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Warren Sharp: Observations of the 2024 schedule you need to know


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https://www.sharpfootballanalysis.com/betting/teams-hurt-helped-nfl-schedule-rest-disparity-2024/

 

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Teams Helped & Hurt By NFL Schedule: 49ers, Ravens, Eagles & More

BY WARREN SHARP|MAY 20, 2024

 

  • The Ravens have the #1 largest net rest edge (+16 days) since at least 1990 and likely the largest in NFL history
  • The 49ers have the #1 largest net rest disadvantage (-21 days) in the last decade and #6 largest since 1990
  • The 2024 NFL schedule features a 37-day swing in rest edge between best (+16) and worst (-21), which is the worst delta for any NFL season going back to 2000
  • The 2024 NFL schedule features a schedule in which there are 101 games played out of 272 (37%) where one team has a rest advantage over their opponent, which is the most in NFL history

 

The NFL released the 2024 schedule, and it is a major cause for concern on several fronts.

It is particularly concerning because the NFL has been getting worse at trying to make the schedule fair and equitable over the last several years.

This spills all the way to player safety, as the NFL continues to prioritize key matchups and big-time games for TV revenue over giving teams balance in the timing of their games while protecting player health.

We will dive into these areas in greater detail below, but as an example:

  • After not scheduling three games in 10 days for any team over the last five years, the NFL scheduled this scenario for NINE teams this year. For context, in all the games of the last decade combined, there were only two such sequences like this, with none occurring in the last five years. It occurs NINE times this year alone!
  • After not scheduling four games in 17 days for any team for the last two years, the NFL scheduled this scenario for SEVEN teams this year. For context, in the prior five years, this sequence occurred just five total times. It occurs SEVEN times this year alone!

The second cause for concern is we now must re-evaluate schedule strength.

Why?

Assessing strength of schedule in the NFL truly involves two components:

  1. Strength of scheduled opponent
  2. Difficulty of scheduled timing

We knew WHO each team was playing this year. So from that perspective, we knew strength of scheduled opponent, and those rankings 1-32 are here.

But we didn’t know WHEN each team was playing. So we didn’t know the difficulty that the schedule’s timing would generate for teams.

For example:

  • Is a team at a rest disadvantage in a game compared to their opponent?
  • How many days do they have to prepare for their game?
  • How many does their opponent have?
  • Are they coming off a road game on a short week?
  • Is their bye week edge negated?

Which means we need to evaluate strength of scheduled timing.

Strength of schedule in regards to opponents and strength of schedule in regards to timing are two completely different things, and we could only evaluate the latter once the schedule dropped.

In order to evaluate the second factor of NFL strength of schedule, we need to look at several variables related to rest and prep, including:

  • Net rest edges
  • More or less rest than opponent
  • Opponent’s days to prepare for the game
  • Short week road games
  • Games off road games on Sunday night or Monday night
  • Negated bye weeks
  • Three Games in 10 Days
  • Four Games in 17 Days

Understanding these factors is unfortunately becoming more and more important.

Why?

Because the NFL is sacrificing schedule equity for ratings.

The NFL’s VP of Broadcast Planning Mike North does an annual media circuit after the schedule is released. I listened to several of his interviews, and he’s a likeable guy.

When asked to describe his job, he mentioned the 272 games are already known, and said:

“It’s our job to kind of take those 272 games to find the right home for them. What does that mean? Some of them sound like Sunday Night Football games. Some of them sound like Monday Night Football games. Others are qualifying for kickoff Week 1. Some of them maybe belong on Thanksgiving or in London or in Germany. Others maybe belong on a Sunday afternoon at one o’clock. Some maybe feel better early in the season. Some feel better late in the season.”

I will be honest, it sounds like an incredible job.

But if it sounds more like art than science, that’s because in many ways, it probably is. Many strings are pulling at how the NFL is trying to deliver its schedule.

But one string pulls harder than any, and that’s the almighty dollar.

North said they “try to maximize viewership, maximize fan interest, and minimize competitive inequities.”

While he might have listed them in that order by chance, my gut tells me that’s the order of priority sent down to North’s team by the NFL.

