NFL schedule 2014: How much does offseason strength of schedule matter?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

On paper, the Colts have the easiest 2014 schedule. History tells us that may not mean much come January.

The top spot on the NFL mountain has been an ever-evolving place during the last decade with eight teams winning Super Bowls in the last 10 years and no team holding the crown as Super Bowl champion for more than a year at a time. While there has been plenty of movement at the top of the food chain, the NFL evolves significantly from top-to-bottom on a year-to-year basis.

A few teams have been perennial contenders like New England and Green Bay while a few others have remained doormats, sorry Cleveland and Oakland fans. The majority of the league, however, fluctuates from season-to-season. The Seattle Seahawks are currently at the top of the league, but were just a 7-9 afterthought three years ago. The Chiefs wen't 2-14 in 2012, only to rebound with an 11-5 season last year. The Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons were trendy Super Bowl picks a year ago and now both will pick in the top six of the NFL Draft.

The drastic, and often unforeseen, changes from one season to the next makes offseason strength of schedule much ado about nothing. Sure, some teams who we think will be good will actually be good and some we think will be bad will in fact be bad. But, how many fans looked at the 2013 NFL schedule on release day and thought "oh my team plays the Texans, that will be a tough game." At the same time, many probably put a big W next to the Chiefs, when forecasting their teams' projected win/loss record.

It's easy to look at the schedule and think a team is doomed because of a murders row of opponents or think another team has it made because of a perceived soft schedule. But, in April, that doesn't mean much. The Carolina Panthers had the toughest strength of schedule last year and they went on to win 12 games. The Texans had the sixth-easiest, prompting many to assume they'd coast into the playoffs. They won two games and ended up playing the second-hardest schedule in the NFL. Of the teams projected to play the six hardest schedules last season, only one faced a top five schedule while two of the six played schedules ranked 29th or worse.

The NFL schedule release is a thing now, and forecasting the season is a natural result, but when doing it, remember, offseason strength of schedule isn't always what it's cracked up to be.

Team

Projected SOS

Actual SOS

Opponent 2012 winning percentage

Opponent 2013 winning percentage

Change

Carolina Panthers

1

17

0.543

0.494

-0.049

St. Louis Rams

2

4

0.539

0.551

0.012

New Orleans Saints

2

10

0.539

0.516

-0.023

Detroit Lions

2

29

0.539

0.457

-0.082

Baltimore Ravens

5

21

0.535

0.484

-0.051

Green Bay Packers

6

30

0.533

0.453

-0.080

Arizona Cardinals

7

5

0.520

0.531

0.011

Miami Dolphins

7

6

0.520

0.523

0.003

San Francisco 49ers

7

17

0.520

0.494

-0.026

Minnesota Vikings

10

13

0.516

0.512

-0.004

Seattle Seahawks

10

19

0.516

0.490

-0.026

Jacksonville Jaguars

12

14

0.508

0.504

-0.004

Cincinnati Bengals

12

24

0.508

0.480

-0.028

New England Patriots

12

25

0.508

0.473

-0.035

Atlanta Falcons

15

3

0.504

0.553

0.049

Chicago Bears

16

28

0.502

0.465

-0.037

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

17

1

0.500

0.574

0.074

Washington Redskins

18

10

0.498

0.516

0.018

Pittsburgh Steelers

19

26

0.492

0.516

0.024

New York Jets

19

20

0.496

0.488

-0.008

Philadelphia Eagles

19

30

0.496

0.453

-0.043

Cleveland Browns

22

10

0.492

0.469

-0.023

Tennessee Titans

23

14

0.488

0.504

0.016

New York Giants

24

8

0.480

0.520

0.040

Dallas Cowboys

24

21

0.480

0.484

0.004

Houston Texans

26

2

0.473

0.559

0.086

Buffalo Bills

26

10

0.473

0.520

0.047

Kansas City Chiefs

26

32

0.473

0.445

-0.028

Oakland Raiders

29

8

0.469

0.523

0.054

Indianapolis Colts

30

21

0.461

0.484

0.023

San Diego Chargers

31

16

0.457

0.496

0.039

Denver Broncos

32

26

0.430

0.469

0.039

More from SBNation.com

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.