2024 NFL Schedule Release Day: Strength Of Schedule Based On Opponent Win Totals

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Written By Brett Gibbons | Last Updated
nfl strength of schedule

While the order of opponents will be revealed during the NFL Schedule Release show tonight, the teams on the schedule are already known. Strength of schedule is an important, yet nebulous, tool when forecasting NFL win totals and futures. Every source seems to have its own ranking of schedules, and that’s because almost every source measures it in a different way. Some use power rating, some use their own expected win total, and some unwisely use last year’s win number.

But what about using sportsbook’s own forecasting tools?

Last year using this metric, only one of the six teams with the most difficult strength of schedule improved their record (Dolphins) and only one of the bottom four finished with less wins than the year prior. Of course, multiple factors determine wins – for instance, the Jets failed to improve on their record likely due to the Aaron Rodgers injury and the Vikings naturally regressed from an outlier 2022 – but SoS played its part.

So, consider the following teams your regression and progression candidates for this season. Scroll to the bottom of the article for the full NFL strength of schedule ranking.

Hardest NFL Strength of schedule


Interestingly, most of the teams below don’t lose major pieces that hint at regression, the notable exception being Minnesota. Non-injury regression to these teams below would be majorly schedule-induced.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Up front: this schedule draw for the Steelers is downright brutal. Pittsburgh brought in a big name at QB this offseason, Russell Wilson, but looking at recent form suggests Wilson is marginal upgrade from Kenny Pickett. Wilson’s 7.8 average depth of target (aDOT) just nudged out Pickett’s (7.5) and his pressure-to-sack ratio was significantly worse (20.6% vs. 16.9%). Justin Fields also joins the roster but doesn’t project to start right away.

Will Mike Tomlin finally suffer a sub-.500 record? The scheduling gods will at least try, with games at Philadelphia and versus the Chiefs and Cowboys on tap. Playing in the NFL’s arguably toughest division also doesn’t help. However, Tomlin still holds a 19-11 record (.633) against division opponents over the last five seasons.

New England Patriots

Another result of playing in a tough division is rookie Drake Maye and new coach Jerrod Mayo experience baptism by fire. The Patriots draw San Francisco and Cincinnati on the road, plus their usual trips to Buffalo, Miami, and the New York Jets. At home, they play the Texans, Rams, and Chargers – all teams expected to be contending for playoff spots this season.

But the story goes just beyond the opposing win totals. New England plays a vicious cast of athletic quarterbacks, including Josh Allen, C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, Caleb Williams, and Kyler Murray. Other QBs on slate include Justin Herbert, Aaron Rodgers, and Joe Burrow. There’s a chance the Patriots defense finishes near the bottom of the league metrically and it may have little to do with their skill level.

Minnesota Vikings

Welcome back to SoS hell, Minnesota. Last year, the Vikings drew one of the league’s toughest schedules, coming off 13 wins. This year, they draw one of the toughest schedules thanks to an improving NFC North and playing the NFC West. Like Maye, rookie J.J. McCarthy won’t have a minute to get acclimated to the pros.

Rather than a cast of difficult opposing QBs, the Vikings draw a murderer’s row of defenses, including the 49ers, Jets, and Falcons (all top-12 EPA defenses last year). The Lions, Bears, and Packers all made notable additions defensively, as well. The Vikings invested over $60M themselves to improve a defense that ranked 17th in EPA per play.

Not factored into the raw SoS number, Minnesota will be racking up frequent flier miles. The Vikings have two trips to the West Coast (Seattle, Los Angeles), and one to Jacksonville.

Houston Texans

The only thing more likely to put a wet blanket on the Texans‘ fire than a Stroud sophomore slump is the schedule draw. Finishing first in the division has its drawbacks, namely, drawing a first-place schedule. The Texans play other division winners like Baltimore, Dallas, and Kansas City. Houston also faces the entire NFC North and AFC East, two rising divisions.

But the Texans best not look too far beyond their own AFC South. The Colts are certain to be interesting, returning now-sophomore Richardson, and the Jaguars remain a constant threat. Houston draws five of the top eight defenses in EPA from last season, three of those on the road.

Easiest NFL strength of schedule


Right off the bat, there’s some pretty obvious progression candidates. Outside of their schedule, the Falcons and Bears get new QBs. The Bengals, Chargers, and Jets return star QBs from injury. But having the easiest schedules in the league make these teams even more interesting to make larger jumps in wins.

Atlanta Falcons

At least Terry Fontenot won’t be caught a liar in 2024. Coupled with Kirk Cousins, drawing the league’s easiest schedule means the Falcons won’t be drafting early in 2025. For the past several seasons, the NFC South has been the NFL’s weakest division. Carolina is a tire fire, New Orleans is trying to make the most out of an aging and average roster, and Tampa Bay lost a bunch of veteran talent this offseason.

This year, Atlanta plays the AFC West and NFC East – half the teams of which could be atrocious – and youngster QBs in Bo Nix (Broncos), J.J. McCarthy (Vikings), and Jayden Daniels (Commanders, twice). A large part of what made its defense strong last year returns. The Falcons finished fifth in success rate allowed (39.9%) and 10th in pressure rate (23%) despite an average blitz rate.

The Falcons could be poised for a serious jump in wins.

Los Angeles Chargers

Returning Justin Herbert from injury will be the No. 1 cause for an improved record in 2023. Other factors include playing the second-easiest schedule in the NFL and addition of Jim Harbaugh as head coach. Last year was a certified disaster for the Bolts, who started, checks notes, North Dakota State great Easton Stick for the final five games of the year. Shockingly, the Chargers went 0-5 in those games.

Despite playing Kansas City twice and drawing the AFC North, the Chargers have a lot of winnable games. Likely, they’ll be favored in tilts against at least 10 opponents. While the top of this schedule is extremely difficult, the bottom is among the easiest collection of opponents possible in the NFL.

However, given a paltry 9-21 record against AFC West opponents since 2019 (.300) could spell fewer wins than expected for the Bolts.

New York Jets

Like L.A., the top reason the Jets improve on their seven wins from last year is returning Aaron Rodgers. After Rodgers went down to an Achilles injury on his opening drive, the Jets started four QBs. Zero of those players remain on the roster (Zach Wilson, Trevor Siemian, Brett Rypien, Tim Boyle) and only one has hope of playing a snap without injury help in 2024.

Finishing third in the AFC North last year has its benefits. The Jets draw Denver, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh among third-place wild card finishers. They take on the NFC West and AFC South, handling Houston, Seattle, and the Los Angeles Rams at home. The cast of opposing defenses certainly could be worse, playing none of the top six EPA defenses from last year and just two from the top 10 (Pittsburgh, San Francisco).

Chicago Bears

No. 1 overall draft pick Caleb Williams could certainly do worse with his first slate of NFL opponents. He faces five of the bottom seven defenses in EPA from last year, all of which project to be near the bottom again this year. The Jags and the Rams project to regress defensively this year, as well. Although everybody in the NFC North appears to be on the upswing, the non-division draw is extremely favorable.

Road trips to Lambeau, Detroit, and San Francisco pose a difficult task for Williams, but he also draws lackluster Arizona and Washington. The Bears made a serious push for this coming season. They added weapons in Keenan Allen, D’Andre Swift, and Rome Odunze while making a concerted effort to improve the offensive line.

NFL Strength of Schedule Rankings

Win totals below are pulled from DraftKings Sportsbook and are accurate as of May 6. “Average” refers to average opposing win totals on the schedule.