When I finished writing my article about Cam Newton's performance against an easy schedule, I decided I want to make a footnote about teams that had the easiest schedule in the NFL each year. That footnote turned into 750 words, so I figured I might as well just make it it's own post.
This is that post. (Law & Order dong dong noise)
When I wrote that "every lucky team gets the easiest schedule every year" I figured I must've stumbled across an interesting question. Who has gotten the easiest schedule every year and what have they ended up doing with it? Let's go back a few years:
2014 - Texans, 9-7 (missed playoffs)
2012 - Colts, 11-5 (lost to Ravens 24-9 in wild card)
2009 - Cardinals, 10-6 (lost to Saints 45-14 in divisional round)
2008 - Jets, 9-7 (missed playoffs)
2007 - Seahawks, 10-6 (lost to Packers 42-20 in divisional round)
2006 - Seahawks, 9-7 (lost to Bears 27-24 OT in divisional round)
2005 - Seahawks, 13-3 (I think they won the Super Bowl?)
Okay, let's try one more exercise. Instead of just the easiest schedule, let's go back to the previous 10 years and find the teams whose record was the most helped by a really easy schedule. The teams that won about 13 or more games with a really easy schedule.
2014 - The Cowboys went 12-4 on the 31st-ranked schedule and lost in the divisional round, 26-21 to the Packers. The Ravens went 10-6 on the 30th-ranked schedule and lost in the divisional round to the Patriots, 35-31. The Steelers went 11-5 on the 29th-ranked schedule and lost to Baltimore in the wild card.
2013 - The Broncos went 13-3 on the 31st-ranked schedule and lost 43-8 in the Super Bowl to the Seahawks, I think.
2012 - The Broncos went 13-3 on the 31st-ranked schedule and lost in the divisional round 38-35 in 2OT to the Ravens. The Falcons went 13-3 on the 27th-ranked schedule and lost in the NFC Championship to the 49ers.
2011 - The Packers went 15-1 on the 31st-ranked schedule and lost in the divisional round to the Giants, 37-20. The Saints went 13-3 on the 30th-ranked schedule and lost in the divisional round to the 49ers. The Patriots went 13-3 on the 23rd-ranked schedule and lost in the Super Bowl to the Giants. Funny enough, New York had the fourth-hardest schedule and nearly every other playoff team that year had an easy schedule.
2010 - The Falcons went 13-3 on the 22nd-ranked schedule and lost in the divisional round 48-21 to the Packers.
2009 - The Vikings went 12-4 on the 30th-ranked schedule and lost in the NFC Championship to the Saints. The Packers went 11-5 on the 31st-ranked schedule and lost in the wild card to the Cardinals.
2008 - The Titans had the best record at 13-3, and their schedule was ranked 23rd; they lost to the Ravens in the divisional round.
2007 - The Packers went 13-3 on the 29th-ranked schedule and lost in the NFC Championship to the Giants.
2006 - The Chargers went 14-2 on the 29th-ranked schedule and lost in the divisional round to the Patriots. The Bears went 13-3 on the 31st-ranked schedule and lost in the Super Bowl to the Colts.
2005 - Seahawks are the obvious ones, but in all fairness they were third in DVOA. The Panthers had the 31st-ranked schedule and went 11-5, losing to Seattle in the NFC title game. The Colts were 14-2 and had the 27th-ranked schedule, losing to the Steelers in the divisional round.
Wrap up: There was no cherry-picking here. I did not leave out any teams that would've qualified under the rules I set or thereabouts. None of the last 10 Super Bowl winners had a really easy schedule. There are 18 teams listed about, 28 if you count all the teams with the easiest overall schedule, and none of them won a Super Bowl. That includes three teams that won at least 14 games, and those three teams went 0-3 in the playoffs.
There were 10 teams that went 13-3, and out of those, four went to the Super Bowl (all lost, of course), and four others didn't even win a playoff game. The closest any of these 28 teams came to winning a championship was the 2011 Pats, and at least they were 23rd.
(For what it's worth, the Seahawks schedule this year was ranked 15th, which is good for a playoff team. The Steelers' was ranked seventh, the hardest of any team in the playoffs.)