The 2019 NFL season kicks off in a few months, but many of us have already been running through the upcoming schedule. We took a close look at the NFL Bye Weeks and now we’re digging into the NFL Strength of Schedule. The AFC East draws some of the easier schedules, as three teams draw the easiest schedules in the NFL. Miami is the only team in the division that is outside the top ten for easiest schedules. The AFC South and the AFC West present some of the toughest schedules in football. Oakland has the toughest schedule in football, which will be a fun task for a team that is completely rebuilt with new faces. Vegas has set win totals already, and only four teams are predicted to have double-digit wins. Two teams are projected for under six.
Oakland is going to have a tough task already facing Denver, Kansas City, and Los Angeles for a total of six times a year. It is the out of division that piles on a brutal schedule. The Raiders will go on the road against Minnesota and Indianapolis before returning back home to face Chicago. They go back on the road to Green Bay and Houston. The opponent’s overall record had a winning percentage of 0.539 in 2018. Denver is also in a similar boat, as opponent’s had a win percentage of 0.537 in 2018. They face a tough end of the season going on the road to Minnesota, Houston, Buffalo, and Kansas City.
The AFC South all rank inside the bottom ten for toughest schedule this season. A lot of it has to do with this division improving each season. Jacksonville and Tennessee had sporadic issues, but they are still competent teams. Houston and Indy have established themselves as the top tier teams in the division, and Indy’s buzz has been growing for a while. The Colts have tough matchups against the Chargers, falcons, and Chiefs within the first five weeks. They go on the road and face Pittsburgh and New Orleans in the middle of the season. Over the last six weeks, they are home just twice.
The Falcons won’t have any divisional games until Week 10, which is right after their Bye Week. They open up with a rough stretch of games. They go on the road to face Minnesota, return home to play Philadelphia, and then play Indianapolis on the road the next week. Atlanta also has to play NFC West opponents for three straight weeks, with a road game against Arizona, and then return to face the Rams and Seahawks. This means their second half schedule is loaded with divisional games, and post Bye Week, they only have two out of division games. Those are on the road against San Francisco and home to Jacksonville.
I am sure most will be mad about New England getting the easiest schedule of 2019, but the Jets and Bills rank just behind them. It has a lot to do with the records of the division in general. However, New England opens against a weaker Steelers team, and then will be playing the NFC East and the rest of the AFC North. Not a bad schedule for a team with an 11 win total projected. The Bills are an interesting team this year, especially with how their schedule sets up. The end of the year hurts a bit, facing Dallas, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New England. If they are in the hunt, this is where they could fall off.
The Rams also draw a favorable schedule this year, as both Super Bowl teams have an easy road to get back to the playoffs. While the division is improving, they still hold the top tier with Seattle. They open up against the NFC South in three of the first four weeks. Post Bye Week they have a tough stretch against Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Baltimore. The end of the year is a plus for them getting Arizona twice, and San Francisco.
A team we will be following closely is Cleveland this year, and their schedule sets up nicely for them to keep improving. They also have four primetime games. Their toughest stretch is from Weeks 6 to 10 facing, Seattle, New England, Denver, and Buffalo. Four stout defenses that will be a fun matchup against their offense. The AFC North is inside the top half of the league for an easy schedule. The division is going to be tight, and nobody has an advantage with their schedule. The NFC East is the same way.
NFL Team Win Totals
The Rams and Saints both present the best potential to surpass their 10.5 win total for this year. Both teams won 13 games last season, and come back with favorable schedules and loaded rosters. New England has an 11 win total, which is what they won in 2018. The combination of a soft schedule with this team, this seems like an easy hit barring injury. Looking at playoff teams that could have a tough time hitting their win total, you have to say Kansas City. It sits at 10.5 this year, and 11 wins will be a tough ask despite their success. They have one of the toughest schedules and divisions in football. Also playing the NFC North and AFC South is going to add an extra loss or two into their loss column.
There were a lot of middling teams that surpassed their win total last season. Indy, Chicago, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Seattle are all in this mid-range where it could go either way. The NFC North projects to be a tight race, and the winner of that division is going to be around 10 wins. Each team outside of Detroit has a win total set at 9. The AFC North is a similar picture. Pittsburgh and Cleveland sit at 9, while Baltimore is at 8.5. Cincinnati is only at 6, which is what they won in 2019. If they stay healthy, the over on Cincinnati is appealing.
In terms of teams that are projected to be bottom of the league, Washington, New York, and Buffalo sit as favorites to surpass their set win total. One of the bigger surprises is seeing the Jets with a 7.5 win total, despite winning four games last season. Easy schedule for them and Buffalo, but still a young growing team.