The New England Patriots always seem to play in prime time over the course of the season, which is a real pain if you have to stay up super later to write about the team (talk about a “high-class problem”, eh Bob?). But perhaps I should be thanks because research by “Scott” over at medium.com shows that the Patriots actually deserve more national broadcasts than they have received over the past five seasons.
Scott compared a team’s winning percentage to the number of “national broadcasts”, which covers the standard night games in prime time, as well as the designated national game in the CBS or FOX double-header. The count only includes “national broadcast” games, “so the annual [Thursday Night Football] Titans-Jags classic” that gets quarantined on the NFL Network and away from innocent ideas does not qualify. Thursday games like opening weekend and Thanksgiving do qualify.
Per Scott’s numbers, the Patriots have received 30 national games over the past five seasons, ranking 4th in the league behind the Dallas Cowboys (44), Denver Broncos (36), and Green Bay Packers (34). The New York Giants (29) round out the top five teams.
Three teams haven’t received a national broadcast game over the past five years: the Cleveland Browns, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Tennessee Titans, a reflection of their laughable poor standing over the past five seasons. I would expect the Titans to get their first national game in 2017 after a breakout 2016 campaign.
The three other teams in the AFC East have combined for just eight national games, with the Buffalo Bills (1) and the Miami Dolphins (2) barely getting airtime, and the New York Jets (5) leading the pack.
Per the regressions that compared a team’s national broadcasts to their winning rate, the Bills (0.450) deserved 10 national games and the Dolphins (0.488) should have received 12 over the past five years. The Jets (0.413) projected to have 7 or 8, so they were pretty close to expectation. Perhaps the lack of prime time games for these teams, despite their winning rates, contributes to why many believe the Patriots have a cakewalk in the AFC East.
The Patriots projected to have 32 national broadcasts, so I’m thankful they came in two games below expectation. Hopefully the upcoming 2017 schedule doesn’t overcompensate because I enjoy going to bed before 3 in the morning.
Four teams have been greatly cheated out of national games and four teams have been gifted far more national games than their record warrants, and it comes down to market size.
The Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and Cincinnati Bengals have all received between 5-8 national broadcasts, but their records suggest 18-21 games. They also represent the 12th, 10th, 22nd, and 36th largest television markets, respectively- and don’t be surprised if the Falcons see a spike in their national broadcasts moving forward.
On the other hand, the New York Giants (29 broadcasts), Philadelphia Eagles (22), San Francisco 49ers (25), and Dallas Cowboys (44) are still coasting on their successes in the 80s and 90s despite only deserving 11 or 12 national games each over the past five years. It should come as no surprise that these markets rank 1st, 4th, 6th, and 5th largest television markets.
These sort of broadcast draws make the Raiders decision to leave Oakland (6th largest television market) and head to Las Vegas (40th largest television market), the 28th ranked market in the NFL- ahead of the Jaguars, Saints, Bills, and (!!) Packers- even more curious from a business standpoint.
The league should announce their 2017 schedule in the coming days.