2011 NFL schedule strength: Past and future

The San Francisco 49ers' division rivals are playing tougher schedules than anticipated, thanks largely to the 49ers' 8-1 record.

How to read the chart:

  • The second column shows projected 2011 full-season schedule strength and rankings, hardest to easiest, using records from last season. For example, the St. Louis Rams' opponents won 47.7 percent of their games last season. That gave the Rams the 26th-toughest projected schedule heading into the season.

  • The third column shows schedule strengths for Weeks 1-10 based on current records for games played this season. For example, the Rams' opponents so far have won 54.9 percent of their games, fifth-highest percentage in the league. This includes games against the Rams. The 49ers' opponents have a lower winning percentage in part because those teams are a combined 1-8 against the 49ers. The Cardinals' 3-6 record against an even easier schedule reflects poorly on them.

  • The fourth column shows projected schedule strength for remaining regular-season games based on current records for those teams. The Rams, after playing the fifth-toughest schedule to this point, play the third-toughest one from this point forward. Two games against the 49ers affect the numbers. The Seattle Seahawks, after playing the toughest schedule to this point in the season, play the 28th-toughest from this point forward, thanks to two games against the Rams and one against the Cardinals. They already played the 49ers once, another difference.

  • The final column combines totals for the previous two columns. From this, we see that the Rams are expected to play the second-toughest schedule overall -- much tougher than anticipated using 2010 records. The Seahawks are projected to play the ninth-toughest schedule, also more difficult than anticipated. The 49ers schedule projects as slightly easier from a percentage standpoint, but in the same slot from a ranking standpoint -- 30th toughest.

Of course, when teams play one another can matter most.

2011 NFL Schedule Strength