There are many unknowns surrounding professional football. While strength of schedule at the start of a season can look completely different from preseason projections, they are usually solid as a whole. In the end, Las Vegas knows what they’re doing. What teams project to possess the easiest and most difficult schedules in the NFL in 2023?
For our projections, PFN accounted for travel distance, home and away distribution, expected weather, and more.
Who Has the Easiest Strength of Schedule in the NFL?
Our projections believe the New Orleans Saints have the easiest strength of schedule for the 2023 NFL season. Playing in the NFC South is their gift. It is likely the weakest division in the NFL overall, giving them a lenient slate against divisional rivals. It also does not hurt that they appear to be the strongest team in the South for 2023 despite finishing third in the division a season ago.
But their schedule resembles a privileged young child with a late-January birthday who also celebrates Hanukkah and Christmas. The gifts keep on giving. The AFC side of their schedule could hardly be easier. The AFC South rivals its NFC counterpart as the worst division in the NFL, adding to their easy schedule.
Who Has the Hardest Strength of Schedule in the NFL?
Our estimates hand the New York Giants the most difficult strength of schedule for the 2023 NFL Season. The NFC East might not be the best division in the league, but it isn’t far behind. The Commanders’ defense finished strong last season, while the Cowboys and Eagles both resemble NFC title contenders.
Road games against the 49ers, Bills, and Dolphins won’t make for an easy … road … toward improving on their shockingly productive 2022 season.
Which NFL Division Has the Hardest Combined Schedule?
Using our projections of point differential, the AFC East collectively has the most difficult schedule among all divisions. The Dolphins and Bills each hold the potential to post top-10 efficiency numbers on each side of the ball when healthy. The Jets’ only issue a season ago came at QB — Aaron Rodgers fixes that.
Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have been left for dead, but that makes very little sense from the outside looking in. Calling their offense a dumpster fire in 2022 would be disrespectful to dumpster fires worldwide.
Adding a legitimate offensive coordinator to the mix should drastically improve that offense by default — even while lacking the presence of a true No. 1 WR.
The AFC East must also face the NFC East, which is likely, at worst, the third-strongest division in the NFL.
Ranking All 32 NFL Teams by Strength of Schedule
1) New York Giants
Between their divisional opponents and games against the 49ers, Seahawks, Dolphins, Bills, Jets, and Saints, there is a chance that the Giants could end up being a better team in 2023 but finish with a worse record.
2) New York Jets
The Jets’ schedule would theoretically make winning the AFC East nearly impossible if it wasn’t for their three divisional opponents all falling in spots consecutively below them.
3) New England Patriots
The Patriots have been essentially written off in 2023 in light of their schedule and the division’s strength. However, New England had a rough schedule in 2022 and still won eight games despite their offensive woes.
4) Buffalo Bills
The greatest drop in playoff probability as a result of schedule idiosyncrasies belongs to the Bills, who go from 11.6 estimated wins to 10.9 solely because of their schedule. A neutral-site game in London could hurt them even more.
5) Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins have the second-largest difference in away schedule strength from their home schedule strength.
6) Philadelphia Eagles
Many of the Eagles’ “easier” games come on the road in 2023. But a consistent rushing attack can take the air from an opposing crowd quickly.
7) Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have a ton of uncertainty on their roster given that they have more rookies under contract than any other team.
The Rams roster more rookies than any team in the NFL by a large margin. They’re also stuck facing the NFC East, the AFC North, and the New Orleans Saints.
8) Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers receive a reprieve facing the non-Chiefs AFC West teams and the NFC North. But they also face the AFC East and the Dallas Cowboys.
9) Dallas Cowboys
Since Dak Prescott took over as the starter in 2016, the Cowboys are 30-12 against the NFC East. But the Cowboys haven’t had to face such a well-rounded division in that time. Facing the AFC East won’t make things any easier for Dallas.
