- Traditional methods for calculating NFL strength of schedule are extremely flawed
- Should the 5-2 Buffalo Bills be seen as a tougher opponent than the 5-3 Kansas City Chiefs? Traditional methods say yes
- See SBD’s proprietary method using Super Bowl odds to calculate SOS for each team in the second half of the 2019 NFL season
If you’ve come across my preferred method for calculating NFL strength of schedule at the beginning of a season, you know I’m not a fan of the traditional method that involves using win-loss records.
It doesn’t make much sense to use a team’s record from the previous season to determine how good they’ll be the next season. I also believe using a team’s win-loss record at the midway point of the season to determine how good they are has some major flaws.
Should we be treating the 5-2 Buffalo Bills as a tougher opponent than the 5-3 Kansas City Chiefs? What about the 4-4 Philadelphia Eagles and the 3-4 Chicago Bears – are they similar opponents?
So instead of using current records, I’m using each team’s Super Bowl odds to determine how good they are.
Note: 1 is the most difficult, while 32 denotes the easiest schedule in the table below.
2019 NFL Season Updated Second Half SOS
|Rank||Team||SBD’s Strength of Schedule|
|5||San Francisco 49ers||50.33|
|10||Kansas City Chiefs||43.55|
|17||Los Angeles Chargers||33.79|
|18||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||32.66|
|19||Los Angeles Rams||32.57|
|20||New England Patriots||28.82|
|21||New York Giants||28.44|
|25||Green Bay Packers||23.59|
|28||New Orleans Saints||21.19|
|32||New York Jets||10.99|
Theoretically speaking, if you had to play the Patriots – the favorites to win the Super Bowl – each of the next nine weeks, your second half SOS would be 279.07. If your remaining nine opponents were the top nine Super Bowl contenders – Patriots, Saints, Packers, Niners, Cowboys, Chiefs, Ravens, Rams, and Vikings – your SOS would be 100.88.
On the other hand, your easiest theoretical schedule would be playing the Dolphins eight times and having a bye, resulting in a 0.053 SOS. Although, playing the Dolphins an extra time instead of the bye only increases it to a 0.06 SOS.
If you were to play the eight teams with the worst odds to win the Super Bowl and have a bye, your second half SOS would be 1.22.
Ravens Face a Grueling Second Half Schedule
No team has it tougher than the Ravens over the next nine weeks. Baltimore still faces New England (listed as 3.5-point underdogs), Houston, LA (Rams), San Francisco, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh before the regular season ends.
The latter two teams on the list may not look great based on their current record, but the Browns went into Baltimore and handed them a 40-25 beating, and the Steelers took them to overtime with Devlin Hodges having to finish the game after Mason Rudolph was knocked out.
Browns and Jaguars Could Get Hot
The New York Jets have the easiest remaining schedule in the league, but it’s hard to get behind a 1-6 team who has only scored 78 points in seven games.
The Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars are a different story, however.
If the Browns do budge on sending Washington a first-round pick for Trent Williams, and Freddie Kitchens picks up on this head coaching thing, Cleveland has the opportunity to go on a run in the second half.
Sources: The #Redskins are now open to dealing star LT Trent Williams. They have begun the process of looking at potential suitors, and the #Browns have been one. Unclear how high they set the asking price, but they’ll at least listen.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 28, 2019
They get Denver (where they’re now a 3-point favorite), Pittsburgh (twice), Miami, Cincinnati (twice), and Arizona. The two games missing come against Buffalo and Baltimore.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars have it just a little tougher over the second half. Jacksonville will play Houston (where they’re 2.5-point home dogs) and Indianapolis in their next two games, but then get Tennesse, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles (Chargers), Oakland, and Atlanta before finishing at home vs the Colts again.
Niners Will Be Tested
Many would argue that San Francisco has not really been tested yet this season. Their toughest opponents have been the Steelers (with Mason Rudolph under center), Rams, and Panthers.
But if the Niners can breeze through their final nine games the same way they have the first seven, there would be no doubters left. Along with Seattle twice and another date with the Rams, the 49ers have to deal with Green Bay, Baltimore, and New Orleans before the season’s end.
Divisional Battles to Watch
There are currently only three divisions in the NFL where the leader has a full two-game advantage over the field: the AFC East, AFC North, and NFC South.
I think most will agree that two of those divisions have effectively been won already. But the AFC North could see a real shakeup with Baltimore’s brutally tough remaining games paired with Cleveland and Pittsburgh facing very light opponents down the stretch.
Other divisions to note include:
- AFC South: Texans face the seventh-toughest remaining schedule, while the Colts and Jaguars have a much easier finish to the season
- NFC East: Cowboys face the third-toughest remaining schedule, but the Eagles don’t have it much lighter, seeing the eighth-toughest over the second half
- NFC West: As noted above, San Francisco faces the fifth-toughest schedule to finish the season while the LA Rams have the easiest path among teams in the division