How the 17th Game Impacts NFL Strength of Schedule For 2021
AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images. Pictured: Noah Fant
For the first time in 42 years, the NFL has altered the number of games on its regular-season schedule from 16 to 17.
While the ripple effects of the additional game will be discussed ad nauseam over the next year, which impacts can we attempt to measure right now? Based on the team power ratings as projected by our Director of Predictive Analytics, Sean Koerner, we were able to identify one such potential impact: On strength of schedule (SoS).
Below you’ll find a side-by-side comparison of the SoS rankings for all 32 teams based on their original 16-game schedule vs. their new 17-game schedule (including the difference in ranking).
Note that AFC teams will host NFC teams for the 17th game this season (before the conferences rotate hosting rights for the 17th game next year), which impacts some of the following.
How the 17th Game Impacts NFL Strength of Schedule
Biggest SoS Winners with 17th Game
Denver Broncos (+15)
From 19th- to fourth-easiest schedule
Denver’s schedule wasn’t all that difficult to begin with — the AFC West drawing matchups against all four NFC East teams helps raise that floor — but the Broncos benefited from another favorable scheduling rotation: Because AFC West teams will host NFC North opponents for the 17th game this season, the Broncos will face fellow last-place team, the Lions.
New York Jets (+12)
From 17th- to fifth-easiest schedule
AFC East teams will draw NFC East opponents for the first season of the new 17-game era. And based on the Jets’ last-place finish in the AFC East last season, they get to host the Eagles.
Miami Dolphins (+10)
From 15th- to fifth-easiest schedule
The Dolphins reap the same benefits as the Jets: Hosting an NFC East team for this 17th game — specifically the Giants.
Carolina Panthers (+10)
From 28th- to 18th-easiest schedule
The Panthers’ boost is easily summarized by their opponent for the 17th game: The Texans. Given the uncertainty at quarterback in Houston (and that the Texans have the lowest win total in the NFL), Carolina draws a favorable matchup for the extra game.
Biggest SoS Losers with 17th Game
Green Bay Packers (-14)
From 11th- to 25th-easiest schedule
Because the NFC North teams draw AFC West teams for the 17th game, the Packers add a road game against the Chiefs to their schedule, negatively impacting their SoS in the process.
Los Angeles Rams (-12)
From seventh- to 19th-easiest schedule
NFC West teams will have to face AFC North opponents for their 17th game — and on the road. The Rams finished second in the NFC West last season, so they’ll travel to Baltimore to face fellow second-place finisher, the Ravens.