And as a result, we have a 2024 NFL schedule this year that features the following takeaways:

  • A team with the #1 largest net rest edge (+16 days) in my database’s history, which dates back 35 years to 1990, and I’d venture to say it’s the largest in NFL history (Ravens)
  • A team with the #1 largest net rest disadvantage (-21 days) in the last decade and #6 largest since 1990 (49ers)
  • Note: the 49ers also had the #1 largest net rest disadvantage (-20 days) just last year, so it is back-to-back years of having the most brutal net rest in the NFL, seemingly without care to place that burden on the same team twice in two years
  • A 37-day swing in rest edge between best (+16) and worst (-21), which is the worst delta for any NFL season going back to 2000
  • A schedule in which there are 101 games played out of 272 (37%) where one team has a rest advantage over their opponent, which is the most in NFL history
  • A schedule in which there are 66 games played where one team has 3+ days of rest advantage, which is the most in NFL history
  • A team with an insane eight games with a rest disadvantage (nearly 50% of their schedule), the most games in a season in NFL history (49ers)
  • A schedule featuring four teams that play 5+ games with more rest than their opponent while multiple teams play only one such game
  • A schedule featuring multiple teams playing at least seven games where their opponent has over a week to prepare for the game (previously only three total teams in 31 years had at least seven such games), and six teams playing at least six games where their opponent has over a week to prepare, while one team plays ZERO games where their opponent has over a week to prepare (Patriots)
  • A schedule that made NINE teams play three games in 10 days after not having any teams do it in the prior five years combined

I could go on, but we’ll dive into all of these issues throughout this analysis. So save your questions, they may be answered below.

The bottom line is this.

The NFL views the schedule release as a success if their broadcast partners are immediately happy with the announcement while the teams aren’t up in arms claiming things are unfair.

But the teams can’t really go as nuclear as they should because they don’t analyze the schedule like I’m doing, so most of them aren’t aware of these issues.

I know that for a fact having heard directly from multiple NFL GMs as well as owners of separate teams.

As I’m tracking the trending direction of schedule inequality as it relates to rest and prep factors, I can say two things definitively:

  1. It is trending in the wrong direction. 2023’s schedule notably put less emphasis on these factors than did the 2021 or 2022 schedule, and 2024’s schedule was even worse, as the above bullets indicate.
  2. It does matter. Rest does matter, whether it’s cumulative or game-by-game, and I’ll get into detail on both elements below.

But first, let’s discuss each one of the key rest and prep variables and analyze how fair and equitable the 2024 schedule is.

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NFL Rest Edge & Disparity in the 2024 Schedule:

What is a rest edge in the NFL?

A rest edge in the NFL is the number of extra days a team has to rest and prepare for their game over their opponent.

An example of rest edge: if the Dolphins have a full 7-day bye week ahead of their game vs the Bills, and the Bills play on Monday Night Football and are on a short week, the Dolphins have a rest edge of +8 days prior to their game vs the Bills. Conversely, the Bills have a rest edge of -8 days.

What is net rest in the NFL?

Net rest is the cumulative sum of individual game rest edges over the course of an entire NFL season.

An example of net rest: this year the Patriots have for games with rest edges of +7, +3, +1 and +1 days of rest edge. But they do not play any games with a negative rest edge, when they would be at a disadvantage. As a result, the Patriots net rest edge for the 2024 season is +12 days (7+3+1+1).

As we’ve seen with previous seasons, net rest edge can be a massive benefit to one team or the other.

Another example illustrating NFL rest edges: this year the Dolphins play the Raiders in Week 11. The prior week, Week 10, the Dolphins play the Rams on Monday Night Football. This puts them on only six days of rest between games.

But the Raiders’ prior game isn’t in Week 10 but in Week 9, as they are on a bye in Week 10 and are off an extra week of rest.

Therefore, the Raiders have 8 days extra rest compared to the Dolphins (7 for the extra week plus 1 because the Dolphins are playing off MNF).

So in Week 11, the Raiders have a rest edge of +8 while the Dolphins have a rest edge of -8. Sum these edges up over the course of the season, and you get a team’s Net Rest Edge.

It’s not always the total nest rest that matters. It can also be individual games with a rest advantage that matters.

Having a rest edge does not mean you’re easily going to win a game nor does a rest disadvantage mean you’re going to lose. But it’s a factor and it matters to teams. Particularly when we’re talking about a 3+ day rest edge.

This graphic shows the net rest edge for each team this season. Each block is a single game where one team has a rest advantage or disadvantage.

For example, a +1 block for Baltimore indicates they have 1 extra day of rest compared to their opponent in one game this season.

Sum up the individual game blocks and you get the net rest edge for the season. A team with just four blocks total means they have even rest with their opponent in their other 13 games, thus no edge or deficit.

NFL Net Rest Edge Infographic 2024

*Click on image to enlarge and download*

What you are seeing in the graphic above is historic.

The Ravens are at +16 days of net rest edge.

That is the #1 largest net rest edge in my database’s history, which dates back 35 years to 1990.

The Ravens’ net rest edge is the largest in modern NFL history, and I’d venture to guess full NFL history as well.

The 49ers are at -21 days of net rest edge.

That is tied for the sixth largest disadvantage since 1990, with only the 1999 Chargers, 1993 Dolphins, 2012 Eagles, 1993 Packers, and 2005 Chargers being worse.

