That would seemingly play to the Cowboys’ advantage this year, but as Dave Halprin pointed out in that article, strength of schedule (SOS) usually doesn’t mean much come the new season.
Of course, part of the reason for that easy schedule is the fact that the NFC East is such a terrible division right now. The Eagles won it at 9-7, and Washington and New York were horrible last year. That’s also similar to the reason the Ravens and Steelers have such easy schedules, the AFC North, outside of the Ravens, was not very good.
So you have the Cowboys playing 10 of their 16 games against the NFC East and the AFC North. That makes for the easy schedule.
As we’ve learned from the past, strength of schedule doesn’t always hold up as some teams that were bad in 2019 will suddenly become good, and teams that were good in 2019 will drop off.
Traditional strength of schedule (SOS) calculations add up the previous year’s record of a team’s upcoming 16 opponents to get a cumulative win percentage for all 16 opponents.
Another way to look at SOS is to use the Vegas odds for Super Bowl LII, scheduled for February 4, 2018, as a proxy for team strength.
Odds aren’t an exact science of course, but looking at odds at least has the advantage of looking at projected future performance, while W/L records are simply a snapshot of past performance.
The Chiefs (4/1) are currently favored to the win Super Bowl, so they received one point as the top-ranked team. The Ravens have the second-best odds (13/2), so they get two points, the 49ers (7/1) get three points and so on. The Jaguars, Bengals, and Redskins are tied for the worst odds (200/1) so they were each assigned 30 points.
I then calculated the average points for each team’s remaining schedule, with a higher number meaning a tougher schedule. A result of 13 points for example would mean a team’s 16 opponents average a rank of 13 on the Super Bowl odds ranking.
Using this odds-based method, the Falcons have the toughest SOS in 2020. Their 16 opponents show an average odds-based ranking of 13.1. The Jets and Giants have the second-toughest SOS by this method, with 13.2. The Redskins (14.7) and Eagles (14.8) follow at number seven and nine respectively, while the Cowboys are ranked with just the 22nd toughest schedule.
Here is what the SOS based on Super Bowl odds looks like for all 32 teams, and how that compares to the traditional SOS based on opponent win percentage. For your convenience, the table is sortable (just click on the blue column headers).
|Odds-based 2020 Strength Of Schedule by team|
For the Cowboys, things get a bit tougher, but don’t change the picture drastically. They have the 30th toughest schedule by opponent win percentage and move up eight spots to 22nd toughest schedule by opponent Super Bowl odds. Still a manageable (and below average) schedule either way you look at it.
But the rest of the NFC East makes huge jumps: The Giants have the biggest jump of any team in the NFL, rocketing up 24 spots from 26th (Opp Win %) to second overall (Odds-based SOS), the Redskins have the second-biggest jump, up 21 spots from 28th to seventh, and the Eagles have the third-biggest jump, going from 25th to ninth.
For those three teams, this is an indication that their 2020 opponents could be a lot tougher than those opponents’ 2019 W/L records suggest.
The Lions are the big ‘winners’ in this exercise as they drop 21 spots from seventh (Opp Win %) to 28th overall (Odds-based SOS). The odds-based methodology suggests they could face one of the softest schedules of any team this year, and that their opponents will underperform versus their 2019 W/L records.
For your reference, here are the latest odds.
|Team||Opening Odds (1/20/20)||Current Odds (4/28/20)|