2020 NFL Strength Of Schedule

With NFL schedules recently released, we can begin to break down the 2020 NFL season. If you are looking for NFL Bye Weeks we broke down the schedule and fantasy outcomes. Looking into the 2020 schedule, we have broken out the strength of schedule based on NFL Win Totals, and list out some 2019 records of teams and opponents. Using NFL win totals over 2019 numbers is going to have a few advantages as there was a lot of turn over this offseason. The New England Patriots don’t quite carry the same weight and the Detroit Lions should be far better than the record last season showed. Win Totals is a look into the future and not into the past. Some early winners were the Colts, Chiefs, Lions, Buccaneers, and Ravens. Both New York teams, Atlanta, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Washington, and Denver will see tougher schedules. See who else has the toughest or softest schedule in 2020.

SOS RankTeam2019 RecordOPP Proj Win TotalsOPP 2019 RecordOPP 2019 Win %2020 Projected Record
1Atlanta Falcons7-9134.5134-121-10.5257-9
2New York Giants4-12133.5125-130-10.4905-11
3Las Vegas Raiders7-9132.5126-129-10.4946-10
4New York Jets7-9132.5125-130-10.4906-10
5Denver Broncos7-9132132-123-10.5188-8
6Los Angeles Rams9-7131.5126-1300.4929-7
7Washington Redskins3-13131.5112-1440.4385-11
8Carolina Panthers5-11131132-123-10.5186-10
9New Orleans Saints13-3130125-130-10.49012-4
10Houston Texans10-6129.5128-126-20.5049-7
11New England Patriots12-4129.5126-1300.4929-7
12Arizona Cardinals5-10-1128.5132-123-10.5188-8
13Cincinnati Bengals2-14128.5132-123-10.5185-11
14Philadelphia Eagles9-7128.5117-138-10.4599-7
15Buffalo Bills10-6128132-123-10.51811-5
16Green Bay Packers13-3128132-123-10.51810-6
17Miami Dolphins5-11128126-1300.4925-11
18Jacksonville Jaguars6-10127.5127-127-20.5003-13
19San Francisco 49ers13-3127.5112-1440.43811-5
20Seattle Seahawks11-5127.5112-1440.43810-6
21Minnesota Vikings10-6126.5126-1300.49210-6
22Pittsburgh Steelers8-8126.5112-1440.43810-6
23Los Angeles Chargers5-11126126-1300.4929-7
24Baltimore Ravens14-2125.5122-1140.43812-4
25Dallas Cowboys8-8125.5132-123-10.51810-6
26Kansas City Chiefs12-4125.5127-127-20.50013-3
27Chicago Bears8-8124.5132-123-10.5186-10
28Cleveland Browns6-10124.5132-123-10.5188-8
29Tampa Bay Buccaneers7-9124.5112-1440.43811-5
30Tennessee Titans9-7123.5112-1440.4389-7
31Detroit Lions3-12123132-123-10.5188-8
32Indianapolis Colts7-9120.5127-127-20.50011-5

Why Use Win Totals?

We often see a strength of schedule broken out by 2019 opponent’s record, which is helpful, but we can go a step forward. Every year win totals come out for the NFL season, which are updated by sportsbooks. The number set for a team is going to be a formula made by the sportsbooks that take a lot into the equation to get that number. The number is going to be very close to where they project the wins to be, as it will give the public a tough choice on betting over or under. Using it for strength of schedule is a plus because these will be updated based on current events. 2019 opponent’s records aren’t going to take into effect Tom Brady leaving the Patriots, or Matthew Stafford returning healthy.

Using the 2019 opponent’s record can still be part of the equation and something to look at, but win totals are using future data compared to historical data. Factoring in positive and negative regression can get us a better look at how the schedule truly projects. A full-strength Steelers team is going to be a lot different from 2019’s version, where they had a bottom-five offense. If we sort by opponent’s combined 2019 win percentage, you get some massive differences in strength of schedule. One of the most notable is that the Colts jump from 32nd to 15th. The Washington Redskins jump from the 7th hardest schedule to the sixth easiest schedule. We also see a lot of teams shift all over the place.

NFL Schedule Winners

Kansas City ChiefsAlready coming off a Super Bowl winning season where the Kansas City Chiefs went 12-4, they get a cupcake schedule. They have the 7th easiest schedule based on opponent win totals. The Chiefs are already taking on a Denver and Las Vegas team they are far better than. The Chargers defense will have to slow down the Chiefs offense to have a shot, but the Chiefs are likely headed for a 6-0 or 5-1 record in the division. Now they will welcome the Falcons, Panthers, Texans, Patriots, and Jets at home. The Texans and Patriots have taken steps in the wrong direction over the offseason. On the road, they will face the Ravens, Bills, Dolphins, Saints, and Buccaneers. Now the away schedule is the toughest aspect here, but they are likely headed for a 12-4 or 13-3 type season.

