NFL Strength of Schedule: Ranking the Easiest (Eagles) to the Hardest (Dolphins)

NFL Strength of Schedule: Ranking the Easiest (Eagles) to the Hardest (Dolphins) article feature image

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images. Pictured: Jalen Hurts.

We'll find out on Thursday night when every game of the 2023-24 NFL season is, but we already know who will have it toughest and easiest.

There's no doubt about who is playing who. It's just a matter of when the matchups happen. With that, Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, has already run his numbers and figured out which teams are going to face the toughest and easiest schedules this season.

Below are Koerner's rankings and reasons why teams find themselves either at the bottom or the top:

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Rankings are from easiest (No. 1) to hardest (No. 32).

Toughest Schedules

Based on Koerner's rankings, it's clear there are two divisions in the NFL that stand out above the rest.

The top eight teams in Koerner's rankings all reside in either the AFC East or North. All four teams will enter the regular season with playoff aspirations, and an argument could be made that all of their reasons for optimism are legitimate.

AFC East: Dolphins (32), Jets (30), Bills (27), Patriots (26)

It's no surprise that the Dolphins sit at the bottom of this chart when you look at who they play this season.

What puts Miami on top compared to its divisional foes are trips to face the Chiefs, Eagles, Ravens and Chargers. Home games against the Cowboys and Giants also add to the difficulty of the Dolphins' schedule.

The Jets aren’t as low because they get the Chiefs, Eagles and Chargers at home this season. New York’s toughest non-divisional road game will be at the Cowboys.

AFC North: Bengals (31), Ravens (29), Steelers (28), Browns (25)

The Bengals get first-place matchups against the Vikings (home) and Chiefs (road) this season, and they also have a trip to the Bay Area to face the 49ers. The Bengals will take solace in potentially easy home games against the Texans, Colts and Rams, though.

Easiest Schedules

According to Koerner's data, the NFC generally will have the easiest schedules this season, mostly because the AFC is absolutely stacked.

The eight teams with the easiest schedules in the NFL this season, according to Koerner, are all in the NFC, while the nine toughest are in the AFC. Only two AFC teams are ranked higher than 20th: the Chiefs (23) and Jaguars (24). Kansas City is there mostly because it can't play against itself, while the AFC South is … subpar aside from the Jags.

NFC East: Eagles (1), Cowboys (3), Giants (6), Commanders (14)

The NFC East matches up with the AFC East this season, and the Eagles have a trip to face the Chiefs on the docket, as well. So, how does Philly have the easiest schedule in the NFL?

Where a team finishes in its division determines two opponents every year. Divisions are paired together, and teams that finish in the same place will match up the following season.

It’s the Eagles’ luck that they matched up with the Vikings and Buccaneers, who were possibly the NFL’s two least-impressive division winners last season.

Aside from that trip to face the Chiefs, Philly gets the Bills, 49ers and Dolphins at home. The Eagles’ toughest road trip — again, excluding K.C. — is a divisional game against Dallas or a trip to Seattle.

49ers (2)

The 49ers will benefit from having two teams that finished with five or fewer wins last season (the Rams and Cardinals) in their division.

San Francisco’s non-divisional road trips are also reasonable, aside from an NFC Championship Game rematch in Philadelphia. The Niners will travel to face the Commanders, Steelers, Jaguars, Browns and Vikings. The difficult part of those games is the four games in the Eastern Time Zone.

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