2DH: How We Were Sold The Bye

Grant Halverson - Getty Images

CJLOLK.

Two-day-hangover_medium I hate bye weeks. I loathe them. In terms of sports scheduling, they are my bête noire. We'll get into why I regard them with such enmity in a bit, but, first, have you ever stopped and thought about the bye?

These days, the concept of the "bye week" during the NFL season is so ingrained that the only time we think about it is when setting fantasy football rosters and, like this past Sunday, when we spend a Sunday afternoon drunkenly screaming at teams who are not the Houston Texans. Oh, sure, some of us do that during the off-season as well, especially when trying to come to terms with another summer of Cleveland Indians failure, but you know what I mean.

Yet, if you think back (and are over the age of 25), you may well recall a time before bye weeks, back in the halcyon days of 1989 and earlier. (BFD refers to this time period as "college.") From 1979, when the league expanded to a 16-game schedule, through 1989, the sixteen games occurred in sixteen weeks. Starting in 1990, one off-week was scheduled for each team and the season was lengthened to 17 weeks.

Was this done to allow players a little rest and rejuvenation time during the arduous NFL season? To protect the players' long-term health by allowing minor injuries to heal?

To quote Balki Bartokomous, "Don't be ridiculous!" We're talking about the NFL; of course it was about money.

To accommodate a huge new television deal, the National Football League will change its longstanding format of playing 16 consecutive weeks in the regular season.

This year and in 1991, each team will get a week off, stretching the regular season to 17 weeks. In 1992 and 1993, everyone will have two weeks off, creating an 18-week season.

The extensions will allow Turner Broadcasting to televise Sunday night games in the first half of the season, an agreement worth $450 million to the league. The television contract for Sunday night games in the season's second half has yet to be awarded, but it is assumed that ESPN, which has carried the games for the last two seasons, will get it, also for about $450 million.

In addition to the extra week of football, this deal also added an additional wild-card slot to each conference, expanding the post-season field from 10 to 12. And, before you ask, yes, this was also done for financial, rather than competitive, reasons.

Anyway, the 1990 byes were fairly simple in concept: starting in Week 4 and continuing through Week 9, one whole division would be off each weekend. The NFC West went first, with New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Atlanta taking off the weekend of September 30. (Side note: if that's not the worst geographical grouping of four teams in sport history, I don't know what is.)

For some reason that I cannot find --- and, if you happen to recall, please let me know --- the NFL did not go to two bye weeks per team in 1992 as per the agreement. In 1993, however, they did, and it went over like a poop-filled dirigible. Whereas the single-bye schedule had allowed for all NFL teams to be active on 11 of 17 weeks, the double-bye schedule resulted in a full slate of games in only four of 18 weeks. Worse, in Week 8, four of the league's top teams (Dallas, Kansas City, New York Giants, and Los Angeles Raiders) were on hiatus, and CBS (who had NFC rights) lost Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia and New York. The "best" Sunday matchups that week were Buffalo (4-1) at New York Jets (2-3) and San Francisco (3-3) at Phoenix (2-4).

So, yeah, the television networks were not thrilled. CBS was so nonplussed by the whole thing, they lowballed their offer in December when it came time to renew their NFL contract, and the games wound up going to Fox. Because these things were (and are) about money, the league immediately capitulated and returned to the 16-game-in-17-weeks schedule the following season. (There were two bye weeks in 2001, but that had nothing to do with money and everything to do with the 9/11 attacks wiping out Week 2.)

And so things went until 1999, when the Cleveland Browns version 2.0 took the field, giving the NFL an odd number of teams for the first time since 1966. With 31 teams, the NFL needed to have at least one team on a bye every single week, so you had one team off in Weeks 1, 2, and 10 through 17 and three teams off in Weeks 3 through 9.

Of course, in 2002, your Houston Texans took the field for the first time. (In fact, it was 19-10 that made me a Texans fan after everyone but me picked Dallas in my knockout pool---I picked the Washington Redskins, who beat the Arizona Cardinals---and I won $500 one week into the season.) With an even number of teams, the NFL was able to go back to the scheduled six weeks of byes, with no byes in Weeks 1 through 3 and 11 through 17.

