When the schedule comes out, I always start by flipping to Week 17. I like to see who’s missing out on some of the best matchups (and who gets to duck some good defenses).
On that front, the losers appear to be the Steelers (home vs. Browns), Titans (home vs. Jaguars), Patriots (home vs. Jets), Rams (home vs. 49ers). If you were drafting players from those teams, you would prefer to see them play those opponents.
The biggest winners, I think, would be the Colts (duck a game against Houston), Bears (at Minnesota), Jets (at New England), Washington (at New York), Arizona (at Seattle) and Kansas City (at Denver).
Next order of business is gauging which teams can get off to good starts – scoring points early. So it can be useful, I think, to look at the first 5-8 games of the season, maybe trying to pick more players from that group.
So I have run strength of schedule numbers using the just-released schedule.
I picked the first eight games for each team, and I’m running them two different ways.
First using win-loss records. The Colts, Steelers, Cardinals and Ravens have the easiest schedules in their first eight games. Indianapolis has the easiest early schedule by far.
The hardest four first-half schedules belong to three teams from the AFC West (Chargers, Broncos and Kansas City) and the Lions.
|STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE, WINS (first 8 games)|
Looking at those same first eight games, only using touchdowns rather than wins and losses, the Cardinals and Colts still show up near the top. Arizona’s first eight opponents allowed a combined 342 touchdowns last year (6 more than anyone else). Minnesota and the Jets also will see plenty of softer defenses in the first half of the year.
The Chargers and Kansas City again show up with difficult schedules. With Los Angeles, it’s the hardest schedule by far, with its opponents allowing 17 fewer touchdowns than anyone else. The Bucs and Browns also show up in the unfavorable group.
This is all guesswork, of course. A lot of the defenses will be a lot better or worse than they were last year (just as many teams will finish with dramatically different win-loss records). But it’s a start.
On the touchdown choice, you’re seeing rushing touchdowns, passing touchdowns and the total of the two (figures don’t include special teams scores).
|STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE, TOUCHDOWNS (first 8 games)|