You can see how important this is when you study the haves and have-nots.

The Ravens are at +16 while the 49ers are at -21. That’s a 37-day swing in rest edge.

To put that into perspective, in a sport whose season spans FOUR MONTHS from start to finish, one team has OVER ONE MONTH more days of rest edge than another team.

That is wild. It seems unfair. And it is.

How does it rank historically?

The 37-day swing in rest edge is the worst for any season in my database going back to 2000.

Look at the swings in recent years:

  • 2024: 37 days
  • 2023: 32 days
  • 2022: 24 days
  • 2021: 27 days
  • 2020: 26 days
  • 2019: 24 days
  • 2018: 24 days

37 days is monstrous.

When looking only at games with positive rest edge, the Ravens have +18 days total of positive rest edge spread across 5 games (+1, +3, +3, +4, and +7), which is the most in the NFL.

Prior to 2024, no team in database history (since 1990) had a total positive rest edge of more than +17 days.

The 2024 schedule set a record with the Ravens getting +18 days of total positive rest edge.

When looking only at games with negative rest edge, the 49ers have an unbelievable -32 days total negative rest edge, the most in the NFL.

I went back to 1990 and found no team with more than 32 days of a disadvantage in any NFL schedule.

The 2024 schedule set a record with the 49ers getting -32 days of total negative rest edge.

There is a concerning trend with dramatically these rest edges are getting worse of late. Looking at the total negative rest edge for the most disadvantaged team, by year:

  • 2024: -32 days (SF)
  • 2023: -28 days
  • 2022: -20 days
  • 2021: -19 days
  • 2020: -21 days
  • 2019: -22 days
  • 2018: -18 days

Despite the NFL moving to 17 games in 2021, the team impacted most by multiple games at a rest disadvantage remained similar for multiple years.

But it grew in 2023 and then set a record in 2024.

In total, the straddle between the best rest advantage and worst rest advantage is 50 days (18 days to the good for the Ravens, 32 days to the bad for the 49ers).

In both 2021 and 2022, this total was just 31 days. Last year it was 45 days. This year it’s 50 days.

As the NFL has attempted to make the scheduling process “smarter,” they’re not making it better. They’re not making it more even. They’re simply trying to make it more profitable for themselves.

Which NFL team has the best rest edge in 2024?

The Baltimore Ravens have the best rest edge for the 2024 NFL season.

The Ravens have 16 more days of rest than their opponents.

Which NFL team has the worst rest edge in 2024?

The San Francisco 49ers have the worst rest edge for the 2024 NFL season.

The 49ers have 21 fewer days of rest than their opponents.

Why Rest Edges Matter in the NFL:

Before we talk about some of these teams in detail, and before we walk through some of the other measurements I use to judge fairness in the schedule at a team level, I want to discuss why rest edges matter by sharing a few examples from the two best teams in the NFL last year.

Let’s review some of the worst rest situations last year.

The 2023 Chiefs had a net rest edge of -13, the third-worst in the NFL.

But for the Chiefs, it wasn’t just that they had less rest in general. They had less rest than their opponent for six straight weeks, from Week 12 through Week 17.

The Chiefs are uniquely built to overcome rest disadvantages. After all, they are back-to-back Super Bowl Champions and have Patrick Mahomes. But even they struggled with these games.

When the Chiefs played with at least two days less rest than their opponents (as they did in 5 games last year), they were 2-3 and covered the spread in just one of those five games.

In all their other games, they were 13-2 and covered the spread in 12 of those 15 games.

To recap how rest impacted the best team in the NFL last year:

  • Chiefs games with rest deficit of 2+ days: 2-3 (40%) outright and 1-4 (20%) ATS
  • All other games played: 13-2 (87%) outright and 12-3 (80%) ATS

Thankfully for the Chiefs, they played the Jake Browning-led Bengals in Kansas City in Week 17. Though they trailed entering the four quarter, they scored nine unanswered points and earned their only cover of the season at a rest disadvantage or they would have been 0-5 ATS.

How about the NFL’s second-best team last year, the team that almost beat the Chiefs in the Super Bowl?

The 2023 49ers had a net rest edge of -20 days, most in the NFL. They played four teams coming off bye weeks.

In my 2023 Football Preview, I called out three games in particular that were notable:

  1. The game vs. the Bengals in Week 8 gave Cincinnati plus-eight days of rest edge as the 49ers played on Monday night in Minnesota in Week 7. Thus, the 49ers were coming off of a short-week road game with reduced rest while the Bengals were off a bye.
  2. The game vs. the Browns in Week 6 put the 49ers on the road against a Browns team off of a bye week.
  3. The game vs. the Seahawks in Week 14 was late in the season when Seattle was off a nice “mini-bye,” having played Week 13 on Thursday night and obtaining a plus-three day rest advantage over their division rival 49ers in Week 14.

