Prepping for the NFL schedule release

We're kinda sorta expecting to see the NFL schedule released sometime early next week, unless of course it isn't. It's probably a safe assumption, though. It will give the NFL a focal point next week before draft hysteria hits during the week of April 23.

We, of course, already know the opponents each team will face. Essentially, the NFC North will face the NFC West and AFC South, in addition to the division schedule. To that end, ESPN has put together a strength of schedule chart ordered by the combined records of each opponent in 2011.

The best way to view this chart is as a measure of a team's standing relative to the rest of its division. The Green Bay Packers have the second-"easiest" schedule in 2012 largely because they don't have to play themselves twice. The Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings' strength of schedules are determined in large part because the Packers represent a 30-2 hit on their opponents' combined record.

The Vikings, Packers and Bears will all play seven "quality opponents" in 2012, while the Lions have six on their schedule. A quality opponent is defined as one with at least nine victories the previous year.