Analyzing the 2015 AFL Schedule
The AFL released its schedule on Friday!
After the Pittsburgh Power quit suddenly prior to the original 2015 schedule release date, the league has finally moved on without them and allowed the rest of the teams to move forward. Here’s what the schedule looks like:
The season kicks off on March 27 with the Tampa Bay Storm hosting the Cleveland Gladiators, followed by Matthew Sauk’s return to Portland (and Adrian McPherson’s return to the league) with the Los Angeles KISS.
There are a few scheduling quirks this year. Obviously, there’s the league-wide bye week on July 4, a product of no team in the league wanting a home game on a weekend famous for outdoor fun.
ASIDE: In my opinion, the league (and Philadelphia) should be doing everything they can to have an annual game in Philadelphia for Independence Day weekend. The city obviously has the historical chops to be the rightful location of an Independence Day game. The leagues that know how to market their sport all have a holiday tie-in – when I think of Thanksgiving, I think NFL; when I think of Christmas, I think of the NBA; when I think of New Year’s, I think of college bowl games. Philadelphia ought to jump at the chance of having basically a guaranteed home game to sell before the schedule comes out on a date no one else wants a home game. Play it in the afternoon (during the hot part of the day) and let people get out and head to their fireworks shows and outdoor parties.
A few other teams have some schedules that look particularly unpleasant: New Orleans plays six of its first seven games at home, basically leaving it with three home games for the remaining 2/3 of the year. The VooDoo close the season out with five road games out of the final six.
Los Angeles has the reverse problem; It is going to play six of its first eight on the road before its bye. Then the KISS have six home games in their next seven.
The teams that have a bye week after the league-wide week off are playing 14 consecutive weeks, then have a bye two weeks after their other bye. All four of those teams were in the playoff race last year; perhaps they’ll look at it as an opportunity to get things fine-tuned for the playoffs.
If I had to choose a schedule to have, it would be Jacksonville’s.
I went through the schedules and compiled strength of schedule numbers based on last year’s results (Las Vegas counts as having gone 0-0).
Obviously Arizona and San Jose are going to have weak schedules; the conference didn’t provide much in the way of a challenge last year. We still have an expansion draft and a dispersal draft to go with plenty of talented players that could swing some divisions available, so obviously everything can still change, too.
Jacksonville has an enviable slate, however, facing the fourth-weakest schedule from last year. It also gets all of its good foes at home; the 41% win percentage of its road opponents from last year is by far the worst in the league. The Sharks also travel the second-fewest miles in the league, trailing only Las Vegas (and you thought it would be a Florida team!). Here’s the travel chart:
Those numbers are based on the idea of traveling home between each game; Philadelphia can shave off about 1500 miles by staying in Florida between its Jacksonville and Tampa Bay away games in Weeks 8 and 9 (the Soul stayed in Florida last year when they played Tampa Bay and Orlando in consecutive weeks). Portland can’t do that. In Weeks 4-6, it will be going PDX – PHX – PDX – SJC – PDX – PHL before having a bye. That’s about 8,000 frequent flyer miles in three weeks.
Similarly, over half of Cleveland’s annual travel will take place between Weeks 9-13. In going to San Jose, Las Vegas, and New Orleans, it is going to put on 9,762 miles of its 18,222 for the season. And a home game against Orlando between San Jose and Las Vegas means it won’t have the opportunity to stay out West.
New Orleans has had problems at home in the past few years. Well, this year sure isn’t going to help. Remember how I mentioned six home games in their first seven? Opponents during that home stretch had a .648 winning percentage last year. The Sharks, who were 7-11 last year, are the WORST team they’ll host all season based on last year’s records. The VooDoo will take on Jacksonville, Cleveland, Orlando, Philadelphia, Spokane, Cleveland, Jacksonville again and Tampa Bay. Ugh. Not a great recipe for staying in the league when the home team’s up against that.
The important thing however, is that there is a schedule. A 2015 season is going to happen, and 12 teams made it to the starting line. In just 97 days, we'll have kickoff. Will someone make us believe they might actually stand a chance against Arizona?