When the Eagles' schedule was first released, the immediate glaring oddity was that they'll play their first three games in an 11 day span. Here's what their September schedule looks like on a calendar:
The perceived upside of that rough stretch, however, was that the Eagles would benefit from two things:
- There's a belief that on Thursday night matchups, the road team is at a disadvantage because their already short week of practice is made shorter, because they have to travel. The amount of time the home team has for practice/preparation outweighs the road team's by a more significant margin than it would on a normal 6-day prep schedule. In the Eagles' case, that would be the Chiefs matchup Week 3.
- The following week, the team who plays the Thursday night game has an advantage over their next opponent because they have 3 extra days of rest and preparation. In the Eagles' case, that would be the Broncos matchup Week 4.
Those two theories are based on sound reasoning and logic. However, the numbers don't back up the logic.
The NFL began playing additional Thursday games (aside from the Thanksgiving Day games) with regularity in 2006. At first, they played a few Thursday night games in the weeks following Thanksgiving, and expanded slowly until a Thursday night game was played every week in 2012 (with the exception of Week 17).
In Thursday night games since 2006, the home team is 43-32, for a winning percentage of 0.573. According to SportsDataLLC.com, in all games played from 2002-2011, the home team has beaten the away team at a winning % clip of 0.572, which is almost identical to Thursday night games. In other words, the numbers say that being the home team on a Thursday night game is not any different than being the home team on a good old-fashioned Sunday afternoon.
I also took a look at how teams fared in their games following a Thursday night matchup. Since 2006, they accumulated a record of 69-65, for a winning % of 0.515. That's a modest difference, at best.
So it appears that the Eagles' grueling 3-game stretch to begin the season is just that, and little more.
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