Even before the 2013 NFL Season came to its anti-climactic close, we were already set for the 2014 Season. We still don’t know dates or times of any matchup, but we know every team’s opponents for the 2014 Season.
From that data, some have already used 2013 win/loss records to determine each team’s strength of schedule for the 2014 Season. According to the results, the Oakland Raiders have the toughest schedule and the Indianapolis Colts have the easiest.
However, winning percentage isn’t a great predictor for how good a team will be the next year. A better one is a team’s “Pythagorean Projection.” The basic idea is that a team’s points scored and points allowed are better indicators of how that team will do the next year than the team’s winning percentage.
Maybe a team had a great (or terrible) record in close games. Maybe a team recovered a very high (or low) percentage of their fumbles. Maybe a quarterback recorded a crazily high (or low) interception rate thanks to the sure hands (or butterfingers) of opposing defensive backs. These stats tend to regress towards the mean the next year, implying that luck plays a bigger role in the outcome of football games than we might think. (Bill Barnwell explains with evidence here. Go to “Football’s Pythagorean Theorem” further down the page.)
So, here’s the 2014 NFL strength of schedule using Pythagorean “Expected Wins” instead of Games Won.
|Team||Opp Win Pct.||Mean
|Rank||Mean Opp Pyth Wins||Rank||Change|
|St. Louis Rams||0.564||9.02||3||8.99||2||1|
|San Francisco 49ers||0.563||9.01||4||8.93||4||0|
|Kansas City Chiefs||0.559||8.94||7||8.68||7||0|
|San Diego Chargers||0.563||9.01||4||8.57||8||-4|
|New York Jets||0.520||8.32||9||8.23||10||-1|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||0.484||7.74||19||8.18||11||8|
|Green Bay Packers||0.504||8.06||13||8.11||12||1|
|New Orleans Saints||0.469||7.50||23||7.94||15||8|
|New England Patriots||0.516||8.26||10||7.89||16||-6|
|New York Giants||0.465||7.44||26||7.80||17||9|
As you can see, the Oakland Raiders still have the toughest schedule, mostly because of their division. In fact, the top eight are all from the AFC West and NFC West, the NFL’s two best divisions last year.
The Colts, however, are no longer the team with the easiest schedule. That distinction now belongs to the Tennessee Titans. The four easiest schedules, predictably, belong to the four teams in the AFC South.
The biggest jump came from the Baltimore Ravens. They had the 28th most difficult schedule according to record, but moved up ten spots to 18th. They play two games against the Browns, who should have won an extra game or two last year based on their performance. They also play Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Houston, three teams who were better than their records indicated.
The biggest drops came from the Miami Dolphins and the Detroit Lions, whose schedules look a lot scarier using opponent records. Miami plays four games against the Patriots and Jets, who combined for about four more wins than their Pythagorean Expectation. As for the Lions, they have games against Tampa and the New York Giants, both of whom played about a win and a half better than their records. Oh yeah, and the Lions play the Patriots and Jets too.
Is it preseason yet?
Source: Pythagorean Wins from Football Outsiders