The results of those 3 games?

The 49ers went 0-3 ATS and lost against the spread by a whopping 32.5 points combined. Despite being favored by 14.5, 9.5, and 4.5 points in those three games, they won just one of the three.

All told the 49ers were 2-2 (50%) outright and 1-3 (25%) ATS when playing with a rest deficit of 2+ days.

But they went 9-3 (75%) in their other 12 regular season games, covering the spread in 58% of those (7-5).

If the two best teams in the NFL were that impacted by rest deficits, you should realize that rest does matter.

Yes, both ultimately won enough games to make the Super Bowl, but they were massively impacted in the games they played at a rest disadvantage.

And they are the best teams the NFL has in its arsenal.

Imagine how unenviable rest situations will impact average teams, let alone below-average to terrible teams.

It’s a factor. It’s not the 100% end-all, be-all, but it’s big.

In my 2024 Football Preview I will share EVERY team’s rest edge every single week and their betting line for every single game.

And I will also share several formulas to bet games on rest edges, some of which are have produced:

58.3% SU and 55.2% ATS in over 150 games the last three seasons, including one just focusing on late games in the season involving rest edges, which has hit 56.5% SU and 56.6% ATS in over 120 games the last decade.

The 2024 Football Preview will have it all covered, game-by-game in 2024 and situation-by-situation.

But now, let’s get back to the other types of measurements I use to judge fairness in the schedule at a team level.

More (or Less) Rest Than Opponent

In addition to total “net” rest, let’s now expand by simply looking at the number of games with more rest than an opponent.

In 2022, only one team played five games with more rest than their opponent. It was the Cowboys, who used those rest benefits to deliver a surprisingly solid season and easily exceed their 10-win projected total by winning 12 games.

In 2024, four teams play 5+ games with more rest than their opponent: Chiefs, Ravens, Vikings, and Titans.

Just two years ago (2022) there was only one team with 5+ games of more rest than their opponent.

In 2024, 11 teams play 4+ games with more rest than their opponent: Chiefs, Ravens, Vikings, Titans, Steelers, Patriots, Dolphins, Browns, Eagles, Texans, and Seahawks.

Meanwhile, three teams play only one game with more rest than their opponents: Colts, Chargers, and Buccaneers.

There isn’t much equality when four teams play 5+ games with more rest and multiple teams get to play only one such game.

The NFL also cares less and less about trying to keep the schedule balanced from a rest perspective.

In 2024, there are 101 games played (out of 272) where one team has a rest advantage.

That’s the most in NFL history.

It’s 37% of the schedule.

That was 95 games in 2023.

It wouldn’t be quite as bad if there were more games with one game of rest edge, but we are seeing a growth in the extreme rest differences.

There are 66 games played where one team has a 3+ day rest advantage in 2024.

That’s the most in NFL history.

There were only 56 games in 2023. Thus, a growth of 18% from 2023.

In 2024, we are seeing 17 of 32 teams have “net” games with rest edges of one game (four games with more rest and three games with less rest is +1 game “net”).

That is an improvement over 2023 (only 13 teams of 32 teams).

But it’s still lower than what we saw in 2022 and earlier (22 of 32 teams).

But the extremes have gotten much worse.

In 2024, we have three teams with +4 “net” games with a rest edge (Patriots, Vikings, Titans).

One of the three teams with these +4 “net” games is the Vikings. They play:

  • Five games with a rest edge: Week 2 vs. SF, Week 7 vs. DET, Week 9 vs. IND, Week 17 vs. GB, and Week 18 vs. DET
  • One game with a rest disadvantage: Week 16 vs. SEA

This equates to +4 “net” games with a rest edge.

There are three such teams this year with this rest edge margin.

In 2023, 2022, and 2021, there was only one team with +4 “net” games in each year.

On the other end of the spectrum, the NFL delivered unprecedented history to the 49ers.

San Francisco has a historic eight games with a rest disadvantage.

That is the most games with a rest disadvantage in a season in NFL history.

There isn’t even a team with seven games of a rest disadvantage since 1998. They were all six or fewer.

The 49ers are at EIGHT!

Think about it from this perspective: nearly HALF the 49ers’ 17-game schedule has them playing at a rest disadvantage. And that’s fair?

Not at all. It’s ridiculous.

And to make matters worse, their “net” games with a rest disadvantage is -6, as they play only 2 games with a rest edge all year.

The 49ers’ -6 “net” games of rest edge is tied for the most in NFL history, with no team being over 5 games since 1999.

Opponent’s Days to Prepare for Your Game

If the standard is a game every seven days with six days of rest in between, how often does an opponent have more than standard rest to prepare to face their opponent?

