The 2016 Strength of Schedule

The 2016 Strength of Schedule by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator & Doug Bowles

The 2016 NFL Schedule has recently been released, and with it comes every team’s new 2016 Strength of Schedule, which is is based on the win-loss records of their opponents. Football fans everywhere are scanning the calendar to see how “easy or difficult” it will be for their favorite teams in the upcoming season.

More often than not however, good teams have good seasons regardless of their schedules, and bad teams have bad seasons, so it may be unproductive to consider. I also believe that it is a flawed system for determining a “2016 Strength of Schedule”. In 2015, Washington won the NFC East, with Dallas in the basement with a 4-12 record. Was Washington the better team in 2015, or did Dallas have a losing season because QB Tony Romo was injured for most of the season? We know the answer is the latter. So Dallas was given an “easier” schedule ultimately based on an injury, and not necessarily because the NFL is trying it’s best to maintain a competitive balance within the league.

As I noted in February of this year, this report often doesn’t usually end up meaning much for NFL teams or for fantasy football when it’s all in the books at the end of a season.

If the “Strength of Schedule” actually is significant, it doesn’t show from the wins and losses recorded by NFL teams in 2015.

#32 (hardest)…PITTSBURGH………..10-6
#31 (hardest)…CINCINNATI…………12-4
#29 (hardest)…SEATTLE…………….10-6
#28 (hardest)…ARIZONA…………….13-3
#25 (hardest)…KANSAS CITY……….11-5
#23 (hardest)…DENVER………..……12-4
#21 (hardest)….MINNESOTA………..11-5

#10 (easiest)…PHILADELPHIA……….7-9
#9 (easiest)…DALLAS………………….4-8
#8 (easiest)…JACKSONVILLE……….5-11
#7 (easiest)…TENNESSEE………..…..3-13
#5 (easiest)…NEW ORLEANS………..7-9
#2 (easiest)…INDIANAPOLIS…….….8-8
#1 (easiest)…ATLANTA………………..8-8

NFL Playoffs – In 2015, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati had the 1st and 2nd hardest schedule respectively. As you know, these 2 teams went to the post-season.

LOOKING AT 2016-

#32 (hardest)…SAN FRANCISCO
#31 (hardest)…ATLANTA
#30 (hardest)…LA RAMS
#29 (hardest)…NEW ORLEANS
#28 (hardest)…SEATTLE
#27 (hardest)…TAMPA BAY

San Francisco is likely to have a terrible 2016 NFL season, and although their schedule doesn’t help any, they are going to lose because they aren’t very good. ( They will also lose because I believe Chip Kelly was the wrong man to hire as the 49er’s new head coach.) As for the rest of these teams, only Seattle had a winning season in 2015, and everyone of them would prefer an easy “Strength of Schedule” whether there is a debate about it’s significance or not.

#9 (easiest)…CINCINNATI
#8 (easiest)…DETROIT
#7 (easiest)…DALLAS
#5 (easiest)…CHICAGO
#2 (easiest)…NEW YORK GIANTS
#1 (easiest)…GREEN BAY

On the other side of the 2016 Strength of Schedule, Green Bay is likely to have a terrific 2016 NFL season, and although their schedule does help, they are going to win many games because they are a very good team.

FANTASY FOOTBALL – “Strength of Schedule” also doesn’t seem to matter in fantasy football. One would think that if a team has a very difficult schedule, then scoring would be more difficult. Not true! The Arizona Cardinals, with the #28 (hardest) Schedule was tops in the NFL in scoring points ( 489). Seattle (423), and Pittsburgh (423) also had tougher schedules while scoring in the top 10 of NFL teams for points in 2015.

For individual fantasy football players, the 2016 Strength of Schedule isn’t worth the trouble of considering. Examine the following inconsistencies….

The #1 WR for 2015 was PITT WR Antonio Brown- (The hardest) 2015 Strength of Schedule.  

The #2 WR for 2015 was ATL WR Julio Jones- (The easiest) 2015 Strength of Schedule.  

 

3 of the top 7 Running backs for 2015 had the (hardest) of 2015 Strength of Schedules.  

2 of the top 3 Running backs for 2015 had the (easiest) of 2015 Strength of Schedules.  

 

As for Quarterbacks– None of the 4 QBs with the (easiest) of Strength of Schedules for 2015…made it into the top 12 rankings for last season.

 

So, going into this 2016 season, I will ignore the “2016 Strength of Schedule” and I will concentrate on what really matters…the “2016 Strength of Talent”.