See, now, this is the kind of schedule analysis I find interesting. Too much schedule analysis is based on our presumptions (often formed in the offseason, prior to the existence of on-field evidence) of which teams will be good and which ones will not. This is an issue we discussed here yesterday, with regard to the Giants. But when the schedules come out in the offseason, and we start to try to analyze who has the "tough" ones, I think it's foolish to predict which teams will be tough to play and which won't. I think it's much more reliable to look at things like travel schedules and rest time between games -- things that are likely to affect teams' performances regardless of the supposed quality of the opponent. If we presume that any team in the NFL is capable of beating any other on a given week, then the difficulty of one's schedule has to include other elements.
With the Philadelphia Eagles, the schedule complaint this season is about bye weeks -- opponents' bye weeks. The Eagles play four teams this year that are coming off their bye weeks and therefore will have extra rest prior to facing them. One of those four is the this week's opponent, the Falcons, but that doesn't quite count since the Eagles are coming off of their bye week, too. But their past two opponents -- Pittsburgh and Detroit -- were coming off byes, and they face the Redskins in Week 11 coming off of theirs. Some Eagles fans find this unfair, and according to Tim McManus, the NFL kind of sees their point. This is the response Tim got from the league when he asked about this:
The Eagles' four games vs team coming off their byes includes this weeks game against ATL where the Eagles are also coming off their own bye. Beginning in 2010, we began to focus specifically on ROAD games vs teams coming off their byes as that had proven to be a competitive disadvantage (.388 win pct in 2003-2009 as opposed to .426 for all road teams in those years), and have limited each team to a maximum of 2 road games per season vs a team coming off their bye. This season, GB and BUF also play 2 road games vs teams off their byes.
We also try to keep in mind how recently these scheduling "inequities" have happened to a team, so while Philly has the short straw this season, their recent history is quite fair:
2011: 2 games vs teams off their bye (one home, one away)
2010: 1 game vs team off their bye (away)
2009: no games vs teams off their bye
As far as having four total games vs teams coming off their byes in a single season, it happened to ATL in 2009 (2-2 in those games), to SD in 2005 (2-2), and to DAL in 2003 (3-1).
Pretty thorough explanation, and good job by Tim to ask for and get it.
Now, a couple of things to head off some anticipated questions/comments on this:
1. Obviously, no, the league is not out to get the Eagles. This is a scheduling quirk, which has apparently happened before, and the explanation from the league clearly indicates where the priorities lie in terms of scheduling games against post-bye teams.
2. This is not an excuse the Eagles themselves have brought up even once, and I don't think it's a valid one for fans to use either. The Eagles had fourth-quarter leads against both Pittsburgh and Detroit that could easily have been held, and there was nothing in either game to indicate that the winning team won because it was better rested. Good teams find ways to win games regardless of circumstances, and this post is not designed as an excuse-maker. I just find it interesting when quirky, behind-the-scenes stuff gets explained, and so I point it out because it's something that has come up few times since the summer.
As we all know, the Eagles are 13-0 under Andy Reid in games immediately following the bye week. This week, against a 6-0 Falcons team also coming off its bye, poses as stiff a test as that remarkable streak has yet faced. Given that history, and the fact that the game is in Philadelphia, it's hard to imagine the Falcons feeling as though they have any real advantage since they're coming off their bye as well.