The unveiling of the NFL schedule has a lot of different reactions from fans around the league.
For some fans it’s like Christmas morning, while other people scoff at it since they already know all the opponents. What difference does the order make is their line of thinking. The truth of the matter is it makes a big difference.
While the makeup of a team’s schedule will not necessarily make or break a season, it will yield competitive advantages and disadvantages. The NFL schedule is intended to be competitively balanced, but that’s just not the case. As NFL bettors, we look to play situational spots on a weekly basis. That’s one of the biggest ways to get an edge, and those spots can be spotted on the day the schedule comes out.
Unfortunately for the Green Bay Packers, they’ve come out on a bit of the unlucky side of the ledger this season with their schedule. It’s certainly not a death sentence — like losing a certain quarterback probably would be — but it will make things a bit more challenging.
Warren Sharp has been tweeting out some excellent scheduling notes on his Twitter feed. Sharp has the Packers with a five days rest disadvantage compared to the teams they play on their schedule, which ranks 25th in the NFL.
There are two situations in which this sticks out the most. The Packers will have to travel to the west coast for a matchup with the 49ers following a Monday Night Football contest with the Detroit Lions. Even worse, Green Bay will have an away Thursday Night Football game at Arizona. Thursday night road games are a huge disadvantage, which is compounded when you have to travel through multiple time zones.
The Packers are one of only seven teams with two short-week road games. They are also only one of nine teams with two games against opponents off a bye week. Only New England has three and the rest of the league either has one or zero. In terms of strength of opponents, Green Bay ranks as the 11th hardest schedule according to Sharp’s methodology, which is based on projected season win totals and much more accurate than using last season’s winning percentage.
The bye week is for the Packers is Week 13, which could make the middle part of a schedule more of a grind as fatigue potentially starts to set in. Ideally, the bye week is more in the middle of the season. Although, with the extra game this season a late bye week may not be the worst thing in the world.
Despite those negatives, there are some positives the Packers can take away from their schedule. It’s better to have an easier schedule to begin the season than to close because in a short NFL season it’s harder to come from behind in the standings with not as many opportunities as the other sports. Also, if you have better teams scheduled for later in the season there is a chance they’re not as good as projected due to injuries. Green Bay’s game against San Francisco last year is an easy example of that.
In the first six games, Green Bay should be significant favorites in four of them. Detroit, Cincinnati, Chicago and Pittsburgh — a team that is likely regressing — should be games the Packers win. The San Francisco game will be a huge challenge as previously mentioned. New Orleans is likely a team in decline, but playing in the SuperDome in the first game with fans back will not be a fun environment.
The best quarterback the Packers face in the first seven games just might be Ryan Fitzpatrick if Joe Burrow isn’t healthy, so that’s a good thing as well. Another positive thing is late-season home games for Green Bay, as the Packers play four of their final six games at home.
Green Bay always has a significant advantage playing at Lambeau Field in the winter. That’s magnified when they get teams from warm climates coming in, which was proven in wins over Los Angeles and Tennessee late last year. Unfortunately, the teams the Packers get at home in December and January — Chicago, Cleveland and Minnesota — are not from warm cities.
The schedule release is the first step of starting to think about football again with four months to go until it all gets underway again.