The Baltimore Ravens went 14-2 and are not that far behind the Chiefs in terms of strength of schedule. Now they have a tough schedule in terms of their division, as the Steelers defense is a problem, and Cleveland has a high ceiling. However, they should win 4-5 games within the division. Now add the fact that they face teams like the Jaguars, Giants, and Redskins is going to add some winnable games onto their schedule. They also will face the Texans and Patriots on the road, but as mentioned above they took a step back and are not at the level of the AFC’s best. The home game against the Chiefs and Cowboys are in their advantage of being at home. Road games against the Colts and Eagles are still very winnable games for this crew.

Matthew Stafford has fully healed from his broken bone in his back, and while they traded Darius Slay, they took the top corner in the draft. The Detroit Lions went 3-12-1 last season, and Stafford missed most of the season. This team was competitive until Stafford went down, and having a fourth-place schedule for this team certainly works in their favor. Now of course they are going to play the NFC North division which is always a battle, but outside of the division isn’t too bad. At home, they have the Texans, Colts, Saints, Buccaneers, and Redskins. Outside of Tampa Bay and New Orleans, they have a shot in the others. On the road, they face the Cardinals, Falcons, Panthers, Jaguars, and Titans. That is not a bad road schedule at all for the Lions.

The Indianapolis Colts are the big winners of the NFL schedule release. For one the Houston Texans sent DeAndre Hopkins out of the division, and have not improved their team. Tennessee is still going to be a pesky team, while Jacksonville is going to be a bottom-of-the-league team. The Colts are sitting with a favorable win total to bet on right now, and looking at the schedule they will have some strong games. At home this year for out of division games, they will face the Ravens, Bengals, Packers, Vikings, and Jets. Not bad for a home game, as it would have been much tougher playing Green Bay and Minnesota on the road. They have an easier road schedule facing the Browns, Bears, Lions, Raiders, and Steelers.

NFL Schedule Losers

New York JetsThe New York teams are both sitting inside the top five for toughest schedule. The New York Jets especially have a tough 2020 ahead of them. Even with Tom Brady out of the division, the schedule sets up against tough division defenses of the Bills and the Patriots. Miami is also coming up and not far off where the Jets are now. New York has road games against the Colts, Chiefs, Chargers, Rams, and Seahawks. Not a great away schedule. Even the home games are not favorable, as they face the Cardinals, Browns, Broncos, Raiders, and 49ers. Hard to call any of those a sure win. The New York Giants are in the same boat, as they will be going up against the Eagles and Cowboys each twice. They have home games against the Cardinals, 49ers, Buccaneers, and Steelers. They go on the road to Baltimore, Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles Rams.

Playing in the AFC West and having to face the Chiefs is already enough even if it is just two games. Adding in two games against the Chargers defense that should be potent this year is going to add to the Denver Broncos and Raiders potential schedule struggles. Denver will also have to travel to the Steelers, Patriots, Falcons, and Jets. By no means is this is a great away schedule factoring in the division already. They also will welcome the Buccaneers, Bills, and Titans. Now they do have games against the Panthers, Raiders, and Dolphins, but these are the only true plus games on the schedule. As for the Raiders, you have home games against Buffalo, Indy, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay. They are on the road against the Falcons, Panthers, Browns, Patriots, and Jets.

The Atlanta Falcons come in with the toughest schedule based on opponent’s win totals. Four games against the Saints and Buccaneers are going to be a tough ask this year to even break .500 against. They will welcome the Bears, Broncos, Lions, Raiders, and Seahawks. They go on the road to face the Cowboys, Packers, Chiefs, Chargers, and Vikings. The out of division road schedule is brutal. I mention down below the Falcons have the toughest end of the year schedule, where they play Tampa Bay twice and have a ton of other teams that are likely going to be headed to the playoffs.

Toughest Divisions

San Francisco 49ersLooking at projected records and win totals, we can narrow down some of the tougher divisions. The NFC West is set for quite the showdown as the Cardinals have added DeAndre Hopkins and had a very good draft. They sit with a win total of seven, which is the lowest of the division. The Rams sit at 8.5, and both Seattle and San Francisco are over 9.5. Sportsbooks are expecting a very tight NFC West, which is going to be tough to get out of. As far as projected records go, this is going to be a tight race where anything can happen.

Often it has been Atlanta battling it out with New Orleans in the NFC South, Tampa Bay is now joining the mix. The Buccaneers and Saints both projects for double-digit wins and they are sitting with a 9.5 and 10.5 over/under. Atlanta is sitting at 7.5 because we know if the offense is firing they can pick up some wins. Carolina’s offense is strong, but the defense is going to set them back. However, they are still not a team to take lightly. This group is certainly tough.