Which brings us to where we are today. Now, as I mentioned above, I despise the bye week. Why? Consider:

  • The NFL has not figured out a way to use the bye weeks to accommodate teams for playing a short week the week before. If you play on Sunday and then have to play the following Thursday, wouldn't it just make sense to have your bye week the following Sunday? I mean, you just played two NFL games in five days; if the bye was even remotely about player health and safety (spoiler alert: it wasn't), this would just seem obvious. And it would be an easy fix; put the Thursday games and the byes on Weeks 6 through 13, and the teams getting byes in any week would the teams who had a Monday or Thursday game the previous week. Easy peasy.
  • The scheduling is very haphazard. The Titans had a bye in Week 6, the Jaguars were off in Week 9, no teams were off in Week 10, and both the Texans and Colts were off in Week 11. (To be fair, the Colts have also been off in Weeks 1 through 10. Suck it, Indy.) If there's a rhyme or reason to this scheduling, I can't find it. And this matters because . . .
  • The timing of the bye week impacts which injured players actually play. For example, if the Texans' bye had been on November 13 instead of November 20, it's likely that Andre Johnson would have played in the November 20 game. It did not wind up being a big deal for the Texans, but the fact that teams may face a player that they would not had the opposition not had a bye the previous week introduces an element of chance to the schedule that teams should not have to account for.
  • The later in the season a team gets a bye, the more helpful that will tend to be. As the Texans saw in 2008 thanks to Hurricane Ike, having a very early bye is far less help in terms of getting people healthy than a later bye is. I mean, I don't have the numbers to verify this, but, as the nicks and dings and scratches of an NFL season add up, it just makes sense that the later you can have a 13-day hiatus, the better it would have to be for your team's overall health and, accordingly, for your playoff chances.
  • Bye weeks are boring. Oh, sure, there were some decent games lasterday, including the Titans' failure against the Falcons and the Bengals' (ultimately disappointing) effort against the Ravens, but did you really care? Of course not. As much as we are all NFL fans generally, we are Texans fans specifically, and a weekend without the Texans is a weekend where you are willing to, say, watch the Red Zone channel and go out to a late lunch.

Because the NFL has figured out that THEY profit more from 17 weeks than 16, the odds of the bye going the way of the dodo and Steve McNair are slim to none. We're stuck, then, knowing that we'll be without the Texans one week every regular season. This year, that annoyance will be tempered by the return of Andre Lamont Johnson when the Texans take on Jacksonville. Next year, we might not be so fortunate; we might wind up with Week 4 bye that does nothing but derail our post-Super-Bowl-victory train.

And we don't want that.

*****

To Inconsistency And Beyond.

In Toy Story 1, Buzz Lightyear emerges from his package thinking that he is a real Space Ranger. Yet, even ignoring the culture shock of Andy's opening Buzz's package, when Andy first comes into the room after Buzz has met Woody, et. al, why would he freeze like the other toys? After all, Andy does not freeze, because he knows that he is not a toy. If Buzz really believes that he's a Space Ranger, it makes no sense whatsoever.

Toy Story Too.

Also in the vein of Toy Story plot holes, there's this: We learned in Toy Story 2 that Woody was a character from a very short-lived 1950s TV show. Jessie was purchased in the 1950s, and she still has PTSD from being stored away when her kid got too old. There's really no way that Woody sat on the shelves at Toys 'R' Us from sometime around when Mickey Mantle was a rookie until the early nineties. (Lest ye doubt me, I note that, when Al the Toy Collector tries to buy Woody at the yard sale, Andy's Mom says that Woody is "an old family toy.")

In that case, Woody should totally be familiar with the process whereby a kid outgrows his toys and they are packed away in the attic and/or sold at a yard sale. There's no way he made it 40+ years without being packed away or sold at some point. Considering how much he loves Andy, it should be completely obvious to Woody that being packed away or sold is far from the worst thing that can happen. So why doesn't he share this knowledge with the other toys when they are freaking out?

And, Now, Two Screenshots Mocking Various Things About The Titans.

Besfrush_medium

1.1 yards/carry, Chris? Really? ANY TIME A TEAM HAS A CHANCE TO LOCK THAT UP WITH A RIDICULOUS CONTRACT TO A DOUCHEY RUNNING BACK, THEY HAVE TO DO IT!!!!

August2_medium

Quick refresher:

Dower (noun): A widow's share of a life-estate of her late husband's property.