In 2022, only one team had to play 6+ games where their opponent had extra time to prepare for them.

That number grew to four teams in 2023.

Now, in 2024, that number is six teams.

Yes, six teams must play at least six games where their opponent has extra time to prepare for them.

  • Seven games where the opponent has extra time: 49ers, Seahawks
  • Six games where the opponent has extra time: Dolphins, Broncos, Chargers, Saints

How does this compare historically?

Since 1994, only a total of three teams in those 31 years played at least seven games in a season where their opponent had extra prep.

But this year alone there are two teams.

What must be frustrating for these teams is when they notice that the Patriots play ZERO games where their opponent has extra time to prepare for them.

Zero.

And yet six teams play 6+ games.

And that’s fair?

No, that’s ridiculous.

We can also look at the opposite, which is the number of games a team plays where their opponent is on shorter than standard rest. And compare to the games vs. an opponent off of extra rest to calculate the “net.”

The Seahawks, as mentioned above, play seven games vs. opponents who have extra prep time and only three games vs. opponents with less than standard prep time for a “net” of -3.

Take a look at the Chargers and the Colts.

The Chargers have a “net” of -6 as they play six games vs. teams with extra prep and zero games vs. teams with short prep.

The Colts are similar, with five games vs. teams with extra prep and zero games vs. teams with short prep, for a “net” of -5.

Let’s examine this contrasting comparison:

  • Chargers: 6 games vs. teams with extra prep to get ready, 0 games vs. teams with short prep
  • Patriots: 0 games vs. teams with extra prep to get ready, 3 games vs. teams with short prep

How is that fair? Why wouldn’t the NFL take even the slightest interest in attempting to balance this? They clearly do not care.

Short-Week Road Games in the NFL

Short-week road games are the worst type of games to have to play.

Less time for coaches to prep, less time for players to heal and get healthy, and less time to install a game plan. Less of all of that than your opponent, because you also have to travel to the game.

This year, because the NFL is trying to schedule more games in primetime viewing situations, there are more short-week road games than last year.

There are 42 short-week road games (up from 38 last year), and two teams take the brunt of them.

The Bengals and 49ers both must play three short-week road games.

That’s the most of any team in the NFL.

What should frustrate Bengals fans the most is that they were 1-of-3 teams that had to play three short-week road games in 2023 (most in the NFL).

So in back-to-back years, the Bengals are playing three short-week road games, most in the NFL.

What is the impact of these games?

In the last two years, teams playing short-week road games have won 43% of the time while covering the spread just 47.6%.

Short week road games impact teams worse as the season goes on, which is natural, as players aren’t as fresh and are more banged up.

Thus, it’s more difficult to get peak performance late in the season on short weeks.

In fact, underdogs after Week 6 in a short-week road game are 40-117 (26%) straight up the last decade and have covered just 40% ATS of those over 150 games. And it’s even worse if you exclude 2020 when there were no crowds allowed and road teams performed much better.

Once again, I’ll detail every one of these short-week road games that you should pay attention to this year in my 2024 Football Preview.

But the bottom line is these spots generate a definite matchup disadvantage.

And for the league to be creating MORE of these games means they should be focusing on trying to spread the burden around to all the teams.

But they are not doing that, as referenced by the Bengals being put in the NFL’s worst situation in back-to-back years.

Games After Playing on Road Sunday Night or Monday Night

Teams hate when they have to travel home and arrive in the wee hours of Monday AM or Tuesday AM. It throws a wrench in their week of prep.

In 2023, 10 teams didn’t have to play a single road game off Sunday Night or Monday Night Football, down from 16 the prior year.

In 2024, with more MNF games due to multiple doubleheaders, the NFL’s desire to overpopulate the MNF slate has done the work for them.

Only eight teams won’t have to play a single road game off Sunday Night or Monday Night Football.

This is a good thing.

All we can ask for is the league to spread out the advantages or disadvantages to increase equality amongst teams. With fewer teams “escaping” this situation, it means more teams will be dealing with it.

In 2023, seven teams played 2+ games off a road Sunday or Monday night.

In 2024, that number jumps to 12 teams playing 2+ games off a road Sunday or Monday night game: Bengals, Jaguars, Cowboys, Buccaneers, Saints, Bills, Chargers, Ravens, Lions, Falcons, Dolphins, and Jets.

Negated Bye Weeks in the NFL Schedule

These are particularly annoying because the two benefits a bye should theoretically give are extra time to rest and prep for your team and a game with a nice rest edge over your opponent.

In 2023, 11 teams had their bye week negated. This doesn’t “hurt” the team, because they still get their rest and prep. But it doesn’t “help” the team, as they don’t have a rest or prep advantage over their opponent.

