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Strength of schedule

The elusive nature of schedule difficulty

The Eagles and 49ers are going to play hard schedules this year. Or are they? The gambling lines suggest that both actually will play some of the easiest schedules in the league.

Hear me out. If you plug in the win-loss records for each team from last year, the Eagles project to play the hardest schedule – dead last – while the 49ers project to play a schedule ranking 22nd in difficulty. That’s the usual way that people do it.

But if we instead plug in the expected win-loss records using the money lines (as determined by thousands of bets being placed) those teams actually will play top-5 schedules. They should instead benefit from playing easy schedules.

It’s weird. (And it’s further evidence you shouldn’t get too hung up on strength of schedule as you construct your rosters.)

In the chart below, you’re seeing strength of schedule using the money line. For your ability to compare, I’ve also included the totals using last year’s win-loss records. With both otals, I’m using only the first 16 games for each team (with most fantasy leagues being over before Week 18).

Teams in bold, those are the ones whose schedules are now looking a lot easier, with Jalen Hurts and the Eagles leading the way. For teams whose schedules apparently are getting a lot harder than what you might have expected, I am tagging them with black dots.

For the over-under win totals, I used the most recent numbers from Fox Sports (published on August 7).

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE (over-under win totals)
TeamWLPctOriginal
Atlanta121151.445112-157-3
New Orleans121151.445115-154-3
San Francisco132140.485142-127-2
Chicago132140.485135-136-1
Philadelphia133139.489152-116-3
Carolina133139.489122-148-2
Indianapolis133139.489121-149-1
NY Giants134138.493143-126-2
Green Bay134138.493134-137-1
Pittsburgh134138.493124-144-2
LA Rams135137.496139-129-3
Detroit135137.496130-142-0
Cleveland135137.496119-150-2
• Houston135137.496119-151-1
• Tennessee135137.496118-149-4
Dallas138134.507148-120-3
Seattle138134.507144-125-2
Cincinnati138134.507139-130-2
Jacksonville138134.507128-138-4
Washington139133.511141-128-2
LA Chargers139133.511135-136-0
Baltimore139133.511129-139-2
• Tampa Bay139133.511131-138-2
Arizona140132.515139-129-3
Miami141131.518145-124-2
Denver141131.518142-127-2
• Minnesota141131.518134-137-0
Buffalo142130.522146-123-2
• Kansas City142130.522137-133-0
NY Jets143129.526147-120-3
Las Vegas143129.526145-124-2
New England145127.533149-118-3

—Ian Allan

Fantasy Index