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Analyzing the NFL Strength of Schedule

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To me, not a big enough deal is ever made of the strength of schedule in the NFL.  Every year, by looking at the strength of schedule, you can get a good idea which teams will play over their head and which will prove themselves to be one-year wonders after a good season. 

Now sometimes, your predictions can be both wrong and right.  You could argue that the Patriots and Chargers, who had the easiest and 2nd easiest schedules in 2008, were kept alive after injuries to their star players only because they were playing against such weak competition.  It's also a great barometer to look back on towards the end of the season to see which winning teams are legit (the Steelers had the hardest schedule) and which ones are not (the Dolphins, Jets, Falcons and Panthers all had easy schedules).

After the jump, a rundown of the 2009 strength of schedules and what it means for the San Diego Chargers and the rest of the NFL.

 

Team Winning Percentage Opp. Total Wins Opp. Total Losses
Dolphins .594 152 104
Panthers .592 151 104
Falcons .591 150 104
Patriots .590 151 105
Buccaneers .580 148 107
Bills .570 146 110
Jets .569 145 110
Saints .557 142 113
Eagles .537 137 118
Giants .528 134 120
Texans .521 125 115
Cowboys .516 131 123
Jaguars .516 132 124
Colts .512 131 125
Titans .508 130 126
Redskins .492 125 129
Chargers .484 123 131
Chiefs .484 123 131
Raiders .482 122 131
Broncos .480 122 132
Lions .470 119 134
Bengals .467 119 136
Rams .467 119 136
Seahawks .459 117 138
Browns .451 114 139
Cardinals .443 113 142
Ravens .439 111 142
Steelers .435 110 143
Packers .431 109 144
49ers .424 101 137
Vikings .423 107 146
Bears .413 105 149

 

What can we predict from this? 

  • The Ravens, Steelers, Packers, Vikings and Bears should have no problem racking up a bunch of regular season victories.  They were all towards the top of the toughest schedules in 2008 and still performed relatively well. 
  • It wouldn't be too shocking if the Dolphins, Panthers and Falcons took a major step back in the standings even though they've made no personnel changes. 
  • The Browns had a good season with a weak schedule in 2007 and could do the same thing in 2009, after spending 2008 with the 7th toughest schedule. 
  • The Bengals should look considerably better with an easier schedule and a healthy Carson Palmer.
  • Expect the Texans to underachieve once again, with the toughest schedule in their division.
  • If the Patriots, Saints, Eagles or Giants win their division they'll be tough in the playoffs.  They'll be "battle-tested".
  • The Chargers will have a tougher road to go through in 2009, which means they cannot afford a slow start and probably cannot afford a major injury to a starter.  Not if they want to go deep in the playoffs, anyways. 
  • Teams to look out for as surprise teams can usually be found at the bottom of this list, and are usually led by tough head coaches who gameplan around defense and running the ball.  For those reasons, if I had to pick one team to come "out of nowhere" this season, it'd be San Francisco.  The Browns would stand a better chance if they still had Winslow and Stallworth.

Don't forget to send in your mailbag questions to be answered on Saturday!