If the Steelers defense wasn’t as good as it was, the AFC North would miss the cut. If the Browns have a post-hype year where they truly play to their potential, we are looking at a pretty loaded AFC North. While I believe this is still Baltimore’s division to win, the Steelers won’t make it easy. We could easily see the Steelers and Browns playing crucial games down the stretch to try and make the playoffs.

Worst End Of Season Run Ins

Philadelphia EaglesFor those unfamiliar with what an end of the season run-in is, it is the last few weeks of the season. We saw a lot of teams have playoff implications over the last few weeks of 2019 where they needed to pick up wins and couldn’t. Taking a look at the 2020 schedule, we are diving into some teams that have a tough end of the season that could take a toll on their playoff chances.

The NFC South is already going to be tough for the Atlanta Falcons to make it out of, as Tampa Bay and New Orleans both project to be double-digit teams. Now if the Falcons find themselves needing wins at the end of the year. From Week 13 on, it is going to be tough. They face New Orleans, Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay twice. The Falcons already have the toughest schedule in the league, and you can see why here.

In 2019, the Philadelphia Eagles had an easy run-in against the division and it played a part in a close race with Dallas for the playoffs. This year it is a bit different for the Eagles. Starting in Week 12, the Eagles face the Seahawks, Packers, Saints, Cardinals, and Cowboys. Now they do get Washington in Week 17, but the past five games are going to be tough for them.

The Arizona Cardinals are expected to see an increase in wins this season, and if they are going to make a shock run at the postseason they will need to pick up some wins at the end of the year. They face the Patriots, Rams, Giants, Eagles, and Rams again over the last five weeks of the season. They also have Buffalo and Seattle just before that run.

Teams With Projected Record Improvements

Tampa Bay BuccaneersA couple of older quarterbacks found themselves in a new location. Tom Brady made the classic retiree move down to Florida, while Philip Rivers went the opposite route moving to the midwest. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set for a four-win improvement, as they improved on the defensive side last season, and will have a less turnover-prone quarterback under center. Unlike the Saints, the Buccaneers have an easier schedule. The Indianapolis Colts made some offseason moves to bulk up their defensive line but also moved away from Jacoby Brissett who is going to back up Rivers. The Colts also benefit from the easiest strength of schedule based on win totals.

Both the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers were on the cusp of the playoffs last season. However, the Steelers had much more of an excuse to miss the playoffs given having Mason Rudolph under center for most of the year. Both projects for 10-6 seasons and will have close competition within the division with Baltimore and Philadelphia projecting well. Both the Steelers and Cowboys have relatively easy schedules based on win totals, although a deeper look in where there could be a few surprise games. Either way, they should be in playoff contention at the end of the year barring any sort of injuries.

2019 was an odd year for the Los Angeles Chargers. They went 5-11, and once again were involved in a lot of one-possession losses, and dealt with injuries. While Philip Rivers is out of town, they will turn to Tyrod Taylor and possibly Justin Herbert at some point. While the offense might be a bit mundane with their quarterback situation, they still have a lot of weapons and the defense has a real chance to be among the elite in 2020. A more game managed style of offense and playing with the strength of their defense, it might not be appealing for fantasy, but the real-life football might not be so bad. They also have a manageable schedule, sitting with the 8th easiest strength of schedule.

Teams Projected To Fall Off In 2020

Chicago BearsLike above, we are talking about 2019 records looking to go south in 2020. The Chicago Bears were an 8-8 team last season, and this was a year after the 12-4 season where they also made the playoffs. We knew regression would hit in 2019, but a further slide might surprise some people. They have a great defense, and that is going to keep them in some games, and potentially steal one or two. However, this offense is not set to be consistent, and even with an easier schedule, it still doesn’t set them up with many games they can win.

The now Las Vegas Raiders have the fourth hardest schedule based on win totals and already were in line to regress coming off of their 7-9 season. While the Raiders added on the offensive side through the draft, hard to imagine Derek Carr taking advantage. The defense is also not set for a major improvement, and the division is still going against them. Las Vegas has some road games against the Buccaneers, Saints, and Bills that are not appealing. They also have games at home against the Patriots and Falcons which will still give them trouble.

Already treading in the wrong direction, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a middle of the road schedule, and project to be at the bottom of the AFC South this season. They are coming off of a 6-10 season, and while they invested in defense through the draft, they shipped off a lot of proven talent already. The Jaguars are projected to win three less than their 2019 record and tanking for Trevor Lawrence is likely the plan.

  
Jason Guilbault has been writing and podcasting in the fantasy sports world for over five years. You can find his work at Daily Fantasy Cafe. He is an avid Tottenham fan, and follows the Boston sports teams. When he isn’t diving into stats, he is enjoying the outdoors or down at the local brewery.

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