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  • How should we be calculating strength of schedule in the NFL?
  • See how all 32 teams rank in terms of strength of schedule using the proper calculation

For too long we have wasted our time reading articles that use each team’s record from the previous season to calculate strength of schedule for the upcoming season. Stop this! There are far too many flaws involved in this method.

For starters, free agency, the NFL Draft, and other player/coach movement are all capable of dramatically changing a team in just one offseason – see the 2017 Los Angeles Rams under Sean McVay.

Second, injuries/suspensions to star players, namely quarterbacks, can result in a good team suffering through a bad season – see the 2017 Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers. If you’re going to tell me the Packers are a 7-9 team with Rodgers under center, I’m here to call you crazy.

Simply put, we cannot continue judging a team solely based on their record the previous season. So how should we calculate strength of schedule in the NFL? Projected win totals.

2018 NFL Strength of Scheduled Based on Projected Win Totals

Using Bovada’s 2018 projected win totals, we have come up with our own strength of schedule by adding the projected wins of each team’s 16 opponents this season.

Note: 1 is the most difficult, while 32 denotes the easiest 2018 schedule.

Rank Team Projected Wins of 2018 Opponents at Bovada
1 Arizona Cardinals 135.5
2 New York Giants 133
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 133
4 Washington Redskins 132.5
5 Seattle Seahawks 132
6 Cleveland Browns 131.5
7 Detroit Lions 131.5
8 Los Angeles Rams 131.5
9 New Orleans Saints 131.5
10 Kansas City Chiefs 131
11 Buffalo Bills 130
12 Chicago Bears 130
13 Dallas Cowboys 130
14 Minnesota Vikings 130
15 Philadelphia Eagles 129.5
16 Carolina Panthers 129
Rank Team Projected Wins of 2018 Opponents at Bovada
17 Atlanta Falcons 128.5
18 Denver Broncos 128.5
19 Miami Dolphins 128
20 Cincinnati Bengals 127.5
21 Indianapolis Colts 127.5
22 Tennessee Titans 127.5
23 Jacksonville Jaguars 127
24 Pittsburgh Steelers  127
25 Baltimore Ravens 126.5
26 San Francisco 49ers  126.5
27 Green Bay Packers 126
28 New York Jets 126
29 Oakland Raiders 124.5
30 Los Angeles Chargers 123.5
31 New England Patriots 122.5
32 Houston Texans 121.5

The Texans still have it the easiest, but you will notice some major differences from how others are calculating strength of schedule.

For example, the Green Bay Packers are said to have the toughest 2018 schedule based on the combined 2017 records of their opponents. But in our method, you’ll see they actually have the fifth-easiest schedule heading into the 2018 NFL season.

Why Using Projected Win Totals for Strength of Schedule is More Accurate

Sure, online betting sites can be awfully generous in handing out wins to each team, and can be influenced by where the money is going, but there is still an accurate hierarchy established in their projected win totals.

The 2018 Buffalo Bills are a great example of why using projected win totals to calculate strength of schedule is much more appropriate than last year’s record. If we were judging Buffalo by last year alone, they’d be counted as a very respectable 9-7 team.

Quarterback 2017 Record 2017 TDs:INTs 2017 Passer Rtg
Tyrod Taylor 8-6 7:2 89.2
Nathan Peterman 1-1 2:5 38.4

However, the Bills traded QB Tyrod Taylor in the offseason, and will enter 2018 with one of AJ McCarron, Nathan Peterman, or Josh Allen under center. Buffalo should not be viewed as a nine-win team. Their 6.5 projected wins at Bovada are much closer to what they’ll actually be this coming season.

Another example is the 2018 Houston Texans. Only getting six starts out of Deshaun Watson before he tore his ACL, and missing JJ Watt (among others) for 11 games resulted in the 2017 Texans posting an awful 4-12 record.

[W]ith both [Deshaun Watson and JJ Watt] expected back in 2018, it would be foolish to view Houston as a four-win team

But with both of those players expected back in 2018, it would be foolish to view Houston as a four-win team. Regarding them as a 9.5-win team like BetOnline does is much more accurate.

How Can Strength of Schedule Help You as a Bettor?

No offseason NFL bets should be made before at least considering strength of schedule. Whether you’re betting Super Bowl Futures, team win totals, player awards, or even a prop as obscure as the first head coach to be fired, strength of schedule is going to play a major role.

An easy regular season schedule is likely to lead to a higher-seed come playoff time. And with four of the last five Super Bowls having been played by the top seeds in each conference, it’s clear that home field advantage is significant in the postseason.

Pairing this accurate strength of schedule information with our helping hand in finding the best win totals odds is a recipe for success.

Year NFL MVP Team Record
2017 Tom Brady 13-3
2016 Matt Ryan 11-5
2015 Cam Newton 15-1
2014 Aaron Rodgers 12-4
2013 Peyton Manning 13-3

When it comes to player awards, the average number of regular season wins for the last five NFL MVPs is 12.8. So once you have narrowed down your list of potentials for the MVP, it would be wise to consult which of your candidates face easy/difficult schedules, since they’ll likely need to win at least 12 games to take home the honor.

Offensive Rookie of the Year doesn’t carry as strong of a correlation to regular season wins as MVP, but the last two OROY winners have come from 11 and 13-win teams.

Now that you have all this information, all that’s left is to figure out which of our top betting sites is right for you, so you can engage in some offseason wagering.

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After receiving a bachelor's degree in communications, Matt spent two years with Rogers TV as a host, producer, and play-by-play commentator. He has been with us since 2016 and serves as SBD's editor-in-chief and sports betting expert.