Many times, an NFL team’s chances of making the playoffs come down to surviving difficult stretches during their schedule or taking advantage of those easy stretches.
Below we highlight some teams that are either disadvantaged by certain spots in their 2019 NFL schedule or have advantageous aspects of their schedule.
The Most Disadvantaged Teams:
No team in the NFL is getting screwed more by the schedule this season than the Oakland Raiders. It is mind-boggling how difficult and how many hurdles this team will face this year. There are so many obstacles for the Raiders that I am not quite sure where to begin.
After opening in back-to-back divisional home games against the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, the Raiders won’t play another home game until Week 9 against the Detroit Lions.
In between, the Raiders will travel to London to play against the Chicago Bears in Week 5. Because the Raiders are playing in London and are considered the home team, the Raiders lose out on one actual home game.
The Bears have a 3-hour lead time advantage flying to London and based on the Raiders getting blown out last year in this same spot against the Seattle Seahawks, this looks to be a big disadvantage for Oakland.
There are seven teams in the NFL that play their home games in Mountain or Western time zones. Five of these teams either play one or zero back-to-back road games at 1pm eastern standard time during the season.
Denver, which has a one-hour time advantage over the other west coast teams, must play two sets of back-to-back road 1pm games. The Oakland Raiders get three sets of back-to-back 1pm road games.
All six of these games are against teams with win totals of at least 7.5 and the second leg of these road back-to-backs are against the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, and Chiefs. Overall the Raiders have the third-toughest schedule against road teams when considering their Vegas win totals.
There are other subtle disadvantages for the Raiders that they must deal with. Historically, Andy Reid-led teams are excellent off a bye, and this season the Chiefs face, you guessed it, the Raiders off a bye.
And the game for the Chiefs off the bye is being played in Oakland. So not only do the Raiders lose a home game because of their London trip but they must buck a long-standing trend against an Andy Reid team at home.
Finally, the overall amount of mileage that the Raiders will face is by far the most in the NFL. According to Cbssports.com, the Raiders will be traveling a total of 32,023 miles, which is 9,000 more than the Bills, Giants and Jets will travel combined. Good luck Raiders.
Seattle must play four games on the road at 1pm in the eastern time zone this season, and they’re projected to be underdogs in all four. Last season they only played two such road games and in both cases, they either had a bye prior to the game (at Detroit) or played a Thursday game before (at Carolina).
Seattle will only have rest prior to one of these road games this year, a Thursday night game the week prior to a game in Cleveland. Since Pete Carroll took over in 2010, Seattle is 15-13 (53%) straight up on the road at 1pm in EST. In all other games, Seattle is 74-41-1 (64%) during Carroll’s tenure.
Since 2010, Seattle has been notorious as an almost impossible place to win in primetime games for opponents. Seattle is 17-2 straight up and an astonishing 15-3-1 against the spread in home primetime games. Last year, the Seahawks were afforded four primetime games with three played in Seattle.
Of course, Seattle went 3-0 at home and 0-1 on the road. This has been a huge advantage for the Seahawks in recent memory, but they are not going to be as lucky with the primetime schedule this year. Seattle has a brutal road primetime schedule and will have to play in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles against the Rams.
Philadelphia and Los Angeles are projected to win their divisions and San Francisco’s win total sits at eight games. The Seahawks will be underdogs against the Eagles and Rams with the game in San Francisco most likely in the pick’em range.
The schedule makers also did the Seahawks no favors with a late-season stretch that could make or break their playoff hopes. Following their Week 11 bye, the Seahawks have a brutal four-game stretch — at Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football, home on Monday Night Football against the Vikings, at the Rams on Sunday Night Football, and on the road at 1pm EST in Carolina, all in consecutive weeks. They will be underdogs in three of those four games.
Other Disadvantaged Scheduling Stretches:
The Miami Dolphins must start the season with four games against teams that made the playoffs last year in Baltimore, Dallas, New England, and the LA Chargers.
In Weeks 7 and 8, the Dolphins must play back-to-back road games in Buffalo and Pittsburgh, with both of those teams coming off a bye.
Starting in Week 4, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers must go on the road to LA to face the Rams and then go to New Orleans followed by a trip to London for an international game against Carolina. That’s nearly 16,000 miles of travel against three potential playoff teams in just a three-week road trip.
After they get a minor reprieve with their bye week, they must go on the road to Tennessee followed by the second-longest single trip a team can make, going from Tampa to Seattle. The Bucs must face the sixth toughest road schedule of opponents based on Vegas win totals.
The Denver Broncos have one of the toughest stretches of games for any team starting in Week 7 at home on Thursday night against Kansas City. Following this game, the Broncos play in Indianapolis, then back home against the Browns before their bye week.
Then they must play at Minnesota, then at Buffalo before coming home to face the Chargers. To cap this off, the Broncos must go back on the road for a back-to-back stretch at 1pm EST in Houston and Kansas City. The only team in this stretch with a Vegas win total below nine is Buffalo.
The Most Advantaged Teams:
New York Jets
The Jets will travel the fewest miles in the NFL this season, estimated at just under 7,000 miles. To put this in perspective, that’s roughly 25,000 fewer miles than the Raiders, who travel the most in the NFL. Unbelievably, the Jets will not play a single game this season outside of the Eastern time zone.
In Weeks 12 and 14, the Jets get home games against warm weather teams in the Raiders and Dolphins. Assuming standard New York weather conditions starting in late November, this could be an added advantage for the Jets.
The toughest stretch of games for the Jets occurs early in the season when the must go on the road to New England and Philadelphia, the two games where they will most likely be the biggest underdogs of the season.
The good news for the Jets is the fact that they have their bye week sandwiched in between these two games.
Los Angeles Rams
In Week 2, the Rams get to play New Orleans at home on a Sunday afternoon with the Saints having to travel cross country following their opening game on Monday night against Houston. In fact, the Rams lead the NFL with four games against teams playing following a Monday night game.
In addition to the Saints in Week 2, they get to face Cleveland in Week 3, San Francisco in Week 6, and Seattle in Week 14 with short rest for each of those teams. All those games, besides the Browns, will be played in LA.
The Rams must only play one game this season against a team coming off their bye, at Arizona in Week 13. In addition, the Rams do have to travel the second-most miles this season but that is standard for an LA-based team.
They don’t have to play any back-to-back road games and will be the only west coast team that avoids this. The Raiders must play three different sets of back-to-back road games.
Typically, road trips to Buffalo are not what that teams look forward to. Many times, in non-division contests, the Bills are overlooked. That could be the case a few times this year as Philadelphia has to play in Buffalo in Week 8 following a Sunday night game in Dallas the prior week.
Not only does Philadelphia have to play back-to-back road games but they must do so in Buffalo after a rivalry game in primetime. Also, Denver must play back-to-back 1pm EST road games with the second leg in Buffalo Week 12. In addition, Dallas must play in New England at 4:25pm in Week 12 prior to their annual Thanksgiving game against the Bills.
Yes, Dallas is always up for Thanksgiving but their standard home-field advantage on a short week on Thanksgiving is negated a bit following a spotlight game in New England.