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Strength of schedule

Texans appear to have league's hardest schedule

I shouldn’t admit this, but I don’t get all that excited about the schedule release. I don’t watch it. (We already know all the opponents – the exact order of the games is secondary.) I’ve got other stuff I’m working on at this time of year.

Nonetheless, it has occurred. Andy posted some observations last week, and readers added a few of their own.

Admittedly, I’m late to the party on this, but I was playing around with the numbers some, loading them into our strength-of-schedule calculator file, and can offer a few additional thoughts.

All of the AFC teams play eight games at home and nine games on the road. (That extra home game alternates between the conferences.) With this dynamic, I don’t like the Patriots and Steelers play both of their final two games at home. This means both of these teams play nine of their first 15 games on the road. Similarly, the Raiders play three of their final four at home, so they’re starting with only 5 of their first 13 at home.

When the schedule drops, I always take a look at Week 18. Those are games that aren’t being included in my leagues. So it’s kind of plus or a minus for a lot of teams, depending who’s in that spot. The Falcons, for example, lose the juiciest game on their schedule – home against Carolina. The Cowboys lose a home game against Washington, which has tended to be a big blowout for them. The Dolphins, Browns and Bengals, meanwhile avoid having to play road games at the Jets, Ravens and Steelers.

If we re-run the Strength of Schedule numbers, eliminating Week 18, then the Saints and Bears project to play the easiest schedules. They rank first and second using wins and losses, and they also rank in the top 3 using points allowed by defenses (from last year).

The Texans, meanwhile, project to play the hardest schedule – No. 1 using wins and losses, and only three teams face opponents that allowed fewer points. If you’re looking for reasons to suspect C.J. Stroud won’t build dramatically on his rookie season, here’s one to toss onto the pile.

In the chart below, you’re seeing combined wins and losses for opponents in those first 16 games, as well as average points allowed by those opponents. The chart is ordered by wins and losses. The final column shows how teams rank using points. The teams with the five easiest schedules via points are in bold (note that the Packers oddly have a very difficult schedule using wins, but a favorable schedule using points). The five teams with the least favorable schedules using points are tagged with black dots (strangely, all but one of those low-scoring schedule teams is in the AFC West).

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE (G 1-16)
TeamWLPctPtsRk
New Orleans122150.44922.43
Chicago126146.46322.91
Carolina128144.47122.011
Arizona129143.47422.34
Tampa Bay129143.47421.913
Atlanta129143.47421.720
• LA Chargers130142.47821.228
Seattle131141.48222.19
Tennessee132140.48522.35
• Denver132140.48520.931
Minnesota133139.48922.27
Washington133139.48922.012
Indianapolis133139.48921.623
Miami134138.49321.524
NY Jets135137.49621.717
Cincinnati135137.49621.526
Philadelphia136136.50022.010
New England137135.50421.914
LA Rams137135.50421.915
• Kansas City137135.50420.532
NY Giants138134.50722.36
Jacksonville139133.51121.816
Detroit140132.51521.427
Dallas142130.52222.28
San Francisco142130.52221.718
• Las Vegas143129.52620.930
Baltimore144128.52921.525
Green Bay145127.53322.42
Pittsburgh145127.53321.719
Buffalo145127.53321.621
Cleveland145127.53321.622
• Houston146126.53721.129

—Ian Allan

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