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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.

This is how we should be calculating SOS.

Note: 1 is the most difficult, while 32 denotes the easiest 2020 schedule.

2020 NFL SOS Based on Win Totals

Rank Team Projected Wins of 2020 Opponents
1 Houston Texans 134
2 Atlanta Falcons 133.5
3 New York Jets 133
4 Denver Broncos 132.5
5 Las Vegas Raiders 132.5
6 New York Giants 132.5
7 New Orleans Saints 132
8 Washington Redskins 132
9 Green Bay Packers 131.5
10 Miami Dolphins 131.5
11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 131.5
12 Arizona Cardinals 131
13 Buffalo Bills 131
14 Cincinnati Bengals 131
15 Carolina Panthers 130.5
16 Seattle Seahawks 130.5
17 Dallas Cowboys 129.5
18 Los Angeles Rams 129.5
19 Philadelphia Eagles 129.5
20 San Francisco 49ers 129.5
21 Baltimore Ravens 129
22 Chicago Bears 129
23 Detroit Lions 129
24 Jacksonville Jaguars  129
25 Minnesota Vikings 129
26 New England Patriots  129
27 Tennessee Titans 128.5
28 Los Angeles Chargers 128
29 Indianapolis Colts 127.5
30 Kansas City Chiefs 127.5
31 Pittsburgh Steelers 127.5
32 Cleveland Browns 126.5

Using 2020 NFL 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.

For the second straight season, the Texans face the most difficult schedule in the league. It is, however, lighter than last year, when their opponents combined for 138.5 wins. The Browns, on the other hand, will again have one of the easiest schedules in the league.

Why Using Our Strength of Schedule Method is More Accurate

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.

Sure, online betting sites can be influenced by where the money is going, but their win totals still at least reflect the current team, not the past one.

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 2017 alone, they would have been counted as a very respectable 9-7 team.

However, the Bills traded QB Tyrod Taylor in the offseason, and entered 2018 with AJ McCarron and Josh Allen under center. Buffalo should not have been viewed as a nine-win team.

Their 6.5 projected wins at Bovada were a much closer projection to what they actually were: a 6-win team.

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.

But with both of those players back in 2018, they posted an 11-5 record. Regarding them as a 9.5-win team like sportsbooks suggested was much closer to the team they were.

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, NFL 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 each of the last seven Super Bowls consisting of one of the top two seeds in each conference, it’s clear that home field advantage is significant in the postseason.

Past NFL MVP Winners

Year NFL MVP Team Record
2019 Lamar Jackson 14-2
2018 Patrick Mahomes 12-4
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
2012 Adrian Peterson 10-6
2011 Aaron Rodgers 15-1
2010 Tom Brady 14-2

When it comes to player awards, the average number of regular season wins for the last ten NFL MVPs is 12.9.

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.


Archived NFL Strength of Schedule: 2019, 2018

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After receiving a bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Ottawa ('15), 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.