2024 Detroit Lions schedule repeats disappointing trend of last decade

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

The bye weeks over the past 10 seasons have typically been from Week 4 to Week 14. Since 2019, the first slate of bye weeks came in Week 5 (the NFL will not expand to an 18-week schedule until the 2021 season).

The Lions have the (probably) unfortunate fortune of having the first possible bye week, which will come in Week 5. Detroit is no stranger to early bye weeks. In a decade of football, the Lions have had three byes in Week 5 and two byes in Week 6. In fact, the Lions have not had a bye week after Week 10 since 2016.

It got me thinking: Are the Lions really getting an early bye? At first glance it seemed so. As a comparison, green Bay Packers Bye weeks have come in Weeks 14 (2022), 13 (2021), and 11 (2019) — much later than any of Detroit’s recent ones.

Do the numbers support my guess? Let’s examine each team’s bye week from 2015 using some box plots:

That’s a lot of plots and a lot of data. However, the value we are really interested in is the mean, represented by an “X” within the box. This represents the average bye week for a team since 2015. Let’s put these in a more digestible format, ordered from earliest to latest average bye:

The numbers actually support my guess: The Detroit Lions, on average, have the earliest bye week in the entire NFL. Their average bye week since 2015 is 7.1 – which is in the early half of the season. Next nearest team, dallas cowboys, on average are about half a week later. opposite of this, indianapolis colts The average bye week is 10.6 – a full three weeks later than Detroit.

Are the Lions screwing the NFL once again? You might want to hold your anger for a moment.

It does not appear to be a case of unpopular teams getting an earlier bye or popular teams getting a bye later in the season. Arizona Cardinals The average is second latest bye week, but no one is labeling them as a national selling point. pittsburgh steelersMeanwhile, they have one of the largest fan bases, but their final week average is only 8.1, which is good for fourth-best in the NFL over the past decade.

Although early bye weeks are far from optimal, especially during a 17-game schedule, the NFL may have a reason for it. What do the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions have in common? Both teams head to Thanksgiving Day games. Since 2006, the NFL has hosted three games on Thanksgiving, but only the Cowboys and Lions are annual events. Thanksgiving typically falls around Week 12 of the NFL season, as a result, the league may be leaning toward an earlier bye week for both of these teams.

Although this is the most likely explanation, it does not satisfy me. Aside from its early start time, the Thanksgiving Day game is essentially “Thursday Night Football”, a weekly slate of games notorious for poor quality football due to the short week. Looking at the 2024 schedule minnesota vikings Play “Thursday Night Football” in Week 8, yet have their bye week in Week 6. If the Vikings can get a bye closer to their Thursday game, why can’t the Lions get a bye in Week 10? If anything, it would make sense to have a bye right before Thursday’s game to compensate for the short week.

Saying goodbye early isn’t the end of the world, but in a sport as fierce as football, injuries are inevitable during the season. The Lions are likely to suffer more damage by week 12 than by week five, meaning the impact of the extra week of health gains may be diminished. The league is not doing the Lions any favors.

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