The 2018 NFL schedule is now available, providing when and where all 256 games will be played. While we already knew the matchups, when teams play gives us the information needed to project the full season.
The first thing to do is determine how hard or easy each team’s schedule will be. While it’s easy to do this looking at last season’s records, that is both lazy and an inaccurate way to truly compare schedules. Instead we’ll project a true win percentage for each team and analyze how the schedule affects that number.
For example, the Philadelphia Eagles have a projected true win percentage of 75%. If they played an average team on a neutral field 16 times in a row, then we would expect them to go 12-4. But as we know, they don’t play an average team on a neutral field each time, so we can determine what their expected win total is for 2018 and compare it to the projected true win percentage to find the biggest differences.
So what makes a schedule hard? The opponents, right? That is, of course, a large chunk of it, but it’s not the only thing. When teams have their bye, who they have to play on a short week and giving up a home game for an international stage all affect win percentages. With the explanation out of the way, here is every NFL team schedule ranked from easiest (1) to hardest (32).
You’ll notice that divisions are mostly bunched up. This makes sense considering they play 14 of the same 16 opponents. The AFC East has all four teams in the top seven while the AFC South teams are all within the top 12. In fact, the NFC is drastically better than the AFC. The Bears have the easiest schedule in the NFC but there are still 14 teams in the AFC that will face lesser competition.
The Jets make out with the easiest schedule. They play their Thursday night game against the Browns, get the Patriots at home after a bye and take on both the Packers and Vikings at home.
The Buccaneers have the toughest schedule as they are in a loaded NFC South and also get to face the NFC East and AFC North this year. As if that’s not bad enough, their prize for finishing in fourth place last year gets them games against the Bears and 49ers, who are both expected to be much improved.
Top Photo: New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown points during the second half at Raymond James Stadium