Ranking the NFL's hardest schedules, from 1-32 – ESPN (blog)

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Schedule strength means a lot when it comes to deciding who earns a postseason berth in the NFL. An easy schedule didn’t hand Tennessee a playoff spot last season, but it was a big reason the Titans went 9-7 despite rating as a below-average team by Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings. On the other hand, difficult schedules helped keep Green Bay and Washington at 7-9 instead of making them wild-card contenders. So it’s important to know which teams will get a schedule boost in 2018.

Football Outsiders’ annual almanac is currently on sale in both PDF and book form. For more information on the book, along with a link to buy it, click here.

Of course, it’s tough to project schedules when we don’t know how good teams will be in the future. We’ve done it here using our projections of Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings, which account for general statistical trends and specific personnel changes. The numbers here come from an updated set of projections as of Sept. 5 that account for preseason injuries and suspensions, plus that big Oakland-Chicago trade involving Khalil Mack.

These schedule projections may not agree with conventional wisdom because the Football Outsiders projections don’t necessarily agree with conventional wisdom. For example, Jacksonville is expected to decline this year, while Indianapolis is expected to be stronger than in 2017. (For more on Football Outsiders’ specific team projections, check out our book Football Outsiders Almanac 2018, available online, before the season begins.)

Of course, the strongest projected schedule for 2018 is only about half as strong as the hardest schedule from 2017, because our team projections are naturally conservative. Going into a new season, no team is guaranteed to be as good as last year’s best team or as bad as last year’s worst

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