. The Ravens have their bye in Week 8 (-1). They follow the bye with a home game versus New England.
Opponents coming off a bye (none: +7, -7 for each in excess of 1): 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. Somehow, the Ravens have 2 games against teams coming off their byes, and they happen to come in Weeks 10 and 11 at Cincinnati and home vs. Houston. I heard the NFL enlisted the help of mathematicians from the University of Buffalo to help set the schedule this season. How does something like this remain unaddressed (-7)?
Subjective adjustment (-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). Playing at home versus Pittsburgh after their MNF game is a nice helper, but the long trip from their own MNF game is a small negative. I look at these 2 items as a small net positive (+1).
All of that nets to -1, which isn’t terrible in a league where the average is slightly below 0.
Strictly from the perspective of the coming season, the Ravens have a fair schedule in 2019.
However, they will likely have to play a road Thursday game in 2020 and quite possibly without offsetting positive factors.