Dour (adjective): Relentlessly severe, stern, or gloomy in manner or appearance.

Yeah . . . .

In Re: The Titans.

How long has it been since you diagrammed a sentence? Best I remember, it's been at least 18 years for me. But Displaced Texan suggested that I should do it again, just to stay sharp, and I think he's right. So, let's see . . .

If we were talking about how Chris Johnson's abysmal season continued on Sunday the first part would be identifying your subject and verb. So our diagram might initially look like this:

Diagram1_medium

We don't have a direct object in this example, so the next part would diagram the possessive and the adjective:

Diagram2_medium

Then we would tackle the prepositional phrase "on Sunday," but let's expand the sentence to be a little more descriptive and make it "on Sunday with twelve carries for thirteen yards:"

Diagram3_medium

That looks good. However, just for the sake of being thorough, let's also throw in an adjective clause that modifies "season:"

Diagram4_medium

Disco.

506; 4.3; 4.

Rushing yards, yards per carry, and rushing touchdowns for Reggie Bush in 2011.

509; 3.2; 2.

Rushing yards, yards per carry, and rushing touchdowns for Chris Johnson in 2011.

2.

Lead, in games, that your Houston Texans have over the Tennessee Titans, with six games remaining for both teams. However, take a look at the NFL's tie-breaking procedures:

Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
Strength of victory.
Strength of schedule.
Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
Best net points in common games.
Best net points in all games.
Best net touchdowns in all games.
Coin toss.

Just for grins, pretend that Houston loses to Tennessee in the second head-to-head matchup (not gonna happen, but just pretend). Even then, Houston would also have to drop a division game to Jacksonville (ha) or Indianapolis (HA!) for Tennessee to get past that tiebreaker. (i.e., if both teams finish at 11-5 or worse, two of Houston's remaining losses would have to be to Tennessee and either Jacksonville or Indianapolis, or Houston still wins the division.)

1.

Additional wins (or ties) by the Cincinnati Bengals or losses (or ties) by the Colts that would mathematically eliminate Indy from any possibility of the playoffs.

UPDATE: TexansDC correctly points out below that the Bengals beat the Colts head-to-head, which means that the Colts are eliminated already in the unlikely scenario where only Cinci and Indy finish 6-10 but are tied for the last wild-card slot. Oddly enough, if there were a third 6-10 team, Cinci's head-to-head win over Indy would not come into play unless Cinci had also beaten the third team head-to-head as well. It's all very confusing. It's also very, very, pointless, considering the Colts have as much chance of winning 6 straight games as I do of being an NBA lottery pick.

2.

Additional wins by the Texans or losses by the Jaguars (or combination of the two) that would mathematically eliminate the Jaguars from being able to win the AFC South

0.

As noted by Vega in this post, this is the total amount of time that the Texans have trailed in their wins in 2011.

Let's Talk About SEC, Baby.

You can't swing a dead cat around Little Rock these days without hearing someone --- usually someone of questionable lineage --- talk about the upcoming game between Arkansas and LSU. Unfortunately (or, perhaps, predictably), very few of the conversations you hear are without factual errors.

For example, the conventional "wisdom" is that Arkansas can win the SEC West by beating LSU, regardless of what happens in the Alabama-Auburn game, as long as Arkansas wins convincingly enough to leapfrog Alabama. However, in that situation, there would be a three-way tie among LSU, Arkansas, and Alabama. Under SEC tiebreaker rules, you'd have to go all the way to the last tiebreaker: next-to-last BCS rankings (i.e., rankings from Sunday, November 27).

Where it gets tricky is a little loophole in the rule that says, if the second-highest-ranked team among the three is within 5 places of the highest-ranked team in those standings, you revert to head-to-head record between those two teams. Alabama beat Arkansas earlier this season, of course. So the only way Arkansas can win the SEC West is if they beat LSU and (a) there are six or more spots between Arkansas and Alabama in Sunday's rankings or (b) if LSU is ranked higher than Alabama.

In fact, allow me to let someone else explain the possible permutations:

Here are the scenarios for the BCS Championship Game:

LSU beats Arkansas, Alabama beats Auburn: The simplest and most likely scenario. LSU and Alabama play for the national title no matter what happens in the SEC Championship Game between LSU and Georgia (unless LSU loses by an outrageous number) because conferences are allowed to have three teams in the BCS only if two teams finish 1-2 in the final BCS standings and a third team wins the automatic berth.

