2021 NFL Strength Of Schedule
The strength of schedule is ranked by a combination of opponent win totals, 2020 record, and Super Bowl odds. 2020 records are weighted slightly less due to the fact that a lot of teams got better over the offseason and some teams have gotten worse. We want a more forward-looking view of the strength of the schedule. The higher the number means the tougher the schedule.
|SOS Rank||Teams||Opp. 2020 Win Totals||Opp. 2020 Record||Opp 2020 Win%||2021 Team Win Total|
|4||San Francisco 49ers||137.5||132-138-2||0.489||10.5|
|5||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||140.5||126-145-1||0.465||11.5|
|8||Los Angeles Chargers||142.5||133-137-2||0.493||9|
|14||New York Jets||143||132-138-2||0.489||6.5|
|15||Kansas City Chiefs||145||138-132-2||0.511||12|
|16||New York Giants||145.5||128-142-2||0.474||7|
|17||New England Patriots||145.5||133-139-0||0.489||9|
|18||New Orleans Saints||147.5||131-140-1||0.483||9|
|19||Green Bay Packers||144||147-124-1||0.542||10.5|
|22||Washington Football Team||147.5||136-134-2||0.504||8|
|24||Los Angeles Rams||147||140-132-0||0.515||10.5|
|27||Las Vegas Raiders||149.5||142-128-2||0.526||7.5|
When looking at the schedules this year, you can make the case that teams from New York, Cincinnati, Carolina, and Jacksonville will be tougher outs than they have been in the past. Houston is probably the only lock for a win on the team schedules this year. So while win totals are still lower for those teams mentioned, I think there will be some upset games quite often.
The NFC South projects as one of the easiest schedules, which Super Bowl champions have seen fairly easy schedules the year after of late. Tampa Bay is one of the more superior teams and they don’t have a real tough stretch this season, especially with the Saints losing Drew Brees. Atlanta is in the same boat where they could have a bounce-back year. Atlanta currently has a win total of seven and they certainly have a schedule where they can clear that number if they get consistent play from the defense.
Playing the AFC South is a bit easier this season, which bodes well for the AFC East, who plays them. Buffalo will get Houston and Indianapolis at home, then travel to Tennessee and Jacksonville. Adding in that they play the Jets and Patriots twice is also an added bonus, given the Bills have surpassed New England as the superior team in the division. However, all four teams will have fairly generous schedules.
Much like the divisions that have the easiest schedule, there are four that really stand out as having a rough draw. Divisional opponents play a big factor for the AFC and NFC West. The northern divisions are also facing an uphill climb. Starting with the NFC North, they play the NFC West. That means four very tough games against San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Arizona.
Minnesota gets a tough draw to start the season as they face Arizona, Seattle, and Cleveland starting in Week 2. They then have another draw where they face Dallas, Baltimore, Chargers, Packers, and then on the road against the 49ers. The home/away schedule is a big factor for the Vikings ranking lower than some other formulas.
The AFC North is already a tough schedule from within the division but Pittsburgh has a really tough schedule. We saw them flame out at the end of last year, and it is tough to say that they addressed those key issues. With road games against the Bills, Packers Chargers, and Chiefs outside of the division, they are up there with the Vikings for the toughest road schedule.
End Of Season Run-Ins
I take the term “end of season run-in” from European football, where they examine the last few games of the season because it always has crucial meaning to the entire year. Teams will be jostling for playoff positions and with the last bye weeks finishing in Week 14, that leaves four full weeks at the end of the year.
Carolina could take a step forward this year and be on the cusp of a wild card spot, but the end of the season is going to be tough. They face the Bills, Buccaneers twice, and the Saints. Green Bay will face Baltimore, Cleveland, Minnesota, and Detroit. I project Minnesota to be a better team than last season, so this makes three tougher games in a row.
The Ravens have it rough down the stretch, where we could go even deeper. They finish the year, facing the Steelers twice, Browns twice, Rams, and Packers all within the final seven games of the season. With the NFC West projecting to be a four-team race, the Rams face Arizona, Seattle, Minnesota, Baltimore, and San Francisco in their final five games. Three of them are on the road.