NFL working with Buffalo researchers to make schedule more 'fair'

Posted at 10:46 AM, Apr 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-17 17:51:41-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The NFL is working with Buffalo researchers in an attempt to make the schedule more 'fair.' That's according to an article posted on ESPN.

A group of researchers at the University at Buffalo submitted a paper to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference 4 years ago.

Researchers analyzed the total number of games played by an NFL team against other teams coming off a bye-week between 2003 and 2012. The Buffalo Bills played 14 games against a team coming off a bye week. That's tied for second-most in the league during that time frame. The Atlanta Falcons played the most games against teams that were rested.

The paper proposes an approach it says would lead to a less imbalanced schedule. Here are some of the proposals in the paper:

  • Games between divisional opponents should be separated by at least two weeks.
  • A team should play each of its divisional opponents at least once in the second half of the season, i.e., between weeks 9 and 17, inclusive.
  • Dividing the season into a set of predetermined stretches of weeks, each team should play at least a certain number of divisional games in each of these stretches.

There are more than 20,000 constraints NFL schedule makers must abide by, for example, bye weeks, concerts, weather in the beginning or end of the season, college bowl games, second half games versus divisional opponents and television contracts.

“With 256 games in this mathematical approach, you can put the math onto a super computer and it will run until the sun grows cold and not get an answer," Mark Karwan said, University at Buffalo Professor in Operations Research. “We’ll play the right number of games and the right people, but where and what time, that's where you get 10 to the 300th possibilities and most of them will be infeasible because there will be four road games or you’ll start with three away.”

According to ESPN, the NFL agreed to collaborate with the researchers back in 2018. You can read the paper here.