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Breaking down strength of schedule by Super Bowl odds, win total, and traditional format

We use three different numbers to look at strength of schedule for the 2020 NFL season.

Atmosphere at the Grand Opening of DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts November 20, 2018 at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Photo by Bill McCay/Getty Images for Draft Kings

The NFL is releasing its 2020 regular season schedule on Thursday, with contingencies expected to be available in case there is a delay to the start of the season. For the time being, the league will release its normal 17-week schedule with September 10th the planned kickoff date.

One common discussion topic throughout the offseason is strength of schedule. Fans will argue about whether or not they have an easy or difficult schedule, with the accompanying complaining when they feel a schedule is unfairly difficult. The problem that has arisen year in and year out is the context for arguing about strength of schedule.

The most common numbers used for comparing SOS is previous year’s win percentage. We know the next year’s full list of opponents when the final regular season game ends thanks to the NFL’s formula for determining opponents. We don’t know anything else at that point, and so the easiest point of data is how every team performed in the just completed season.

However, as the offseason progresses, we get new, valuable points of data that afford us a better view of a team’s schedule. Following the Super Bowl, free agency, trades, and the draft drastically change rosters. Injuries happen that shake up depth charts. And once the schedule is released, we have a better idea of how difficult a schedule is in terms of distance teams need to travel and how many lengthy road trips or homestands a team might have.

There are two sets of numbers we can use to assess what a team’s schedule looks like that might offer more value than previous season’s win percentage: Super Bowl odds and preseason win totals, courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook. Odds are not a perfect prediction for the season, and some will be off by a long shot. But they offer a little more value in trying to look to where things are headed as opposed to where they were.

Odds are not meant to be entirely predictive. Rather, the goal is to get bets spread across the range of odds so as to limit a sportsbook’s exposure. An oddsmaker sets a win total with the hope that the betting public will bet evenly on both sides of it. The house might lose some money, but if they get even amounts on both sides of all the win totals, the house will usually do well for itself.

Below is our look at strength of schedule using the three numbers mentioned above. The win total is a simple case of adding up the win total for each of a given team’s opponents for the coming season.

The Super Bowl odds follow what One Cool Customer regularly does at Blogging The Boys. The team with the best Super Bowl odds gets 1 point, second best gets 2 points, and so forth through the end. We then add those number up for a given team’s list of opponents and divide it by 16 to come up with an average per opponent. Ours differs from Blogging The Boys because they use William Hill odds while we use DraftKings Sportsbook.

The third number is the traditional win percentage from the previous season. You can see that some win percentages are close to Super Bowl odds or the cumulative win totals. Sometimes the win percentage will accurately portend a team’s schedule, but there’s an element of luck to that given how much rosters change.

Using the two types of odds, the Atlanta Falcons have the most difficult schedule in both metrics. Under the regularly used previous season win percentage, Atlanta has the fifth most difficult schedule. Under win totals and Super Bowl odds, the Indianapolis Colts have the easiest schedule. By previous year’s win percentage, the Colts have the 16th ranked schedule. The odds line up fairly well from there, with the New England Patriots holding the most notable split between odds and win totals.

2020 NFL strength of schedule

Teams Win totals Win total rank Super Bowl odds Super Bowl rank Win % Win % rank
Teams Win totals Win total rank Super Bowl odds Super Bowl rank Win % Win % rank
Atlanta Falcons 134.5 1 13.375 1 .525 5
New York Giants 133.5 2 13.4375 2 .482 26
Las Vegas Raiders 132.5 3 14.3125 4 .496 21
New York Jets 132.5 4 14.3125 6 .533 2
Denver Broncos 132 5 14.8125 8 .512 12
Los Angeles Rams 131.5 6 14.3125 5 .516 10
Washington 131.5 7 15 9 .465 28
Carolina Panthers 131 8 14.25 3 .500 18
New Orleans Saints 130 9 14.6875 7 .490 24
Houston Texans 129.5 10 15.0625 10 .518 9
New England Patriots 129.5 11 16.4375 23 .537 1
Arizona Cardinals 128.5 12 15.5 12 .518 8
Cincinnati Bengals 128.5 13 15.625 16 .477 27
Philadelphia Eagles 128.5 14 15.375 11 .486 25
Buffalo Bills 128 15 15.8125 17 .525 6
Green Bay Packers 128 16 15.5 13 .504 15
Miami Dolphins 128 17 16.375 22 .529 3
Jacksonville Jaguars 127.5 18 16.0625 19 .494 22
San Francisco 49ers 127.5 19 15.5 14 .527 4
Seattle Seahawks 127.5 20 15.5625 15 .509 14
Minnesota Vikings 126.5 21 15.8125 18 .516 11
Pittsburgh Steelers 126.5 22 16.875 27 .457 31
Los Angeles Chargers 126 23 17.125 29 .492 23
Baltimore Ravens 125.5 24 16.75 25 .438 32
Dallas Cowboys 125.5 25 16.3125 20 .459 30
Kansas City Chiefs 125.5 26 16.9375 28 .500 19
Chicago Bears 124.5 27 16.5 24 .509 13
Cleveland Browns 124.5 28 17.625 30 .461 29
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 124.5 29 16.8125 26 .502 17
Tennessee Titans 123.5 30 17.6875 31 .498 20
Detroit Lions 123 31 16.3125 21 .525 7
Indianapolis Colts 120.5 32 18.9375 32 .502 16

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