But in 2024, credit to the NFL here, they’ve halved that number down to only six teams.

Those 6 teams: Bengals, Chiefs, Colts, Buccaneers, Giants, and Broncos

This marks back-to-back seasons for the Chiefs where their bye week has been negated, the only such team with any streak.

Once again, like the prior note on teams playing road Sunday night or Monday night games, in 2024 the NFL made things more fair, so credit where it is due.

Three Games in 10 Days

I’m annoyed by simply having to insert this section into this analysis. That’s because it never existed in any previous iteration.

In the several years that I’ve spent hours and hours post-schedule release doing this detailed equity analysis on the NFL schedule, there never was a single instance where a team played three games 10 days apart.

NFL VP of Broadcast Planning Mike North had the following to say about the situation:

“It was a unique challenge trying to find these four teams, knowing they’re going to have to play Sunday, Saturday, Wednesday. That’s three games in ten days, that’s a lot. There’s a handful of other teams that will play three games in ten days, a Monday, Sunday, Thursday sequence. So everybody’s going to share in the challenges this created, but really excited to see where we can go with it.”

The real questions that North never was asked were: Is this normal at all? Doesn’t this happen once or twice a year?

Obviously, the Wednesday games aren’t normal. But how often do teams play three games in 10 days?

  • 2019: 0 times
  • 2020: 0 times
  • 2021: 0 times
  • 2022: 0 times
  • 2023: 0 times

It hasn’t happened once in the last five years. It’s happened only twice in the last 10 years combined.

How many times is it happening in 2024?

Nine times!

NINE!

The first four teams this happens to are not surprising:

Sunday-Saturday-Wednesday: Steelers, Ravens, Texans, Chiefs

We know that is a unique situation, as the NFL wants to play on a Wednesday (Christmas).

To do that, these teams had to play on a Saturday to allow the same amount of rest as a typical Sunday-Thursday night turnaround (three off days between gamedays).

But once the NFL introduced that ridiculously short turnaround on the guise of taking hundreds of millions in money from Netflix, the NFL said, “Hey, why don’t we just sneak this rest sequence into the schedule in other places and see if anyone says anything?”

Well here I am, to say something. Here are the other five teams and the sequence they are facing:

Monday-Sunday-Thursday: Bengals, Bears, Seahawks, Saints, Cowboys

  • The Bengals play Week 14 Monday night in Dallas, Week 15 Sunday in Tennessee, and Week 15 Thursday vs. Cleveland.
  • The Bears play Week 15 Monday night in Minnesota, Week 16 Sunday vs. Detroit, and Week 17 Thursday vs. Seattle.
  • The Seahawks play Week 4 Monday night in Detroit, Week 5 Sunday vs. NY Giants, and Week 6 Thursday vs. San Francisco.
  • The Saints play Week 5 Monday night in Kansas City, Week 6 Sunday vs. Tampa Bay, and Week 7 Thursday vs. Denver.
  • The Cowboys play Week 11 Monday night vs. Houston, Week 12 Sunday in Washington, and Week 13 Thursday vs. NY Giants (Thanksgiving).

The four teams forced to play these “three games in 10 days” for Christmas?

Understandable.

They’ll not be happy about the rest at the end, but the NFL is getting $150 million from Netflix for those two games.

Do they split that with the 4 teams they’re screwing? No. Teams get an equal share of money gained from TV contracts after the NFL takes its share.

So it doesn’t benefit the four teams more than any of the other teams, which stinks for them since they’re dealing with the ramifications.

But at least these two factors exist in the Christmas situation:

  1. All four teams are playing opponents each week dealing with the same “three games in 10 days” predicament, so all will be on equal rest.
  2. It’s generating an extra $150 million for the NFL, which they’ll get a small taste of.

But the other five teams who were given Monday-Sunday-Thursday sequences?

They’re all at a rest disadvantage, both during and by the end of the sequence.

Look at the Bengals, for example. They START with a rest disadvantage vs. the Cowboys.

Look at these games:

  • Week 14 Monday night in Dallas – Dallas has a three-day rest edge because Dallas played the prior Thursday
  • Week 15 Sunday in Tennessee – Tennessee has a one-day rest edge because Cincy is off MNF
  • Week 15 Thursday vs. Cleveland – Cleveland did not play three games in 10 days, so hasn’t been strained like Cincy entering this game

That’s just a brutal stretch for every one of those five teams being forced to play this gauntlet for no reason.

Again, look at the history of the NFL forcing this “three games in 10 days” sequence on its teams historically:

  • This year alone (2024): 9 times
  • Prior 5 years (2019-2023): 0 times total
  • Prior 10 years (2014-2023): 2 times total
  • Prior 20 years (2004-2023): 9 times total
  • Prior 30 years (1994-2023): 11 times total

The NFL is forcing in nine times (most in NFL history) something they didn’t do once in the last five years and did nine times total in the prior 20 years.

