How to Evaluate the Release of NFL Schedules

NFL logo. Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images/AFP

Now annually in May, the NFL releases its entire football schedule and for three days on sports talk radio and the countless articles that are written, that’s all anyone wants to talk about.

While important, this is not the – end-all to be all – to evaluate any team’s success for the upcoming season. But you wouldn’t know it from surveying the radio shows where they give biblical decrees and pretend to have some great insight about what a club’s record will be when breaking down a schedule.

Here is what matters more in determining the release of NFL schedules.

Don’t Buy Into the Strength of the Schedule

When the term “strength of schedule” is used, it commonly refers to what the opponent’s record was from the previous year. While this term is thrown around like almost daily pictures of Elizabeth Hurley trying to draw attention to herself, the fact is it doesn’t hold much validity.

Because of the continual roster turnovers with free agency, the draft, and a few trades, last year’s records are not indicative of future results. That is where the discussion of the strength of schedule falls apart and more than half of the teams will have a record of two games or more different from the previous year, going up or down.

Ask yourself this, when was the last time you ever heard a preseason strength of schedule brought up after the season was completed? Never. Because it’s the one you are playing that matters.

Instead, Break Down the Schedule This Way

Because the NFL has gone to an unbalanced slate of 17 games, teams will play nine home games one year and eight the next. (Excluding any non-US contests) Though this probably won’t impact bad teams as much, an extra home contest could impact playoff seeding.

Though division battles are still important when seeing the numbers at OddsTrader.com because they count twice in the standings, and there is a winner and a loser, adding a 17th contest somewhat diminishes their overall importance with five matchups versus the other conference up from four.

Tear the schedule into three segments: division, conference, and nonconference. It’s a given the division battles matter and to a lesser degree, so do conference clashes for possible tiebreakers.

Next chop up the schedules into four to seven pieces, depending on whom a club plays and where they are playing. Say a team has a home and road versus two beatable conference foes, a division home contest followed by two nonconference away tilts, you have something to work with.

Our selected team will be motivated for the division battle and at least come ready to face conference competition, but what about the first non-conference game? That’s a potential flat spot to circle. You can subjectively grade each section this way.

Look For Short and Long Weeks

With at least 16 weeks of Thursday and Monday contests and some Saturday action mixed in, at least knowing this and seeing if it applies to a team’s advantage or disadvantage is worth acknowledging.

Over the long haul, the differences are not dramatic in these situations. Nevertheless, you would hate to lose one of your NFL picks on a road team off an away Monday night conflict playing a team in the second of two home games because you didn’t bother to look.

Or you wisely found a squad off a Thursday road win, at home against a club off of a physically demanding away win, and is on the road again. Situational handicapping still had a place.

Bottom line, let others talk about NFL schedules, if you do the work, you can profit and ignore the noise.

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