Sports

2024 Detroit Lions schedule repeats frustrating trend of past decade

When the Detroit Lions released their schedule for the 2024 NFL season, something immediately caught my eye: another early bye week?

Bye weeks typically ranged from Week 4 to Week 14 over the previous 10 seasons. Starting in 2019, the first slate of bye weeks occurred in Week 5 (the NFL would not expand to an 18-week schedule until the 2021 season).

The Lions have the (likely) unfortunate luck of having the first possible bye week, in Week 5. Detroit is no stranger to early bye weeks. Over the decade of football, the Lions have had three Week 5 byes and two Week 6 byes. In fact, the Lions haven’t had a bye week after Week 10 since 2016.

This got me thinking: Do Lions really get early bye weeks? At first glance, this seemed to be the case. For comparison, the Green Bay Packers had bye weeks in Weeks 14 (2022), 13 (2021), and 11 (2019), much later than anything Detroit has had recently.

Do the numbers confirm my intuition? Let’s take a look at each team’s bye week since 2015 using some boxplots:

That’s a lot of plots and a lot of data. However, the value we are really interested in here is the average, represented by the “X” in the box. That’s a team’s average bye week since 2015. Let’s put them in a more digestible format, ordered from earliest to most recent average bye:

The numbers actually back up my hunch: The Detroit Lions average the first bye week in the entire NFL. Their average bye week since 2015 is 7.1, well within the first half of the season. The closest team, the Dallas Cowboys, averages nearly a half-week later. In contrast, the Indianapolis Colts have an average bye week of 10.6, more than three full weeks later than Detroit.

Are the Lions being screwed by the NFL again? You might want to hold back your outrage for a second.

It doesn’t appear to be a case of unpopular teams getting byes early or popular teams getting byes late in the season. The Arizona Cardinals are averaging the penultimate bye week, but no one is calling them a national selling point. The Pittsburgh Steelers, on the other hand, have one of the largest fan bases, but their bye week average is just 8.1, which is fourth-most in the NFL during the last decade.

While early bye weeks are far from optimal, especially during a 17-game schedule, the NFL likely has a reason for that. What do the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions have in common? Both teams are staples of Thanksgiving Day games. Since 2006, the NFL has hosted three games on Thanksgiving, but only the Cowboys and Lions are annual meetings only. Thanksgiving usually falls around week 12 of the NFL season. As a result, the league is likely leaning toward earlier bye weeks for these two teams.

Although this is the most likely explanation, it does not satisfy me. Aside from their early start time, Thanksgiving Day games are essentially “Thursday Night Football”, a series of weekly games known for poor quality football caused by the short week. Looking at the 2024 schedule, the Minnesota Vikings play “Thursday Night Football” in Week 8, but they have their bye week in Week 6. If the Vikings can get a bye this close to their game on Thursday, why can’t the Lions? get a pass in week 10? If anything, it would make sense to award a bye right before a Thursday game to compensate for the shorter week.

An early leave of absence isn’t the end of the world, but in a sport as cutthroat as football, injuries are bound to pile up over the course of a season. The Lions are more likely to be assaulted in Week 12 than in Week 5, meaning the extra week of recovery could have less impact. The league is not doing the Lions any favors.

News Source : www.prideofdetroit.com
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