<
>
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
Get ESPN+

Early-season NL strength-of-schedule ranks: Tough docket for rebuilding Braves

We broke down the early-season American League schedules Saturday; today we unveil Part 2 of our ranking: National League schedules. These are ranked from toughest to easiest, and they reflect how remarkably polarized the NL will be, with a lot of teams expected to be really good and a lot of teams expected to really struggle.

1. Atlanta Braves

Home cookin':Nineteen of their first 41 games are at home.

Games against teams with a record of .500 or better in 2015: 28 of 41 games.

Notable: Atlanta is rebuilding and everybody knows it, but the first nails might be driven into their 2016 season in the first six weeks because of how many great teams they play. Their first nine games are against the Nationals and Cardinals, and by mid-May, they'll also have three series against the World Series combatants, the Mets and Royals, and they also face the Dodgers, Cubs, Pirates and Diamondbacks. If they are buried early, it actually won't be a bad thing for the front office, which can quickly turn its focus to marketing their veterans -- shortstop Erick Aybar, outfielder Ender Inciarte and maybe others -- for more prospects. Last year, they overachieved early, and it probably complicated some of their decision-making.

2. San Diego Padres

Home cookin': Twenty-five of their first 44 games are at home.

Games against teams with a record of .500 or better in 2015: 28 of their first 44.

Notable: They haven't taken it as far as some other teams, though the Padres have formally acknowledged that they're rebuilding; given the structure of their schedule, they'll probably find out who they are on the field either way. Eighteen of San Diego's first 44 games are against the Dodgers or Giants. Eighteen of 44.