LSU beats Arkansas, Auburn beats Alabama: LSU and Stanford or Oklahoma State play for the national title, assuming the Cardinal and Cowboys don’t lose again.

Arkansas beats LSU, Auburn beats Alabama: Arkansas goes the SEC Championship Game and LSU and Arkansas play again for the national title unless the Hogs lose to Georgia. Then LSU would play Stanford or Oklahoma State, assuming those two don’t lose.

Arkansas beats LSU, Alabama beats Auburn: [I]f Arkansas beats LSU, they would go to Atlanta as long as LSU was still ranked ahead of Alabama in the BCS because the Hogs would hold the tiebreaker over the Tigers. If Alabama is ranked ahead of LSU or Arkansas, then the Tide would go to the SEC Championship Game because of their tiebreaker over the Razorbacks.

Oh, but that's just the tip of it. It gets even more strange when you consider that Les Miles and Nick Saban have votes in the Coaches' Poll, as do Georgia coach Mark Richt and Auburn coach Gene Chizik, while Bobby Petrino does not. That poll comprises 1/3 of the BCS rankings.

And then you have this: the one exception to the rule that no conference may have more than two teams in BCS games in a given year is where the #1 and #2 teams are from the same conference, yet neither is the conference champion. So, for example, if LSU and Alabama both win this week, then LSU happens to lose to Georgia, as long as the loss to the Bulldogs was not terrible, you likely have Alabama #1 and LSU #2 in a rematch for the national title, while Georgia would get the AQ bid in the Sugar Bowl. Arkansas would get left out in the cold. I would laugh.

It's all a little mind-numbing, I suppose, but it's not impossible to figure out. Yet no one here has seemingly even tried.

Speaking of Rematches.

The idea that the national championship game might be a rematch of something we already saw this year does not particularly bother me. If those are the two best teams in the country, at least by whatever metric we use to measure such things, then they should play for the title and should not be left out simply because they happen to play in the same conference. No, what bothers me is that people seem far more accepting of a rematch this year than they did in 2006, when the "oh, no, a rematch!" mindset caused pollsters to screw Michigan out of a rematch against Ohio State in the title game.

And they did get screwed. Totally. Michigan and Ohio State were ranked 2 and 1, respectively, when they met at the end of the regular season, with Florida #3 and USC #4. Ohio State won, but Michigan remained #2 by .007 points. A week later, USC beats BCS#5 Notre Dame and leapfrogged up to #2, ahead of Michigan, with Florida remaining at #4. All USC had to do to play OSU for the title was beat UCLA . . . which they promptly failed to do.

Now, it would stand to reason that, with USC losing (picking up their second loss), Michigan (idle) and Florida (who beat Arkansas) would both move up. After all, if Michigan was viewed as better than Florida following Michigan's loss to Ohio State, nothing that USC did would change that perception. Similarly, had USC won, it's almost certain that the top 4 would have remained exactly the same, with Michigan ahead of Florida.

Except moving Michigan up to #2 would have created a rematch against Ohio State, and people who write about such things were up in arms about this. Urban Meyer used this outrage to lobby for Florida as #2, whining that, "If that does happen, all the [university] presidents need to get together immediately and put together a playoff system. I mean like now, January or whenever to get that done."

Sure enough, Lil' Urbie got his Christmas wish and, magically, the final BCS standings had Florida ahead of Michigan, thanks in large part to 26 coaches deciding to put Florida #2. (Side note: It was stupidity in the biases of the Coaches' Poll in 1997 that ushered in the BCS era, and it was Michigan who got hosed that time, too. How's that for irony?)

84%.

Percentage of teams who start the season 7-3 who also make the playoffs.

96.7%.

Texans likelihood of winning the AFC South, according to Football Outsiders.

Peeve.

Am I the only one who gets irritated when people use the phrase "begs the question" when they actually mean "raises the question"? Begging the question is a logical fallacy in which the asserted premises include the claim that the conclusion is true or (directly or indirectly) assume that the conclusion is true.

