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NFL Draft

Preseason Strength Of Schedule Offers Little Value In Forecasting 2020

  • The Draft Network
  • May 19, 2020
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So your team has a difficult strength of schedule for the year 2020. So what?

Making judgments on team success based on the records from the prior season isn't going to give you the clarity you're hoping for; if anything, it is going to make false promises. 

Each season is a new year and all 32 teams are new — even if they're not. For a team like the Patriots, who on the NFL's toughest 2020 offseason strength of schedule (.537), nothing has to change. There's no surefire kiss of death by knowing the teams on the schedule were good last year.

Here is the 2019 preseason strength of schedule based on the 2018 results, with the NFL’s 2019 playoff field in bold: 

  1. Oakland Raiders (.539)
  2. Denver Broncos (.537)
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars (.531)
  4. Houston Texans (.527)
  5. Chicago Bears (.520)
  6. Kansas City Chiefs (.520)
  7. Indianapolis Colts (.518)
  8. Atlanta Falcons (.518)
  9. Tennessee Titans (.514)
  10. Minnesota Vikings (.512)
  11. San Francisco 49ers (.510)
  12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (.508)
  13. Arizona Cardinals (.508)
  14. Green Bay Packers (.504)
  15. Dallas Cowboys (.504)
  16. Carolina Panthers (.502)
  17. Los Angeles Chargers (.502)
  18. Miami Dolphins (.500)
  19. Pittsburgh Steelers (.496)
  20. Baltimore Ravens (.496)
  21. Detroit Lions (.496)
  22. New Orleans Saints (.488)
  23. Cleveland Browns (.484)
  24. Buffalo Bills (.480)
  25. Seattle Seahawks (.479)
  26. Philadelphia Eagles (.477)
  27. Cincinnati Bengals (.473)
  28. New York Jets (.473)
  29. New York Giants (.473)
  30. Los Angeles Rams (.473)
  31. New England Patriots (.473)
  32. Washington Redskins (.469)

Half of the playoff field came from the top half of difficult forecasted schedules, the other half from the bottom. What's more, of the teams with the 10 projected easiest schedules in the NFL in 2019, five of them picked within the first 11 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. So much for that strength of schedule advantage.

But how did the actual 2019 strength of schedule compare to the pre-season projections? Here is the same list of the pre-season 2019 strength of schedules with the team's actual strength of schedule (SOS) for 2019 italicized:

  1. Oakland Raiders (.539; actual SOS: .482)
  2. Denver Broncos (.537; actual SOS: .510)
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars (.531; actual SOS: .484)
  4. Houston Texans (.527; actual SOS: .520)
  5. Chicago Bears (.520; actual SOS: .508)
  6. Kansas City Chiefs (.520; actual SOS: .510)
  7. Indianapolis Colts (.518; actual SOS: .492)
  8. Atlanta Falcons (.518; actual SOS: .545)
  9. Tennessee Titans (.514; actual SOS: .488)
  10. Minnesota Vikings (.512; actual SOS: .477)
  11. San Francisco 49ers (.510; actual SOS: .504)
  12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (.508; actual SOS: .500)
  13. Arizona Cardinals (.508; actual SOS: .529)
  14. Green Bay Packers (.504; actual SOS: .453)
  15. Dallas Cowboys (.504; actual SOS: .479)
  16. Carolina Panthers (.502; actual SOS: .549)
  17. Los Angeles Chargers (.502; actual SOS: .514)
  18. Miami Dolphins (.500; actual SOS: .484)
  19. Pittsburgh Steelers (.496; actual SOS: .502)
  20. Baltimore Ravens (.496; actual SOS: .494)
  21. Detroit Lions (.496; actual SOS: .506)
  22. New Orleans Saints (.488; actual SOS: .486)
  23. Cleveland Browns (.484; actual SOS: .533)
  24. Buffalo Bills (.480; actual SOS: .461)
  25. Seattle Seahawks (.479; actual SOS: .531)
  26. Philadelphia Eagles (.477; actual SOS: .455)
  27. Cincinnati Bengals (.473; actual SOS: .553)
  28. New York Jets (.473; actual SOS: .473)
  29. New York Giants (.473; actual SOS: .473)
  30. Los Angeles Rams (.473; actual SOS: .535)
  31. New England Patriots (.473; actual SOS: .469)
  32. Washington Redskins (.469; actual SOS: .502)

Imagine being Cincinnati and envisioning the teams you'd play in 2019 were supposed to win 47% of their games, only to find out that they were winning 55% of their games. There's very little consistency between pre-season and actual strength of schedules, so don't stress! 

Little weight should be put into teams’ strength of schedule until they actually know how good their opponents are. And we won't know those answers until we see these teams on the field in 2020 — nothing from the past matters in the here and now.

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