Ranking Every NFL Team by Strength of ScheduleBy Russell S. BaxterJuly 8 2014 Michael Dwyer/Associated PressLuck? On paper, the Indianapolis Colts have the "easiest" schedule in the NFL in 2014There is less than one month remaining until we see the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills square off in the 2014 Hall of Fame Game.That’s the start of the preseason. Here, we will concentrate on just the real games.The 2014 NFL regular season kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 4, when the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers. It’s the first of 256 contests that will help decide who will be playing in Super Bowl XLIX.So let’s take a look at those 256 contests with a breakdown of sorts of each team’s schedule in 2014. Thanks to an assist from CBSSports.com, the rankings are from the easiest to the most difficult based on the combined 2013 winning percentage of 2014 opponents.It’s worth noting that there is certainly an element of luck when it comes to the numbers. Opponents for each team are set up years in advance and only two of a team’s 16 games each year are determined by how they finish the previous season.To try to predict win-loss records simply based on schedule strength is somewhat difficult, especially in early July when there is so much more that can still happen with each team.But we will try to point to some interesting facts when it comes to each team’s 16-game slate (which is included on each page courtesy of NFL.com). And we will leave the prognostications for others who may be more qualified.The NFL's Easiest Schedule.... 32. Indianapolis Colts (.430)23t. New Orleans Saints (.469)Combined Opp. W-L Records (2013): 119-135-2Last season, the New Orleans Saints won the first road playoff game in the history of a franchise that dates back to 1967. Sean Payton’s club bested the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Wild Card Round before falling to the Seahawks at Seattle.So here’s a little case of deja vu for Drew Brees and Co. The Saints open the 2014 with consecutive road tilts, traveling to face the Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns. All told, the team plays four of its first six contests away from home, with a bye (Week 6) sandwiched in there.However, the beginning of November starts a three-game homestand in which the Saints host the San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens. Meanwhile, December sees Payton’s squad close with three of their four games against NFC South rivals, including home tilts with the Carolina Panthers (Week 14) and Falcons (Week 16).22. Carolina Panthers (.473)Combined Opp. W-L Records (2013): 120-134-2There doesn’t appear to be anything extraordinary about the 2014 Carolina Panthers schedule, although it does present the team the opportunity to visit some of their key players from a year ago…as well as one franchise legend.After opening the season on the road against the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ron Rivera’s team hosts the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers. Starting free safety Mike Mitchell signed with Pittsburgh this offseason.Week 4 should be something to see as the Baltimore Ravens and new veteran wide receiver Steve Smith (Carolina’s all-time leader in touchdowns and numerous other categories) host the defending NFC South champions.On Nov. 30, the Panthers travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings and former standout cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who picked off four passes the last two seasons for Rivera’s club and returned them all for scores.However, it’s a midseason stretch that will really test Carolina’s mettle. From Weeks 6-10, the Panthers face five straight teams that reached the playoffs this past season: the rival New Orleans Saints (Week 9) as well as 2013 division champions in the Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles.Scratching out a winning record in that five-game stretch could be difficult for a lot of teams.19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (.484)Combined Opp. W-L Records (2013): 123-131-2When it comes to the start of 2014 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, apparently it is one extreme or another for Lovie Smith’s football team.The new-look Bucs open the season with home games against the Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams, then head on the road for three weeks against the Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints. Then it’s back to familiar surroundings for a stretch as the team’s bye is smack in the middle of home games with the Baltimore Ravens (Week 6) and Minnesota Vikings Week 8.While the visit from the Purple Gang will be of particular interest to new Buccaneers defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier (most recently the Vikings’ head coach), it’s the Week 12 meeting between Smith and the Chicago Bears that should be really intriguing. Tampa’s newest sideline leader was the head coach in the Windy City for nine seasons (2004-12), forged a 84-66 overall record (including playoffs) and took the Bears to Super Bowl XLI.11. Atlanta Falcons (.512)Combined Opp. W-L Records (2013): 130-124-2 For the second straight year, the Atlanta Falcons will start the season with a game against the New Orleans Saints.No doubt head coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan hope that’s the only thing that 2013 and 2014 have in common.The Falcons lost that game a year ago in Week 1 and would soon be in the midst of a 4-12 season. It was a dramatic fall for a club that had been to the playoffs each of the previous three years and was co-owner of the best record in the NFL (13-3) in 2013.Smith and Ryan are hoping to have a dramatic reversal of fortunes this upcoming season. Not unusually, the clubs plays four of its first eight games on the road. But one of their home tilts over that stretch has them “hosting" the Detroit Lions in London Week 8.But if the team is to rebound from last year’s disaster, they will have to deal with a potentially rough stretch run. Atlanta’s final five opponents (Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers) owned a combined 49-30-1 record last season.Fortunately for the Falcons, they face the Cardinals, Steelers and Panthers at home.The NFL's Toughest Schedule 1. Oakland Raiders (.578)For every team.....link
“It’s the first of 256 contests that will help decide who will be playing in Super Bowl XLIX.”Only ten more years until Super Bowl LIX. By then, Oakland could have an entire team of #1 draft picks and still be losers.
The writer’s rankings are flawed — every year there are many teams that preform better or worse than they did the year previous. Using Power Rankings would be a better way to rank strength of schedule IMO, but that still is flawed. Theres truly no telling who has the toughest schedule until week 17 approaches.