Analysts love to predict schedule strength before the season starts, and Football Outsiders is no different. But we know that schedule strength looks a lot different once some games have been played. We also know schedule strength plays a big role in deciding who gets into the NFL playoffs. Playoff races for the stretch run look a lot different when you know which teams are playing tough schedules and which teams have it easy.
For this article, we've gone through and analyzed each team's schedule both in the games so far (Weeks 1-8) and in the games to come (Weeks 9-17) based on Football Outsiders DVOA ratings (explained here). We're using a version of our DVOA ratings that still incorporates a little bit of our preseason projection, but most of the ratings we're using are based on 2019 performance. (This year's performance is 85% of the rating for teams with eight games and 75% for teams with seven games.) Our numbers also include adjustments for changes in quarterback situations, both in the future ratings and the past ratings. For example, the Chiefs are considered an easier team to play last week and this week because of the injury to Patrick Mahomes.
As we did before the season began, we've also made small adjustments based on a couple of important situations. All numbers are adjusted for home, road or neutral-site games, which is important because teams aren't all playing the same number of remaining home games. Opponents get a small adjustment if they are coming off a bye week, and a smaller adjustment if they are coming off a "half-bye" (Thursday night game). We've also given a small penalty to teams playing on the road on Thursday nights. These adjustments don't count if both teams are coming off the same amount of rest (i.e., both playing consecutive games off the bye week).
We're also going to take a look at schedules in terms of fantasy football scoring, analyzing which defenses have done the best preventing points at each position with small adjustments for home and away. We'll list some of the teams on the extremes below. When we rank fantasy schedules, we're adjusting for playoffs by removing Week 17 and doubling the value of Weeks 14-16. Here are all 32 teams ranked in order from hardest projected remaining schedule to the easiest:
Adjusted DVOA of remaining opponents: 11.5%
Adjusted DVOA of past opponents: -1.0% (20)
In the preseason, we had the Bears ranked with the third-toughest schedule in the league this year. With updated numbers, we have them with the second-toughest schedule overall, and that schedule is heavily slanted toward the second half of the year. The Bears have five road games remaining, including trips to play the Eagles, Rams, Packers and Vikings. Chicago's final four opponents are all currently in the DVOA top six. Things will look particularly bad for the Chicago defense, as only the Chargers play a tougher remaining slate of opposing offenses.