The 2019 NFL schedule came out last week and proved once again that it’s possible for a computer to be a New England Patriots fan.
Of course, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Patriots will have another smooth ride to the playoffs. The scheduling algorithm apparently felt that Boston sports fans had suffered enough over the offseason, what with Rob Gronkowski’s retirement announcement and whatever it is that’s wrong with the Red Sox.
If you’re keeping score at home, the Pats will play their Thursday night game at Gillette Stadium for the sixth time in the past seven years, which is only fair because a guy as good-looking as Tom Brady should not have to lose a spa day to travel midweek.
Don’t know why anybody would get all worked up over it. These things eventually even out, or so the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills have been saying since Y2K.
Even before the scheduling computer started looking for ways to soften up the home-road mix, the Patriots’ schedule was tied with those of four other teams for the second easiest in the league, based on the combined 2018 winning percentage of their opponents (.473).
More schedule follies
Even the NFL realized that it completely whiffed on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ schedule, which includes a span of seven weeks between actual home games.
The main problem was that their game in London counts as part of their home schedule, but it’s worse than that. The five-game span (plus a bye) is bookended by West Coast trips to Los Angeles and Seattle, so the Bucs will travel a total 19,000 air miles.
The Oakland Raiders have a similar schedule complicated by one of the five NFL games in London this year, but they don’t have two coast-to-coast trips built around it.
It’s so outrageous that NFL broadcast executive Michael North told USA Today that the league wishes it had a do-over on the Tampa schedule, which is a curious thing to say.
Most people probably think that the NFL actually looks at the schedules spit out by their evil computer before finalizing them, but apparently not.
Juiced ball theory
The Orioles are in a dubious class by themselves when it comes to giving up home runs, but it is true that home run frequency is up significantly all around the major leagues this year.
It’s certainly possible that the baseballs are wound a little tighter than last year, but it seems more likely that a combination of less calculated factors have contributed to the April homerfest. In Baltimore, it seems pretty apparent that Orioles pitchers have just had a lot of trouble missing the barrel of the bat.
There goes the Judge
Bigger-than-life New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge hit a home run Saturday and then went on the 10-day injured list with a “significant oblique strain.” There’s a case to be made that every baseball-related oblique strain is significant, but this one is particularly troublesome for the injury-riddled Yankees.
Imagine how ESPN must feel. The network always has a decided northeastern tilt, and both the battered Yankees and bumbling Red Sox have gotten off to very difficult starts.
Caught up in the draft
It’s always hard to predict what the Ravens will do in the draft, but the speculation that they might use their top draft choice to choose a top-quality center or guard seems on point heading into the first full season of the Lamar Jackson era.
There are going to be sexier possibilities, but Jackson’s success depends as much on his protection and run blocking as it does on him improving his efficiency as a passer.
It’s going to be hard to capture the imagination of the fan base with an O-line first pick, especially when the Ravens don’t a pick in the second round, but it’s more important to assure that they have a flashy quarterback next season than a flashy headline on Thursday night.
Non-sports news item
Latest census figures show that the population of Baltimore City fell by more than 7,000 last year, or 1.2%. It was one of the biggest declines of any major American city.
Well, I guess we won’t need nearly as many “Healthy Holly” books as we thought.