2020 NFL Schedule Release: Why Timing of Byes, Thursday Night Football Is So Important

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Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images. Pictured: Head Coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers

While we are anxiously awaiting live sporting events to watch, attend and gamble on, we will get some information about when the NFL expects to return on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET (NFL Network).

A schedule release isn’t a substitute for real games, but the NFL draft showed how comforting just thinking about live football games can be.

It should be noted that this schedule has more caveats than a typical year. Contingency plans have been discussed and the season could be pushed back or shortened as new information about the COVID-19 pandemic is discovered.

But for Thursday, let’s focus on the schedule release.

There are some handicapping consequences to the schedule release as well. While it has already been announced that there won’t be any international games this season, there are three key factors to consider when looking at your favorite team’s schedule.

NFL Schedule Release Analysis: 3 Key Factors to Know

1. Opponent After the Bye

Getting some much-needed rest is key in the NFL. To put numbers to it, teams with extra rest have won an extra 3.2% of the time at home and an extra 3.7% on the road compared to their win percentage on normal rest.

Given the margin of error in these games, any coach would take those percentages in a heartbeat. Teams wants to maximize that edge against the best possible opponents on the schedule. So, which ones? Ideally, teams want their bye before the toughest divisional opponent.

For a team projected to be in a competitive division like the Saints, they would want the bye before facing the new-look Buccaneers. If a team is already in pretty good shape like the Chiefs, they want to face a team like the Ravens, who they expect to be fighting for playoff seeding throughout the season.

2. Number of Games With Opponents Off Byes

The NFL schedule looks symmetrical, so you may assume that each team would play exactly one team after its bye, but that is not the case.

Just last season the 49ers and Patriots both faced three teams coming off a bye. Seven teams faced two opponents off a bye and another 13 teams faced one team off a bye. A whopping 10 teams never had to play an opponent coming off extra rest.

Given all the rules that the league has to follow to come up with the schedule, these discrepancies happen. You just have to hope your favorite team has some good luck when the schedule is implemented.

3. Timing of Thursday Night Football

Home-field advantage is elevated when both teams are off a short week. Teams are limited in what they can prepare for and have to couple that with a tough turnaround physically and travel.

My research actually has the Thursday home game slightly more of an advantage than coming off a bye week. If your team does get stuck with a road Thursday game, hope it is against a weak or non-conference opponent.

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