What does this say for player safety? Playing three NFL games in 10 days? Particularly late in the season?

This seems like a terrible idea. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to reach that conclusion.

What does it mean for team performance?

I went back and did the work for you, so you don’t have to speculate.

Since 1990, teams in their final game of three games in 10 days:

  • Won just 5 of 13 games (38.5%) despite being favored by an average of 1.6 points in those games
  • Covered the spread (aka out-performed expectations) in just 4 of 13 games (30.8%)

Nasty work.

Unnecessary, and nasty.

Four Games in 17 Days

Several years ago, the NFL would occasionally force four games into 17 days for some teams.

But they stripped that out in 2022 and 2023.

So I didn’t even mention it in my 2023 schedule analysis review and was happy to exclude it.

I believed the NFL was moving in the right direction.

That was short-lived.

Four games in 17 days occurs with a Monday-Sunday-Sunday-Thursday sequence.

This occurred 0 times in the last two years combined and only one to two times a year in 2019 through 2021.

How many times did the NFL work that into the 2024 schedule?

Seven times!

  • 2024: 7 times
  • 2023: 0 times
  • 2022: 0 times
  • 2021: 1 time
  • 2020: 2 times
  • 2019: 2 times

Seven times is obviously the most in NFL history.

The seven teams impacted in 2024?

  • Browns
  • Dolphins
  • Steelers
  • Falcons
  • Chiefs
  • Jets
  • Ravens

There is overlap for the Steelers, Chiefs, and Ravens as the math in their Sunday-Saturday-Wednesday sequence coincides with this “four-in-17” stretch, but that’s not the case for the Browns, Dolphins, Falcons, and Jets.

NFL Rest & Prep Rankings in the 2024 Schedule:

NFL Prep Edge Infographic 2024

*Click on image to enlarge and download*

The teams hurt by the NFL schedule makers most in 2024:

  • Bengals
  • Buccaneers
  • 49ers
  • Colts
  • Broncos

Three of these teams (49ers, Broncos, and Colts) also rank #30, #31, and #32 in net rest edge.

The teams helped by the NFL schedule makers most in 2024:

  • Titans
  • Patriots
  • Panthers
  • Vikings
  • Eagles

We should also note, based purely on net rest edge, the Ravens are absent in this top-five.

Why were they absent?

While the Ravens did rank top four in both Opponent Days to Prepare as well as Games With More Rest Than Opponent, they do have the #2 most short week road games, are tied for #1 most games off road Sunday or Monday Night, and they play the dreaded “Three games in 10 days” scenario.

As a result, the “Prep and Rest Variables” note those and penalize their schedule. But the fact they have the #1 largest net rest edge in my database’s history (which dates back 35 years to 1990) is both notable and important.

Several of these teams mentioned rank at the top or bottom of net rest, but others have unique schedule quirks that help them exceed pure net rest edges.

One element of setting expectations for the season is understanding the advantages certain teams have.

As much as we would like it if there was a completely level playing field, that is simply not the case, particularly when a key desire is getting compelling matchups on national TV.

Thus, understanding which teams have advantages when it comes to rest and prep elements is extremely useful and certainly should be one part of the process when predicting how the 2024 season will unfold, both on a seasonal basis as well as a weekly basis throughout the season.

I wish the NFL put more of an emphasis on making the schedule more equitable. But as it trends in the opposite direction, observing which teams are hurt or helped most, both cumulatively and week-by-week, is something I’m happy to identify and share.

Let’s finish up by diving into the schedule quirks for individual teams including the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals.

2024 NFL Schedule Team Notes & Analysis:

San Francisco 49ers Schedule Analysis & Notes:

For the second straight year, the 49ers have been hosed based on the timing of their games.

Last year, their net rest edge ranked #32 with a -20-day margin.

They had four games with a net rest edge of three days or worse.

They won just two of those four despite being favored in all four games by an average of over 10 points. And they covered the spread in just one of the four.

This year, unfairly, they’re back where they were in 2023.

The 49ers have a net rest edge of -21 days. It’s the worst net rest differential in the last decade and #6 largest since 1990.

They play an unprecedented eight games with a rest disadvantage (nearly 50% of their schedule), the most games in a season in NFL history.

When looking only at games with negative rest edge, the 49ers have an unbelievable -32 days total negative rest edge, the most in the NFL.

I went back to 1990 and found no team with more than 32 days of a disadvantage in any NFL schedule.

The 49ers play seven games against teams who have extra time to rest and prepare for the game.

Since 1994, only a total of those teams in those 31 years played at least seven games in a season where their opponent had extra prep.