10) Washington Commanders
It’s been a long time since the Commanders had serviceable QB play, but they could in 2023. Even if Sam Howell struggles, Jacoby Brissett could potentially lead this team to a playoff birth if the defense performs close to how it did a season ago.
11) Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks surprised everyone outside of the Pacific Northwest in 2022. They won’t sneak up on anybody this season, but with the QB advantage in over half of their games, Seattle should be in position to return to the playoffs.
12) Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals’ roster lacks nearly everything that makes an NFL team tick. Facing the NFC East and AFC North won’t help them escape being a potential Caleb Williams contestant.
13) Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are the only team in the NFL with an estimated win probability over 50% in all of their games.
14) Denver Broncos
Keeping up with the Chiefs and Chargers could be a tall task. However, Denver has a strong defense and a schedule with quite a bit of QB uncertainty.
15) San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have the strongest roster in the NFL. Put another way, if all quarterback performances were set to the same value, the 49ers would have the strongest projected season-long performance.
16) Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders’ strength of schedule is not grueling. However, there are few weeks on the calendar we can circle and say that Las Vegas undoubtedly has the QB advantage. And with a defense that ranked 30th in EPA a season ago, things might get ugly.
17) Cincinnati Bengals
Teams that are projected to be the strongest inside their own division do not often also have the strongest schedule in their division because they do not have to play themselves. But the Eagles, Jaguars, and Bengals all top their rivals for the most difficult schedule within the division.
18) Minnesota Vikings
A season ago, the Vikings’ expected wins fell at 8.4, but they won 13 with a negative point differential. And it’s hard to argue that they got better during the offseason.
19) Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh is closer to repeating its 2022 performance than any other team and has one of the smallest estimated differences between its actual point differential in 2022 and projected point differential in 2023.
20) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After New Orleans, Tampa Bay has the second-most “toss-up” games in the NFC.
21) Baltimore Ravens
Late-season injuries have derailed the Baltimore Ravens in consecutive seasons. With Lamar Jackson, they are undoubtedly a playoff team and likely an AFC contender. But remaining healthy has been a consistent issue for the entire Ravens roster recently.
22) Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have the hardest strength of schedule inside of their own division but only the 22nd-most difficult in the league. Getting to face the AFC and NFC South could propel them into top-seeded territory as the rest of the AFC cannibalizes itself.
23) Cleveland Browns
The Browns have one of the easier schedules in the league and one of the most unknown outcomes. If Deshaun Watson plays close to his 2022 self, the Browns will be a disaster despite having a strong roster. If he plays like he did in Houston, the Browns could be one of the best teams in the AFC.
24) Detroit Lions
The Lions start with two difficult games in 2023, but a run of the Falcons, Packers, Panthers, and Buccaneers could set Detroit up for the division title they’ve been chasing since joining the NFC North.
25) Tennessee Titans
The Titans’ schedule suggests they could be one of only three teams to change course and have a winning record after having a losing season in 2022. However, their offensive depth chart could complicate matters.
26) Chicago Bears
The Bears and Lions have become offseason darlings, but Chicago’s defense is still likely near the bottom of the barrel. They are the only team without a single game giving them better than a 50% chance of winning.
27) Carolina Panthers
Even though Howell is projected to have the widest band of uncertainty as an individual performer, the Panthers are projected to have the biggest difference in their win total as a result of their quarterback’s uncertainty.
28) Houston Texans
The Texans would have had the easiest schedule in the AFC but the International Series changed that, giving the Colts a neutral-site game on what would have been an away contest.
Only an international game keeps the Houston Texans from having the easiest schedule in the NFL.
29) Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis is projected to be the underdog in every single away game.
30) Green Bay Packers
The Packers have the second-friendliest away schedule, behind the Saints.
31) Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have the smallest difference in strength between their strongest and weakest opponent.
32) New Orleans Saints
The Saints have gained one estimated win based solely on the logistics of their schedule.