NFL Teams Coming Off a Thursday Night Game
There has been some chatter recently on the NFL scheduling procedures across the league. It seems like every season media and fans alike want to dissect the Strength of Schedule of each team, even I was no different last year. As I learned in my own research, the strength of schedule argument carries little weight once the new season begins.
This year we are now hearing a whole new scheduling complaint. With more teams playing on Thursday nights, does having the extra rest create an unfair advantage the following week? Last season, we heard it was unfair for the players because they did not get enough rest going from a Sunday game to a Thursday game, or playing on a short week. You won’t here me debate that here because I wanted to focus on the opposite scenario. What were the results of a team who had “extra” rest? For the purposes of this blog it means coming off of a Thursday night game and playing a team coming off of a Sunday or Monday night game (only once did a team coming off a Thursday night game play a team coming off a bye).
There was no fancy statistics done for this research or breaking down rest into 6.3 days. It was strictly done by looking at each Thursday night match-up and then seeing what happened the following week. I understand the sample size is extremely small, one season, but to all the people who claim the scheduling is unfair, here is the proof. There were 17 games played on Thursday last year, including all 3 played on Thanksgiving and the Straight Up and Against the Spread results of those 34 teams are as followed.
Teams coming off of Thursday night football were a combined 16-18 straight up and 15-17-2 against the spread, using Covers.com’s closing betting lines. Even though there is a big uproar about teams getting extra rest, it seems from the small sample size it didn’t have an impact and teams were actually under .500. In case you were wondering, there were 4 occurrences when a team went from Thursday to the following Monday Night game and those records were 2-2 straight up and 3-1 against the spread.
*Updated: Even if you want to go back one more season to increase the sample, the straight up record was 11-9 and against the spread record was 10-9-1 using the 10 games from the 2011-12 season. So still right around the .500 mark.
In conclusion, it is hard to say that the extra rest doesn’t or does help because of the small sample and new Thursday night scheduling. One thing is for certain and that is it did not have a huge positive impact like you might think. The scheduling debate can go on forever and range from strength of schedule, to playing teams off of rest, to having your bye week nullified, to playing on a short week, etc… The only thing that matters is showing up an winning. Every year teams win despite the issues and for this Thursday Night argument it is no different.
Going forward I am going to focus on how the line makers treat this when setting the market. I have to believe that if the perception out there is a team with more rest equals more value, we will start to see it in the opening lines. Due to the small sample I will not follow this blind heading into 2013 but I will definitely pick some spots when I see the line shaded in my favor.