The 2014 NFL strength of schedule was hot news this week (correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't this information readily available in December after the final standings were set?) and it's already got people thinking about how it's going to effect their teams chances of making the playoffs next season. By taking your 13 opponents, adding up all them wins and losses, and coming up with a win%, we can now rank things.
WHEN I SAY RANK, YOU SAY THINGS!
(you scream now in your home, place of work, the bus)
(you fool, you fell for it)
The "most difficult" schedule next year belongs to the Oakland Raiders, as their 2014 opponents had a 2013 winning percentage of .578. The Raiders had the worst record in the AFC West, and the other three teams all had winning records. Also, the AFC West plays the NFC West, which includes three more winning records, plus the 7-9 Rams.
It stands to reason that Oakland does face a difficult schedule, because for all intents and purposes the Denver Broncos are the best team in the AFC and the NFC West is probably still the best division in football, but there are errors in this method of reasoning, are there not?
- The Raiders naturally would have the most difficult schedule in division because they had the worst record in the division. The San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs would face extremely similar schedules to the Raiders, but the main difference is that they get to play the Raiders. Oakland doesn't have that luxury.
That's why the Rams have the third-toughest schedule in the NFL, based on 2013 standings.
- Part of the Raiders "SOS issues" is that they play the Chiefs, Broncos and Chargers. But wait... wait... don't tell me. Isn't the AFC West... a glistening pile of refurbished electronics marked as "Like new" on Amazon.com?
Denver, Kansas City... not only did these two teams have the two easiest schedules in the NFL last season, but the four AFC West teams had four of the five easiest schedules in the NFL at this time last year. Strength of schedule in it of itself effects the very win-loss record that calculates a teams strength of schedule.
It's a vicious cycle.
- Now I'm gonna say something pretty rude:
The Chiefs are frauds.
The Chargers are frauds.
The Broncos are... (scoreboard)
Sorry but I say what I wanna say, do what I wanna do, play what I wanna play, live how I wanna live, the super bowl apparently gives you hella confidence, Carroll fam-i-ly!
The Chiefs are an 11-5 team that I think would have gone maybe 8-8 or worse in even the NFC North, and the Chargers are a 9-7 team that could have feasibly gone 4-12 in the NFC West, so what meaning does it really carry to say that your schedule includes that many teams with winning records?
- We don't know how good next years teams are gonna be. Last years most difficult schedule as of a year ago? The Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers won five more games in 2013 than they did in 2012. That scheduled included:
The Giants. Collapse.
The Vikings. Collapse.
The Falcons. Collapse x 2.
What we care about is how they did in 2013 against teams... of 2013. Crazy, I know. Against teams with winning records last season that they played (Seahawks, Cardinals, 49ers, Patriots, Saints), Carolina went 3-3. Against everyone else they went 9-1. Again, we're basing that off of "winning percentage" but those five teams also finished in the top 10 of DVOA.
It's fair to say that a 3-3 record is pretty good against those teams.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs easy schedule may have only gotten easier as the season wore on. They faced the Eagles before
Nick Folk Nick Foles (I was writing about Nick Folk recently) and won. They faced the Giants as they were falling apart in the beginning of the year. They played 2013's biggest disappointment, the Houston Texans. Against teams with winning records in 2013, Kansas City went...
1-5. Including that win over Michael Vick.
That's two losses to the Chargers, two to the Broncos, and one to the Colts.
Against teams that weren't above .500, the Chiefs went 10-0. Which essentially means they weren't garbage.
- A team's schedule is also determined by their place in the division standings. A first place team will play other first place teams, so that means that the Seahawks will play the Eagles, Packers, and Panthers next year. That certainly makes it seem like you have a more difficult schedule than, say, the last place team in your division, but how stable have standings been in the NFC over the last 10 years?
Compared to the AFC, where the Colts, Steelers and Patriots have often dominated their divisions, the NFC is a much better example of parity.
The Seahawks won the division for many years until the 49ers finally took control... before Seattle took it back.
The Panthers, Falcons, and Saints have each won the division over the last three years.
The Packers seem like the unquestioned leaders of the North, but as of about four months ago, the Detroit Lions were winning it. The Bears and Vikings have also finished in first place relatively recently.
The NFC East... well, you get it. The last place team is typically the best bet to win the division the following year. Start taking those long odds on the Washington Redskins for next season.
- Seattle's schedule for next year then includes: Rams x2, 49ers x2, Cardinals x2, Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, Eagles, Panthers, Packers, Giants, Cowboys, Redskins.
This is reputed to be the sixth-most difficult schedule, but is it really?
I've already made my feelings known about the win-loss records of the AFC West, so that's a wash. If there's a toughest division in the AFC right now, I might actually go with the North or East. The Eagles were 4-12 just a year ago, the Hawks will be playing Carolina for a third-straight year and haven't lost yet, the Packers are always difficult but also showed how bad they are without just one player.
The NFC East was the worst division in the NFC and that's probably not going to change over the offseason.
Every time the Rams win seven games they seem to fall back to 2-14 the following year, so as promising as they look, I'm not buying it quite yet. The Seahawks also haven't seemed to lose to the Rams since the Reagan administration. (The administration with which everything is associated.)
Arizona is another case of a team that hasn't once in franchise history been able to actually turn things around for good, though I think Steve Keim could be one of the top five general managers in the NFL and that's scary. But what if Carson Palmer turns sour again? What if they can't re-sign Karlos Dansby? What if Tyrann Mathieu was a one-year wonder or gets into the same troubles that caused him to slip in the draft?
Obviously San Francisco provides the toughest test again, yet they're going through their biggest transition period since Jim Harbaugh took over. The Frank Gore era is potentially over, a contract situation could loom over Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick all year if they don't get that resolved, and Anquan Boldin still isn't signed yet. Not to mention the injury to Navorro Bowman and another contract extension potentially pending for Aldon Smith, who could also just as easily wind up on COPS.
Yes, a reference to COPS.
And if you think that I'm now a pompous, self-righteous, all-of-a-sudden cocky fan of the world champion Seattle Seahawks, well... you're not wrong. But if it helps:
We don't know yet that the 2014 Seahawks are as good as the 2013 version. I'm actually guessing that they won't be. They've got contracts to deal with and potentially losing as many as six or seven starters on their team of a year ago. Veteran mainstays like Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, Zach Miller, Sidney Rice seem almost predestined to leave, while young bucks like Michael Bennett and Golden Tate could also be leaving. They've potentially got to replace two starters on the offensive line and I'm actually going to be the first person to say that possibly Max Unger shouldn't be paid like a top three center anymore.
I'm actually on record already of saying that Seattle is going to win a minimum of 14 games next year, but I also am aware of how much change could potentially happen and that different versions of the same product don't necessarily create desired results.
See: Every other version of Windows.
But does having "the sixth-toughest schedule next season" mean a single thing to me?
Yeah. It means I could write this article and that's good because it keeps me off the streets where I'd be joining gangs, selling non-prescription drugs, and having pre-marital relations, but does it mean anything for our schedule next year?