Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017 NFL Schedule Analysis: Known Unknowns

Eagles 2017 Schedule Feel
Almost lost in the run-up to the NFL Draft, the 2017 schedule was rolled out, and far be it for us to avoid the temptation to predict wins, losses, and who got boned and blessed by the powers that be.

To be very candid about this... the exercise speaks, honestly, to just how criminally underserved the American sports public is for actual football content... and yes, this is where we can speak to the eternal dream of promotion and relegation. At least now there are other sites that are banging that drum.

Just in case you don't believe the idea that we aren't getting enough NFL in our lives, consider that a quarter of a million people will venture into Philadelphia to be near a reading of names, and the city has shut down vast portions of itself to give the league all the space it would want to make that seem interesting. Sorry, I've just never bought into the idea that Draft is a spectator sport. Until these guys start hitting each other on the way to the podium, I'm going to find better things to watch. But hey, zip lining down the Parkway is cool, right?

 Let's stop avoiding the temptation! Here's my picks for schedule winners and losers.  

Losers

Oakland. This team was always going to have major (self-inflicted) problems from the fact that they turned their home field advantage into a short-term nightmare, but the league then doubled down with the NFC East home and away schedule, which makes for 3K+ flights and all kinds of time zone issues. There's also the give up of a home game to play New England in Mexico City, which might not be that much worse than Oakland, but there are altitude and pollution concerns with that venue, too -- might come back to haunt them later.  

Dallas. Division winners always get the short straw on schedules, but when you add in the West Coast travel and prime time shows, this might be the most obvious division winner to fall. They host the Giants to start, which is a game they've frequently blown, then go to Denver and Arizona; 0-3 is a real possibility. The offensive line isn't as deep as it used to be, and you have to wonder if Dak Prescott gets exposed a bit - Alexander P of Mytopsportsbooks.com is only giving him 2/1 odds of keeping his passer rating over 100 this year. Plus, Zeke Elliott's legal issues could really create a problem.. The Thanksgiving game against the Chargers is a gimme, but the closing run of at Oakland, hosting Seattle, then at Philly also doesn't sound like fun.  

Philadelphia. Last year my laundry had a half dozen games against teams coming off byes. This year, they get to start on the road against DC, then KC with a bye. In December, there is a 3-game road swing, with games in Seattle and LA, and a road game in Carolina on Terrible Night for Football also doesn't look fun. I'm not sure there's an NFC East team that should win the division, given how DC shot themselves in the face with GM turnover and the Giants just seem aimless, but .500 might do it. Special bonus to the Eagle schedule for not having any real fun road games for the fan base to join in, assuming your idea of fun isn't multiple dates in LA.  

Winners 

New England. This is pretty much a given nearly every year, since the AFC East is such a cakewalk, but the league does the champions more favors by not subjecting them to a UK trip, and all of their terrible night football games are done by October 5. They open with the Chiefs at home, which is usually a win, and on the off chance in hell that they need to close with a rush, they get back to back home games with Buffalo and the Jets. The easiest bet in the NFL this year is for the Patriots to host a second round playoff game.  

Denver. The point about schedules is that it's not just how tough yours is, but also how it impacts your rivals. The Broncos get four of five at home to start, don't have the absurd home field issues that the Chargers and Raiders are going to have to endure, and miss the KC opening loss. So while the rest of the schedule doesn't look easy, they are still going to have a significant edge on the rest of the division.  

Seattle. The opener in Green Bay isn't going to be fun, but the follow up home game against the Niners is as close to a homecoming game as the NFL gets, and copious quantities of the AFC South helps, too. Arizona opens with far harder issues, and the rest of the division (the Rams, no home field advantage in year two in random LA, and the trash fire Niners) should offer light resistance. I'm not certain that the window hasn't set on Seattle's championship aspirations; defenses don't last forever, and the secondary is starting to show cracks. But the schedule might prop them up a bit longer.

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