NFL Strength of Schedule: Which Teams Face the Toughest Matchups This Season?

The Oakland Raiders could be in for a rough ride this season—and that has nothing to do with Antonio Brown's threats of quitting football.

Jon Gruden's team has the highest strength of schedule of any of the 32 NFL franchises at .539, just marginally ahead of the Denver Broncos' .537 – as calculated by their opponents' combined winning percentage last year.

The Raiders will be in a total of seven games against teams that made the playoffs last time around, playing twice against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers and once against the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears.

Oakland's road schedule is particularly tough, with trips to Indianapolis, Green Bay and Houston likely to test Gruden's charges.

For the Broncos, one of their AFC West rivals, the situation is nearly as dire. Like Oakland, Denver faces the Chiefs and the Chargers twice, with the second round of games coming either side of a trip to Houston.

The Texans have the fourth-hardest schedule, which includes playing the New Orleans Saints and the Chargers on the road in the first three weeks, before back-to-back road games against the Chiefs and the Colts in Weeks 6 and 7.

Houston, however, does have the benefit of playing four of its last six games at home. Its AFC South rivals have difficult schedules themselves, with Jacksonville Jaguars' calendar ranking as the third most challenging and the Colts' as joint-seventh.

Oakland Raiders
Keelan Doss #89 of the Oakland Raiders celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams during their NFL preseason game at RingCentral Coliseum on August 10 in Oakland, California. Robert Reiners/Getty

Indianapolis faces the Chargers, Atlanta Falcons and the Chiefs within the first five weeks, before mid-season trips to Pittsburgh and New Orleans.

The Chiefs have the joint fifth most difficult schedule, along with the Bears, meaning the Chargers are the only AFC West team whose schedule doesn't rank in the top five in terms of difficulty.

The top-10 is rounded up by the Falcons, Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings.

Atlanta plays the Vikings in Minneapolis and the Colts in Indianapolis in the first three weeks and three straight games against NFC opponents in the middle of the season, while the Titans end the season with two games against the Texans either side of a matchup against the Saints.

The Vikings, meanwhile, play the Packers and the Bears on the road in the first four weeks of the season and then travel to Kansas City and Dallas in back-to-back weeks in November.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams have some of the easiest schedules this season. The two teams reached Super Bowl LIII in February and their strength of schedule ranks at 0.473—the same as the New York Giants, New York Jets and the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Patriots open their campaign at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers, before playing the four NFC East teams and the rest of the AFC North.

The Rams, meanwhile, take on three NFC South teams—the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Significantly, Los Angeles has a favorable home stretch, with two games against the Arizona Cardinals and one against the San Francisco 49ers.

Here's the complete strength of schedule for the 32 NFL franchises in descending order of difficulty.

  • Oakland Raiders—0.539
  • Denver Broncos—0.537
  • Jacksonville Jaguars—0.531
  • Houston Texans—0.527
  • Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs—0.520
  • Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts—0.518
  • Tennessee Titans—0.514
  • Minnesota Vikings—0.512
  • San Francisco 49ers—0.510
  • Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers—0.508
  • Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers—0.504
  • Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina Panthers—0.502
  • Miami Dolphins—0.500
  • Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens—0.496
  • New Orleans Saints—0.488
  • Cleveland Browns—0.484
  • Buffalo Bills—0.480
  • Seattle Seahawks—0.479
  • Philadelphia Eagles—0.477
  • New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals—0.473
  • Washington Redskins—0.469

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

About the writer

Dan Cancian is currently a reporter for Newsweek based in London, England. Prior to joining Newsweek in January 2018, he was a news and business reporter at International Business Times UK. Dan has also written for The Guardian and The Observer. 

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