The NFL dropped the
on the field.
What you really care about, though, is which teams got the breaks and which teams got shafted, right? Who has a chance to get off to a hot start with an easy September slate? Who will have the toughest time making a playoff push in December? Because in the end, working your way through the schedule to get to the playoffs is the goal for the regular season.
Below, we’ll go month by month looking at the easiest and toughest schedules, based on last season’s records. We’ll start with the five teams that have a chance to get off to a great start in September.
Los Angeles Rams
The Ravens open the season by traveling to Cincinnati to take on the
, then get the pleasure of playing the
at home and then the
in London. (Note: This game was previously misidentified as a home game.) It’s actually the easiest month any team faces all season. That must be nice. The Steelers have road dates with the Browns and
sandwiched around a home game against the
. The Colts play the Rams on the road, followed by the
and Browns at home. The Panthers head to San Francisco in Week 1, then host the
New Orleans Saints
. The Rams host the Colts and Washington before heading to the Bay to play the
San Francisco 49ers
Meanwhile, here are five teams that could have a tough time getting on track at the start of the season.
- Los Angeles
San Diego Chargers
- Chicago Bears (0.641)
- Arizona Cardinals (0.625)
New York Jets
The Eagles open their season in Washington, travel to Kansas City to take on the
Kansas City Chiefs
and then host the
New York Giants
. The Chargers’ first month in L.A. sees them play a road game against the
and home games against the
and Chiefs. The Bears are one of two teams that play four games in September, and it’s that extra game that makes their opening month even tougher. They play the
, Bucs, Steelers and
Green Bay Packers
, with alternating home and road dates. The Jets play at the Bills and
before hosting the Dolphins.
October is a long month of games, with some teams playing five times and others playing four. Here are the five easiest and most difficult schedules:
- Arizona Cardinals (0.344)
- Philadelphia Eagles (0.363)
- Indianapolis Colts (0.383)
- Minnesota Vikings (0.388)
- Cleveland Browns (0.431)
The Cardinals and Eagles catch a break after their rough September, as they go from having the first- and fourth-toughest schedules to the two easiest slates in the league. The Colts, meanwhile, double up on easy months and have a chance to get off to a great start.
On the other end of the spectrum:
- Los Angeles Chargers (0.719)
- Kansas City Chiefs (0.641)
- Denver Broncos (0.625)
- Buffalo Bills (0.602)
- Green Bay Packers (0.583)
The Chargers might not like the schedule-makers. They start the season with the second-toughest September and follow that up with the hardest October in the NFL, which happens to be the single toughest month any team faces this season. (The slate: Eagles-Giants-Raiders-Broncos-Patriots. Yikes.) This is just an unkind month for the AFC West in general, as the Broncos and Chiefs are on this list as well.
As for November, it’s a month filled with bye weeks, just like October. Some teams play three games, others play four, and one team (the Cowboys) plays five. Here are the five easiest and toughest November schedules.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (0.313)
- Cincinnati Bengals (0.344)
- Arizona Cardinals (0.383)
- Cleveland Browns (0.385)
The Cardinals and Browns are doubling up on easy months in the middle of the season, while the Bengals, Lions and Jags don’t appear on any of our other lists.
The list of toughest November schedules once again features three teams from the AFC West, as well as two other AFC contenders:
- Oakland Raiders (0.688)
- Kansas City Chiefs (0.667)
- Miami Dolphins (0.667)
New England Patriots
- Denver Broncos (0.617)
The Chiefs have the second-toughest schedule in back-to-back months. Their opponents in their October and November games: Washington-Texans-Steelers-Broncos-Cowboys-Giants-Bills. The Broncos follow the third-toughest October slate with the fifth-toughest schedule in November. Their schedule: Raiders-Giants-Chargers-Chiefs-Eagles-Patriots-Bengals-Raiders.
The Patriots play the Dolphins, Raiders and Broncos out of their early-November bye week, and you might notice that all three of those teams also appear on this list. They’re all above-.500 teams that square off this month against a squad that won 14 games last season, so it’s no surprise that they made it onto this list.
Oakland already has the toughest November schedule. but it actually gets even more daunting when you combine it with the start of their December slate. We’ll get there in a second.
First, here are five teams that have a chance to end the season strong. The easiest December schedules (every team plays five December games this season):
- Chicago Bears (0.331)
- San Francisco 49ers (0.350)
- Green Bay Packers (0.413)
The Titans should feel pretty good about making a playoff push. They don’t appear on any of our hardest schedule lists, and they close the season with a Texans-Cardinals-49ers-Rams-Jaguars month. It’s one of the 10 easiest months of the entire season.
By contrast, here are the teams with the toughest close to the season.
- Buffalo Bills (0.700)
- Miami Dolphins (0.638)
- Philadelphia Eagles (0.631)
- Oakland Raiders (0.600)
- New York Giants (0.600)
The Bills, who have the fourth-toughest October, have the hardest closing schedule in the league. They finish up by facing a Patriots-Colts-Dolphins-Patriots-Dolphins final five.
Miami, by the way, appears on both the toughest November and toughest December lists. Their eight-game second half: Raiders-Panthers-BYE-Patriots-Broncos-Patriots-Bills-Chiefs-Bills. YIKES.
The Eagles are the only team with one of the top five toughest opening and closing months. They have a Seahawks-Rams-Giants-Raiders-Cowboys close to the season.
Now, about that Oakland schedule … the Raiders from the start of November through the end of the season: Dolphins-BYE-Patriots-Broncos-Chiefs-Giants-Chiefs-Cowboys-Eagles-Chargers. They get a respite with the final two games, but that post-bye schedule is easily the toughest stretch any team has all season. It just happens to span multiple months.
Here’s a month-by-month look at each team’s strength of schedule, for your perusing pleasure.