After their statement win last Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, the Steelers are rewarded with a trip to Cleveland on a short week to take on the Browns. Sporting the second-longest winning streak in the NFL at four games, the Steelers hope to keep the momentum going in their classic rivalry against their AFC North opponent. While some feel the Steelers are put in a bit of a disadvantage with a first-year starting quarterback, teams playing with a first-year head coach on a short week also are put in a tough spot.
In this weeks installment of Crunching the Numbers, we’ll take a look at several different categories from Thursday night games including inexperienced quarterbacks, rookie head coaches, and playing at home versus on the road.
It’s difficult for a first-year coach to get their team ready on a short week with all the preparation that goes into an NFL game. Since 2016, first-year head coaches have a record of 8-15 when playing a game on a Thursday. While a winning percentage of 34.8% doesn’t sound that bad, it is important to note the three of those eight wins were games where first-year coaches were facing each other. Since one would have to win while another would lose, throwing those games out give the winning percentage of only 29.4% which may be more accurately descriptive of the situation.
In the 23 games which involve the first-year head coach playing on Thursday since 2016, only one of those games involved in victory over a winning team. Ironically, this only victory came when two first-year coaches faced each other in 2016 when the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the 10-4 New York Giants.
To help put the winning percentage into perspective, it should be noted that since 2013, first-year head coaches have a regular season record of 308–364. This winning percentage of 45.8% also includes games against fellow rookie head coaches. With such a large sample size, even if those matchups are removed, it does not change the winning percentage by more than 1%. This means that the Thursday winning percentage for first-year head coaches is more than a 15% drop off then their normal winning percentage.
When it comes to quarterbacks playing in one of their first 10 career starts in the NFL, they also do not fare well on a short week. Going back all the way to the year 2000, quarterbacks who are still starting their 10th game or less have a record of 17-38 with a 30.1 winning percentage playing a Thursday game. Looking strictly at percentages, a young starting quarterback versus a first-year head coach appears to be pretty much a dead-even race.
To help put the winning percentage on Thursdays into perspective, since 2000 quarterbacks starting their first 10 games have an overall record of 629–973. With a winning percentage of 39.3%, how a young quarterback fares on a Thursday is not nearly as much of a drop off of about 9% as what it is for first-year head coaches.
58.5% vs. 57.0%
Another popular narrative when it comes to Thursday games is the advantage of the home team. Given that since the year 2000 the Cleveland Browns are 3–1 at home on Thursday games while the Steelers are 2–5 when having to go on the road, playing in Cleveland appears to be a concern for this particular matchup. But when it comes to the overall state of the NFL, home teams win Thursday matchup‘s 58.5% of the time since 2000. In the same time frame, home teams have won 57.0% of all the regular-season games. So while there is a slight variation in the percentage, it pretty much falls in line with how often home teams win in the NFL.
So there are some numbers when it comes to Thursday night games to think about heading into the Steelers Week 11 matchup at the Cleveland Browns. Can the Steelers get a road victory on Thursday night? Can they continue their winning streak to a fifth game? Please leave your answers in the comments below!