It’s not who the New York Giants play in the 2021 season, it’s when.
NBC Sports’ Warren Sharp is a football analyst who has written some particularly deep dives into the importance of scheduling in the NFL. We learned months ago which teams the Giants were slated to play next season. So really, we already knew the strength of schedule. We knew that the Giants would tie for 25th in the league with a strength of schedule of .474 based on opponents’ combined 2020 win percentage, 10 spots behind the Washington Football Team and six and seven spots ahead of the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively.
What we didn’t know was when. And when is significant. This is where we turn to Sharp who analyzed strength of schedule in regards to timing. In order to evaluate that, Sharp considered the following variables:
- Net rest edges
- Opponent’s days to prepare for your game
- More or less rest than opponent
- Short week road games
- Games off road Sunday night or Monday night
- Negated bye weeks
- Four games separated by 17 days
This graphic displays the following:
- Net rest edge for each team in the 2021 season. Net rest edge is the total edge a team has in rest over the course of a season.
- Net rest by game: Each block is a single game where one team has a rest advantage or disadvantage. Summing up the individual game blocks results in the net rest edge for the season.
So let’s consider how the Giants fared as far as when they are playing each opponent.
As you can see on the graphic, the Giants are at -2 on net rest edge, which means that the Giants have a rest advantage of two days over the course of the entire season.
Below is a more complete breakdown of Sharp’s analysis:
I don't think people realize how important the release of the schedule is— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) May 14, 2021
it's not WHO you play, we knew that
the NFL doesn't control that
the NFL controls WHEN you play, how much rest you have & if you have an edge
it's crazy how imbalanced it is
✍ https://t.co/agtoYL560c pic.twitter.com/YyACYIaTbl
As you can see, the Giants will face four opponents in which they will have over seven days to prepare. They will face one opponent in which they will have under seven days to prepare. But luckily for the Giants, that short rest week comes early in the season. New York opens the season at home against the Denver Broncos and then will face the Football Team in Week 2 in a Thursday Night Football matchup on just four days of rest.
In all, the Giants are ranked 20th in the league in terms of rest edge, which is not bad. Overall, the timing of the 2021 schedule is fairly friendly to them.
Now, let’s consider the other teams in the NFC East.
The Eagles, who posted the worst record in the division last season at 4-11-1, not only have the easiest schedule next season in terms of 2020 opponents’ combined records at .430, but they also have the best ranking in the NFC East in terms of strength of timing. The Eagles have a +10 net rush edge, meaning that over the course of the season they will have 10 days of more rest than their opponents.
But Philly is at one serious disadvantage. The Eagles are the only team this season who has to play four games in 17 days. And, look at the teams they are playing on short rest:
Week 4: Sunday on short rest after playing on MNF they face the Chiefs.
Week 6: Thursday on short rest after playing on Sunday they face the Buccaneers.
After that busy stretch, Philly will also have to play five road games in the next seven weeks.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys are ranked similarly to the Giants with a +1 net rest edge. And the defending division champion Football Team has the toughest timing of schedule at -14, one of the worst in the league.
Quality of opponent will likely always be more important than when a team plays said opponent. But we all know that upsets happen in the NFL every week and for a myriad of reasons. Playing on short rest, or consistently playing against teams who have had more rest, comes with its disadvantages. There is no exact way to measure the challenges involved with traveling, particularly across the country, and how such travel could impact future games. This analysis will be important to consider for a Giants team that will be looking to make significant strides forward in the 2021 season.