This mistake seems to have arisen because people assume that the "question" in the idiom is a literal question; in fact, the "question" refers to the actual issue being debated. Some have even argued that the original Latin phrase, petitio principii, is more correctly translated as "laying claim to the principle."

8; 10.

Rank of Arian Foster and Ben Tate among the leaders in rushing yards. No other team has two backs in the top 20 (though Philadelphia has LeSean McCoy (#1) and Michael Vick (#19)).

5.6.

Ben Tate's yards per carry, tied with LeSean McCoy for the best among running backs in the top 10 in rushing yards.

50.

Place on the Rushing Leaders list you have to scroll down to (Montario Hardesty) before you find someone with a worse YPC than Chris Johnson. I guess that's what happens when a guy has twice as many games under 25 yards rushing (4) than over 100 (2).

Unnecessary Archer Quote.

Because I told you to buy lemon curd, Woodhouse! Now what am I going to spread on my toast? Your tears?

No.

Answer to the question, "Does MDC ever tire of pointing out how terrible Chris Johnson's season has been so far?"

Odd.

The Texans are undefeated this year when Matthew Rutledge Schaub completed 20 or fewer passes, but are only 1-3 when he has connected more than 20 times. Relatedly, they are undefeated when he's attempted 30 or fewer passes, but are 0-3 when he's attempted more than 30 passes.

Having given this about 3 minutes of thought, my guess is that it's an illustration of what Vega wrote earlier:

When you add this all together, what we find is that while Schaub may not be the fourth quarter magician that say, John Elway or Joe Montana were (though he's not quite the Heimlich man some paint him as), but this season he has absolutely excelled at getting and keeping his team in front.

This allows Barian Fostate to exert their dominance on the ground and allows the defense to pin their ears back and come after the quarterback. In other words, it allows the team to play to their strengths.

Random '90s Rap Video.

Adventures In Idiocy: Sports Writer Edition.

Earlier this week, John Clayton wrote:

Q: I notice something very different in Arian Foster's running style in comparison to the rest of the league. He routinely leaves his feet in order to dive forward at the end of plays to pick up an extra few yards. Usually he commits to the dive when the hole closes and he knows he can sneak through the gap at the last minute. Do you think this trend will catch on and is this going to help extend his career because it limits the big hits?

A: Great observation. The Texans' running back does have somewhat of a forward jump cut that gets extra yards. That style may save his legs, but his style is so physical I do think it will take a toll on his body over time. Brett Favre was able to last so long because he was off his feet after he threw passes. He would move backward and leave the ground as the ball left his hand. That saved him from planting and suffering major knee and leg injuries. I don't think what Foster does is strategic. It's just part of his natural ability, so I think it would be hard for others to copy.

The emphasis is mine, and the emphasized portion is so breathtakingly stupid that it may cause a migraine if you think about it too long. Even if you can ignore the WTF?! factor of Clayton's using a QB's footwork while throwing a ball to discuss Foster's running style, the premise is still insane. So Favre jumped when he threw a ball. Great. There was still gravity, and he still had to land, while "mov[ing] backward." There's no way --- NONE --- that the awkward impact of a 220-lb man jumping backward and landing is less risky to a knee than stepping into a throw properly. And that's before you even consider the possibility of getting while in the air or just after landing.

Awesome.

Courtesy of Rivers, I bring you this:

Marijuana Pepsi Sawyer Inexplicable Decision Of The Week.

[Author's note: It's a sad day in Two-Day Hangover Land. It seems that Marijuana Pepsi Sawyer has gotten married and changed the name on her public profile to the much more professional sounding, "Marijuana Sawyer-Clardy." Dang. Thankfully, we have a long memory around here, at least when it comes to stuff like this, so we'll just forge ahead and pretend like nothing has changed.]

Much like the decision to name your daughter "Marijuana Pepsi," Maurice Jones-Drew's decision to celebrate a TD by taunting Cleveland fans via an imitation of LeBron James' pregame powder routine was confusing. I mean, MJD is not from Ohio, nor is he from Miami. Cleveland is not a natural rival of Jacksonville. There was simply no reason for a Jacksonville player to be a dick toward Cleveland fans at that point. Yet he was.

Mjd_power_medium

Random Tombstone Quote In Lieu Of The TXT MSGS Of The Week.

You're no daisy! You're no daisy, at all! Poor soul, you were just too high strung.

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