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The NFL Schedule Is Not Fair; They Are Trying To Fix It

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It’s tough to be a fan of a team with continuous losing seasons and it is even harder when you are convinced your team’s schedule isn’t fair. A group of researchers, who happen to be Buffalo Bills fans, decided to do something about it using a mathematical approach focused on fairness.

NFL officials were skeptical at first because there is a lot that goes into scheduling outside of just the games. Things like events at the stadiums and television contracts but for the 2019 season the NFL is working alongside the group of researchers while they create the schedule.

The NFL agreed to a three-year grant for the research but have not commented further.

Scott Mitchell, former NFL quarterback and host of Helmets Off Podcast, agrees that the NFL schedule is not fair.

“I can tell you I felt it (the unfairness) as a player,” said Mitchell, “Both in good ways and bad ways.”

The Research

The researchers first noticed that the Buffalo Bills often had games against opponents who were either coming off a bye week or a Thursday game. This gives the other team an advantage when it comes to preparation but more importantly rest.

In an interview with ESPN, one of the researchers said, “I’ve worked on very difficult problems that take more than 12 hours on the supercomputer to solve and this is by far the hardest any of us have ever seen.”

The math is done by a computer that is chained to a wall in a password protected room, according to ESPN.

The researchers said while the computer can’t make a “perfect” schedule because of extraneous events, like other sporting events in the same city and TV schedules, it can help minimize long road trips and rest discrepancies.

The NFL hopes those improvements mean the quality of play will improve for the sake of viewers.

“The reality is that in the past the NFL made it all fit but it really, really hurt certain teams,” said Mitchell on the podcast.

Taking Advantage Of The Schedule

Mitchell spent most of his time in the NFL playing for the Detroit Lions. Traditionally, the Lions always play a game on Thanksgiving, a Thursday game. On Helmets Off Podcast, Mitchell explained how the team took advantage of this scheduling.

“As you go through the season you get tired and beat up so having a little bit of rest in the latter part of the season was a huge advantage,” said Mitchell.

He recalled having three games in ten days leading up to the Thanksgiving game. He explained that the team would treat this like it’s own season.

“We just have to figure out how to win these three games,’’ said Mitchell.

Scott Mitchell playing for the Detroit Lions 

After those three games, explained Mitchell, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A ten-day rest and at that point in the season “it felt like a month.”

“We knew it was an advantage and we knew it was unfair,” said Mitchell.

If you found this story interesting subscribe to Helmets Off wherever you get podcasts or on the KSL Sports app.

Listen to the full episode below.