The NFL Strength-of-Schedule Fallout
It’s that time of year! No not Christmas, it’s the time of year when the NFL tries to host a special releasing their schedule and the entire thing gets leaked the day of. It is our first chance to sit down and plot out our team’s chances. The first day to look for the easy win streaks or in some cases the absolutely brutal stretches (Wes did a great job breaking these down here is a link). Let’s take a few minutes and look at the surprises and easiest paths for the teams in the chart below.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I know… I know, the defending Super Bowl champions have the easiest strength of schedule. This is a bit of a departure from previous trends. I think this points more to their division than anything else, at this point 6 games against the free-falling Saints, rebuilding Panthers, and the rudderless Falcons would be a welcome sight for anyone. The Bucs also have managed to bring back almost everyone, and look primed for another deep playoff run with the golden boy at the helm.
New England Patriots
What is going on in New England? Sith Lord Bill Belichik went on a surprising spending spree in free agency. They had Mac Jones fall to them at 15 and looked prepared to make serious strides after getting back six defensive players that opted out in 2020 due to the pandemic. They are looking up at the Buffalo Bills in the division, but if we have learned anything about the Pats it’s to never count them out.
The Colts landed Kwity Paye in this year’s draft, more importantly, they believe they have found the quarterback of the future in Carson Wentz. The reunion between Frank Reich and Wentz has felt like it has been in the making since Jalen Hurts took a snap in Philadelphia last year. Wentz was an MVP front runner befogging tearing his ACL in 2017 with Reich at the helm. IF and it is a big IF Carson can get to 80% of his 2017 form the Colts look to be in a position to climb atop the AFC South and make some noise in the postseason.
Dallas was able to add to their defense in this year’s draft, Replacing Sean Lee that is stepping away from the game. The biggest question with the Cowboys is what do they look like when Dak returns, is he the same? Jerry Jones thinks so, he made him the 4th highest-paid athlete in the world this offseason. We know their division was the worst in the NFL last year. The path is there, and we know their huge fanbase is hungry for a return to glory.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs slot in at 25th this year. They most certainly have the talent to overcome a tough schedule but the contrast between them and their super bowl competitor from last year is stark. They rebuilt their offensive line on the fly this offseason which can always cause problems, but when number 15 is lining up under center you always have a chance.