The 49ers also must play three short-week road games, tied for the most in the NFL.

What is particularly brutal for the 49ers is the timing of their games coupled with the opponents.

From Week 7 on, the 49ers play the NFL’s #4 most difficult schedule of opponents.

And during that span, they are at a rest disadvantage in 6 of those 11 games:

  • Week 7 vs. Kansas City when KC is coming off their bye week
  • Week 8 vs. Dallas when DAL is coming off their bye week
  • Week 11 vs. Seattle when SEA is coming off their bye week
  • Week 13 vs. Buffalo when BUF is coming off their bye week
  • Week 14 vs. Chicago when CHI is coming off a mini-bye
  • Week 18 vs. Arizona when ARI has extra rest with SF coming off MNF

I went back in my database to 1990, and there is no team with more games at a rest disadvantage from Week 7 on than the 49ers’ six games.

And six games only happened to three teams in the 35 years since 1990.

The 49ers’ four games against teams coming off a bye is tied for the most in the 35 years since 1990 with only two other teams.

Games late in the season are the most difficult to play at a rest disadvantage.

 

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3 minutes ago, Bungaman said:

Anything that is to the disadvantage of the Cheatriots is a blessing from the gods and endorsed by everyone except their fair weather spoiled fans. 

No, I'm not bitter.

Umm the Cheatriots have one of the bigger advantages

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How do you end up so lopsided in the "more rest" or "less rest" way?

If you play on a Monday, you get +1 extra rest for that game, but then you have -1 rest for the next game = 0.

If you play on a Thursday, you get -3 rest for that game, but then you get +3 rest before your next game (if it's on a Sunday, which it mostly should be).

How do you end up +16 or -21, what am I missing?  

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5 minutes ago, Warfish said:

How do you end up so lopsided in the "more rest" or "less rest" way?

If you play on a Monday, you get +1 extra rest for that game, but then you have -1 rest for the next game = 0.

If you play on a Thursday, you get -3 rest for that game, but then you get +3 rest before your next game (if it's on a Sunday, which it mostly should be).

How do you end up +16 or -21, what am I missing?  

What is a rest edge in the NFL?

A rest edge in the NFL is the number of extra days a team has to rest and prepare for their game over their opponent.

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11 minutes ago, Warfish said:

How do you end up so lopsided in the "more rest" or "less rest" way?

If you play on a Monday, you get +1 extra rest for that game, but then you have -1 rest for the next game = 0.

If you play on a Thursday, you get -3 rest for that game, but then you get +3 rest before your next game (if it's on a Sunday, which it mostly should be).

How do you end up +16 or -21, what am I missing?  

It's not the teams rest but the number of days difference for the opponent. So if you play a team off of a bye that is -7 if the game and subsequent game are both Sunday games

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3 minutes ago, JohnnyLV said:

It's not the teams rest but the number of days difference for the opponent. So if you play a team off of a bye that is -7 if the game and subsequent game are both Sunday games

I got that, I'm just amazed it gets so lopsided.  You get your bye it's +7, then you play someone off a bye and it's -7, it should work itself out near 0 generally.  Exception being teams that play alot of MNF and TNF I suppose, but to get as much as the 49's?  They play three teams coming off byes to get those three -7's?  Jeez.

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31 minutes ago, Warfish said:

How do you end up so lopsided in the "more rest" or "less rest" way?

If you play on a Monday, you get +1 extra rest for that game, but then you have -1 rest for the next game = 0.

If you play on a Thursday, you get -3 rest for that game, but then you get +3 rest before your next game (if it's on a Sunday, which it mostly should be).

How do you end up +16 or -21, what am I missing?  

It’s relative to the opponent. Monday night games usually are between two teams on 8 days rest — no rest advantage or disadvantage to either. The next week, assuming you play a team that played Sunday the previous week, you’d have -1. When you play a team coming off a bye, you have -7 unless you also are coming off a bye. A team playing Thursday will usually be playing a team that is also on 4 days rest, but will likely have a three day rest advantage over their next opponents. Etc etc etc

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17 minutes ago, Warfish said:

I got that, I'm just amazed it gets so lopsided.  You get your bye it's +7, then you play someone off a bye and it's -7, it should work itself out near 0 generally.  Exception being teams that play alot of MNF and TNF I suppose, but to get as much as the 49's?  They play three teams coming off byes to get those three -7's?  Jeez.

You say you “got that”, but your original post indicates otherwise as you argue that the extra day of rest before a Monday night game balances out the lost day of rest after a Monday night game.

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7 hours ago, Larz said:

Came here to post this lol. 
 

The jets schedule is pretty good actually considering net rest and strength. 
 

 

Good. I think this is important but I didn't want to read all that lol.

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