Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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2024 NFL strength of schedule for all 32 teams: Browns, Ravens among hardest; Falcons, Saints have it easiest



If the Cleveland Browns are going to make back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in 35 years, it’s not going to be easy, and that’s because they’ll be facing the NFL’s most difficult strength of schedule in 2024. 

The Browns haven’t made two consecutive playoff appearances since all the way back in 1989, which also happens to be the last time they won a division title. Their playoff appearance that year capped a streak of five straight postseason berths that ran from 1985 through 1989. The Browns will be looking to end that drought in 2024, but based on this year’s strength of schedule, it’s not going to be easy.

Cleveland has a strength of schedule of .547, which not only gives them the most difficult schedule for the upcoming season, but it makes them one of only two teams in the NFL — along with the Baltimore Ravens — that will have a strength of schedule above .535. 

Cleveland’s rough schedule includes 12 games against teams that finished with a winning record last season, which is tied for the most in the NFL. The Browns’ home schedule is especially brutal with five of their eight games coming against teams that made the playoffs last year (Pittsburgh Steelers, Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys). Not to mention, they also have a home game against the Cincinnati Bengals, which means six of Cleveland’s eight home games will come against teams that finished 2023 with a record of .500 or better. 

The second-most difficult schedule belongs to the Ravens, who will face a brutal road schedule this year with games against the Chiefs, Bengals, Browns, Steelers, Houston Texans, Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who all finished the 2023 season with a winning record (the Ravens will also play road games against the New York Giants and Jim Harbaugh’s Los Angeles Chargers). 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints ended up in a tie for easiest strength of schedule at .453 (the Falcons and Saints are the only two teams facing a strength of schedule under .465). The Falcons will only play six playoff teams from 2023 while the Saints will play eight, which makes New Orleans’ schedule feel slightly tougher. 

The good news for the Saints and/or the Falcons is that in each of the past seven years, at least one team playing one of the two easiest schedules has finished with a winning record. Also, in six of the past seven years, at least one team playing one of the two easiest schedules has made the playoffs. 

Although the Falcons and Saints have the least difficult strength of schedule, they won’t have a huge advantage over the other two teams in their division because the Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers also have an easier strength of schedule. Carolina has the fourth-easiest schedule while Tampa Bay’s schedule ranks as the fifth easiest. 

The addition of the 17th game has added some spice to the strength of schedule measurement, and that’s because it means that good teams are now playing more difficult schedules. From 2002 to 2020, the schedule was inherently the same for everyone, whether they were playing a “first-place” schedule or a “last-place” schedule. Each team played four games against a team that finished in first place, four games against teams that finished in second, four games against teams that finished in third and four games against teams that finished in last place. 

With the addition of the 17th game, a first-place team will now play FIVE first-place teams, which means you’re rarely going to see a division winner with an easy schedule. 

Of the eight teams playing a “first-place” schedule in 2024, the Buccaneers have it the easiest, which is notable, because first-place teams have done well in that situation since the NFL switched to a 17-game schedule in 2021. In the three years since then, the first-place team with the easiest “first-place” schedule has finished with a wining record in each season. The Jacksonville Jaguars had the “easiest” first-place schedule in 2023 and they finished 9-8. The Cowboys had the “easiest” first-place schedule in 2022 and they were able to turn that into an 12-5 record. The Buffalo Bills had the “easiest” first-place schedule in 2021 and they finished with a record of 11-6 record. 

If you’re scoring at home, that’s an average of 10.7 wins per season. 

As for teams who are playing a “last-place” schedule this year, the Chicago Bears scored the biggest win as they have the easiest schedule among last-place teams (They’re strength of schedule ranks 29th overall). On the other hand, the New England Patriots, who are also playing a last-place schedule, have the eighth-most difficult schedule in the NFL, which means this could be a rough year for them. 

One team to watch could be the Chargers, who have the easiest strength of schedule in the AFC. They might not make the playoffs, but in Harbaugh’s first year with the team, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them improve by several games over their 2023 record of 5-12. Last year, we wrote that the Texans would be the surprise team to watch out for based on strength of schedule, and we hit the nail on the head. 

The Bengals could also be another team to watch. The Browns, Ravens and Steelers have the three toughest schedules in the NFL this year, but Cincinnati’s schedule ranks just 16th overall with a SOS of .502. The Bengals have the advantage of playing three opponents — Patriots, Tennessee Titans and Panthers — that no other team in the AFC North will face. To put that in perspective, the Ravens’ three opponents that no other AFC North team will face are the Bills, Texans and Buccaneers. On paper, that’s definitely more difficult than Cincinnati’s slate. 

The one thing about strength of schedule is that there’s no perfect way to measure schedule difficulty before the season kicks off. Thanks to injuries and trades, rosters are changing all the time and they will continue to change throughout the season. That being said, strength of schedule does give you a good idea of what your favorite team will be facing in the upcoming season. 

Here are the 2024 strength of schedule rankings for each team (combined 2023 record of all 17 opponents, combined winning percentage). 

1

Browns

158-131

.547

2

Ravens

155-134

.536

3

Steelers

154-135

.533

T-4

Packers

152-137

.526

T-4

Texans

152-137

.526

T-6

Bills

149-140

.516

T-6

Giants

149-140

.516

T-8

Jaguars

148-141

.512

T-8

Raiders

148-141

.512

T-8

Patriots

148-141

.512

11

Lions

147-142

.509

T-12

Cowboys

146-143

.505

T-12

Rams

146-143

.505

T-12

Jets

146-143

.505

T-12

49ers

146-143

.505

T-16

Bengals

145-144

.502

T-16

Chiefs

145-144

.502

T-16

Vikings

145-144

.502

T-16

Commanders

145-144

.502

20

Broncos

143-146

.495

T-21

Colts

142-147

.491

T-21

Eagles

142-147

.491

T-21

Titans

142-147

.491

T-24

Cardinals

141-148

.488

T-24

Dolphins

141-148

.488

T-24

Seahawks

141-148

.488

T-27

Chargers

138-151

.478

T-27

Buccaneers

138-151

.478

T-29

Panthers

135-154

.467

T-29

Bears

135-154

.467

T-31

Saints

131-158

.453

T-31

Falcons

131-158

.453

If you’re curious about the scheduling formula, every team plays 17 games as follows:

  • Home and away against its three division opponents (six games).
  • The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (four games).
  • The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (four games).
  • Two intra-conference games based on the prior year’s standings (two games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions that the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.
  • One interconference game based on the prior year’s standings on a rotating four-year cycle (one game). These games match a first-place team from one division against a first-place team in an opposite conference division that the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place and fourth-place teams in each division are matched in the same way each year. The home conference for this game will rotate each season.

Finally, here’s a link to a list of every home and away opponent that each team will play in 2024. The time and dates of each game will be released sometime in May.





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