Researchers look at impact of Thursday games on NFL schedule

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For all the variables that go into the NFL schedule, and all the work the league has done to make as many people happy as possible, invariably there are many who won’t be.

But a team of researchers at the University of Buffalo believes it has found ways to make scheduling more equitable, and the league is listening.

According to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the researchers’ biggest takeaway is the problem created by Thursday night games.

“I noticed quirks in the schedule, saw imbalances, especially with the Thursday night games,” said Dr. Murat Kurt. “Owners, coaches and players all complain about having to play the Thursday night games, but they do it because of the millions of dollars it generates from television.”

The project began after Bills president Russ Brandon complained to the league about having to play five games against teams with more rest. The researchers looked for ways to minimize the impacts, and avoid other undesirable occurrences such as long travel on short weeks. They presented a paper at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in February, and the league contacted them to share information, as well as offer more factors such as stadium restrictions, requests from broadcast partners and wish lists from teams.

They’ve agreed to share research in the future, as everyone tries to come up with a better product.

The researchers found that for teams playing against teams with more rest, winning percentages were four percent lower than when on normal rest. And with a big disparity in who’s getting rest (the Bills had 29 such games, while the Bengals had just 12), that’s an issue.

One of their goals is to get the league to implement changes including scheduling Thursday night games after bye weeks, which they said could eliminate the problem at an 80 or 90 percent rate. Of course, that still means there will be teams that complain, just not as many.

Other than reducing griping, it could also help make for better football, since Thursday night games averaged a 16.3 point difference between the winning team and the losing team last year. There are safety concerns as well, so it’s good that the league’s willing to listen to outside experts, who might be able to help streamline the process.

14 responses to “Researchers look at impact of Thursday games on NFL schedule

  1. I HATE that NFL teams play on Thursday nights for 2 reasons, 1 of course if player safety and health, the other is that the home team normally has a larger than normal advantage because the opposing team has a short week, travel and probably played the prior sunday, meaning there is not enough rest and healing time between games.

    Thursday Night and London games are 2 things I would eliminate if I were the NFL. Both are just moronically dumb.

  2. Has anyone ever heard any player, coach or fan say, “Remember the days when there was no Thursday night football? Such a dark time. I’m so glad we were delivered from that.”

    Me neither.

    Stop TNF.

  3. How to fix Thursday Night Football?

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…

    Go back to the double-bye week schedule. One bye week would be a normal bye, how it is now. The other bye would occur before the team’s TNF game, thus creating two “min” bye weeks. One by-product of having a min bye week before AND after TNF games is that TNF could then become a “showcase” game for the NFL, such as big matchups (Den-NE) or those tough divisional games we all love (PIT-BAL).

    The players would get more time off during the season, the network would have one more “week” of games to televise, and us fans would have one more week of the regular season to watch. And this gets the NFL one week closer to their stated desired goal of having the Super Bowl over President’d Day weekend.

    Win-win-win

  4. Bottom line is this, if the NFL is making money, any money at all, on Thursday night football, they will continue to play.

  5. They really needed a study to understand scheduling Thur night games after a bye week is a good idea ?

  6. People make things more complicated than they have to be. I’ve been saying for the past 5 years to have 2 by weeks. A team’s regular by week, and a by before their Thursday game. Even said they could then sell the Thursday Night games, which they’re now doing. This eliminates the extra advantage of the home team. And it gives the networks an extra week of advertising dollars. With 10 days off before the Thursday game, and 10 days off after the Thursday game, you might see less games missed due to injury.

    Now they want to add an extra playoff team, and possibly play the game on Monday night but can’t figure out how not to interfere (upset their free farm system) with college’s big night. 2 solutions. Start the NFL season a week later, pushing the Monday night playoff game a week after the NCAA Championship game. Or, add the extra by week like stated above, also pushing the Monday night playoff game a week after the NCAA Championship game.

  7. To all the NFL players complaining that they have to play on Thursday night. Are you willing to give up the money on your weekly game check that comes from the Thursday night games. When faced with the loss in dollars, you wouldn’t hear a peep from players or their union.

  8. fanasaurus says:
    Jun 29, 2015 11:34 AM

    To all the NFL players complaining that they have to play on Thursday night. Are you willing to give up the money on your weekly game check that comes from the Thursday night games. When faced with the loss in dollars, you wouldn’t hear a peep from players or their union.
    —————

    That doesn’t make any sense.

    The players get paid for playing 16 games, regardless of what day of the week the games are played.

  9. Thursday night football increases NFL revenue which raises the cap and thus does contribute to players pay. So getting rid of Thursday night football without replacing it with something will lower the potentional amount of money players as a group can earn.

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