NFL Strength of Schedule Rankings For 17-Game Season
Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
The NFL officially approved extending its regular season from 16 to 17 games starting in 2021 on Tuesday, changing the schedule for the first time since 1978 when it first expanded to 16 games.
While the exact regular-season schedule won’t be released until May, we do have every team’s home and away opponents, which is how Travis Reed — our in-house Data Manager — was able to use his model to rank the strength of schedule for all 32 teams.
Let’s dig into those rankings, from easiest to hardest, then run through key information about the extension.
NFL Strength of Schedule Rankings
What To Know About the 17th Game
How Matchups Are Set
The 17th game will pit NFC divisions against AFC divisions, determining exact matchups based on the previous season’s division standings. For example, with the AFC East going against the NFC East for this first season with a 17th game, the first-place Buffalo Bills in the AFC East will draw the reigning first-place Washington Football Team in the NFC East.
Here are the exact division matchups for the 17th game in 2021 (which will rotate in future seasons):
- AFC East vs. NFC East
- AFC West vs. NFC North
- AFC South vs. NFC South
- AFC North vs. NFC West
Determining Home vs. Away
AFC teams will host NFC teams for the 17th game in 2021, meaning AFC teams will play nine home games and eight away games .while NFC teams will play nine away games and eight home games. The conferences will then rotate every season.
With the 17-game schedule playing out over 18 weeks, teams will still only have one bye week.
Under the latest NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, the league can play no more than 20 games in total, which means there can be no more than three preseason games played in the new 17-game regular season.
2021 NFL Opponents
|ARI||GB, MIN, HOU, IND, CAR||CHI, DET, JAX, TEN, DAL||@ CLE|
|ATL||PHI, WSH, NE, NYJ, DET||DAL, NYG, BUF, MIA, SF||@ JAX|
|BAL||KC, LAC, GB, MIN, IND||DEN, LV, CHI, DET, MIA||LAR|
|BUF||HOU, IND, ATL, CAR, PIT||JAX, TEN, NO, TB, KC||WSH|
|CAR||PHI, WSH, NE, NYJ, MIN||DAL, NYG, BUF, MIA, ARI||@ HOU|
|CHI||ARI, SF, BAL, CIN, NYG||LAR, SEA, CLE, PIT, TB||@ LV|
|CIN||KC, LAC, GB, MIN, JAX||DEN, LV, CHI, DET, NYJ||SF|
|CLE||DEN, LV, CHI, DET, HOU||KC, LAC, GB, MIN, NE||ARI|
|DAL||ATL, CAR, DEN, LV, ARI||NO, TB, KC, LAC, MIN||@ NE|
|DEN||BAL, CIN, PHI, WSH, NYJ||CLE, PIT, DAL, NYG, JAX||DET|
|DET||ARI, SF, BAL, CIN, PHI||LAR, SEA, CLE, PIT, ATL||@ DEN|
|GB||LAR, SEA, CLE, PIT, WSH||ARI, SF, BAL, CIN, NO||@ KC|
|HOU||NE, NYJ, LAR, SEA, LAC||BUF, MIA, ARI, SF, CLE||CAR|
|IND||NE, NYJ, LAR, SEA, LV||BUF, MIA, ARI, SF, BAL||TB|
|JAX||BUF, MIA, ARI, SF, DEN||NE, NYJ, LAR, SEA, CIN||ATL|
|KC||CLE, PIT, DAL, NYG, BUF||BAL, CIN, PHI, WSH, TEN||GB|
|LAR||CHI, DET, JAX, TEN, TB||GB, MIN, HOU, IND, NYG||@ BAL|
|LAC||CLE, PIT, DAL, NYG, NE||BAL, CIN, PHI, WSH, HOU||MIN|
|MIA||HOU, IND, ATL, CAR, BAL||JAX, TEN, NO, TB, LV||NYG|
|MIN||LAR, SEA, CLE, PIT, DAL||ARI, SF, BAL, CIN, CAR||@ LAC|
|NE||JAX, TEN, NO, TB, CLE||HOU, IND, ATL, CAR, LAC||DAL|
|NO||DAL, NYG, BUF, MIA, GB||PHI, WSH, NE, NYJ, SEA||@ TEN|
|NYG||ATL, CAR, DEN, LV, LAR||NO, TB, KC, LAC, CHI||@ MIA|
|NYJ||JAX, TEN, NO, TB, CIN||HOU, IND, ATL, CAR, DEN||PHI|
|LV||BAL, CIN, PHI, WSH, MIA||CLE, PIT, DAL, NYG, BAL||CHI|
|PHI||NO, TB, KC, LAC, SF||ATL, CAR, DEN, LV, DET||@ NYJ|
|PIT||DEN, LV, CHI, DET, TEN||KC, LAC, GB, MIN, BUF||SEA|
|SF||GB, MIN, HOU, IND, ATL||CHI, DET, JAX, TEN, PHI||@ CIN|
|SEA||CHI, DET, JAX, TEN, NO||GB, MIN, HOU, IND, WSH||@ PIT|
|TB||DAL, NYG, BUF, MIA, CHI||PHI, WSH, NE, NYJ, LAR||@ IND|
|TEN||BUF, MIA, ARI, SF, KC||NE, NYJ, LAR, SEA, PIT||NO|
|WSH||NO, TB, KC, LAC, SEA||ATL, CAR, DEN, LV, GB||@ BUF|
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