Schedule strength means a lot when it comes to determining who gets a postseason berth in the NFL. An easy schedule didn't hand Miami a playoff spot, but it was a big reason the Dolphins went 10-6 despite rating as an average team by Football Outsiders DVOA ratings. Difficult schedules helped doom Philadelphia, Washington and Denver to tee times in January instead of a trip to the postseason. So it's important to know which teams are going to get a schedule boost in 2017.
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 that account for preseason injuries and suspensions. These projections account for the Ezekiel Elliott suspension lowering the strength of the Cowboys for six games, although they do not attempt to predict the length of Andrew Luck's injury or Aaron Donald's holdout.
Of course, the strongest projected schedule for 2017 is only about half as strong as the hardest schedule from 2016, 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 team. No, not even the Jets.
Here are all 32 teams ranked in order from the hardest projected schedule to the easiest:
Average DVOA of 2017 opponents: 3.2 percent
Hardest schedule stretch: Weeks 13-15 (at Seahawks, at Rams, at Giants)
The entire month of December is difficult for the Eagles. After a three-game road trip featuring two 2016 playoff teams, their final two games are at home, but against two more 2016 playoff teams: Oakland and Dallas. In fact, the four hardest schedules in the league this year all belong to the NFC East. Those teams have six games against each other; all four teams ranked in the top 10 in DVOA last season and are projected in the top 16 for 2017. Each team also plays four games against the AFC West, the other candidate for toughest division in the NFL.