Who Has the Hardest NFL Schedule in 2023? Teams with Highest SOS

By Casey
7 Min Read

The 2023 NFL season presents a unique set of challenges, especially for teams grappling with the hardest schedules. The strength of schedule (SOS) is an essential factor in gauging these challenges, providing insights into what teams might face in their quest for success.

Understanding Strength of Schedule (SOS)

SOS is a critical metric for NFL teams, offering a predictive glance at the potential difficulty of a team’s season. This measure is based on opponents’ performances and is a key indicator of the hurdles a team may encounter.

Calculation of SOS

Traditionally, SOS is calculated using the previous season’s win-loss records of upcoming opponents. However, this method has limitations due to offseason changes like player trades or drafts. An alternative approach involves considering the projected win totals for the upcoming season, offering a more current perspective.

2023 SOS Rankings Overview

In 2023, teams like the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, and Kansas City Chiefs are slated for challenging seasons. Sharp Football Analysis ranks the Patriots first with an SOS of 0.575. The Bills and Chiefs follow closely with 0.564 and 0.561 respectively. These figures indicate the rigorous matchups awaiting these teams, reflecting their potential season trajectory.

Read: When Does NFL Schedule Get Released? The Complete Analysis

Factors Influencing SOS

Previous Season’s Performance

The past performance of opponents is integral to calculating SOS. Teams facing opponents with a strong previous season are likely to have a higher SOS. For instance, the Patriots and Bills in the AFC East face tough competition from the NFC East and AFC West, renowned for their formidable teams.

Offseason Changes

Offseason activities significantly influence team strengths, thereby affecting SOS. The arrival of high-profile players or coaching changes can transform an average team into a formidable opponent, directly impacting the SOS of their rivals.

External Factors

Other factors like travel distances and weather conditions also play a role. Longer travel times and extreme weather can challenge teams, affecting their performance and, by extension, their SOS.

Teams with Hardest NFL Schedule in 2023: Detailed Breakdown

New England Patriots

With the highest SOS of 0.575, the Patriots have the Hardest NFL schedule. They are set to clash with last season’s playoff teams, including Super Bowl participants. Their non-divisional lineup against teams from the NFC East and AFC West adds to their challenges. A notable game is their encounter in Germany against the Colts, which introduces additional travel-related hurdles.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills, while having a slightly lower SOS than the Patriots, still confront a tough lineup. They face challenging matchups against teams like the Chiefs, Chargers, and Eagles. A significant aspect of their schedule is the London game against the Jaguars, followed by a non-bye week, adding to their endurance test.

Kansas City Chiefs

Representing the AFC West, the Chiefs’ SOS of 0.561 suggests tough times ahead. They are pitted against the AFC East and NFC North, both housing strong contenders from the previous season. The Chiefs’ schedule symbolizes a relentless pursuit of victory amidst tough opposition.

Read: How is NFL Schedule Determined? Explaining the Complete Process

Playoff Implications and Team Strategies

The teams facing the hardest schedules in 2023, such as the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, and Kansas City Chiefs, confront significant challenges that could shape their playoff prospects and necessitate strategic adaptations.

Assessing Playoff Prospects

The difficulty of a schedule can be a critical factor in a team’s playoff aspirations. For example, the Patriots’ challenging schedule, featuring matchups against last year’s playoff teams, may place them in a tough position within the AFC East. The Bills and Chiefs also face similar hurdles, where every game could potentially impact their playoff seeding and overall success in the season.

Examining Past Seasons

Historically, the NFL has seen teams with tough schedules both struggle and succeed. For instance, looking at past seasons, teams with top-five hardest schedules have had varied results in terms of making it to the playoffs.

  • Super Bowl Winners: In some cases, teams with difficult schedules have gone on to win the Super Bowl. The 2015 Denver Broncos, for example, had one of the toughest schedules but managed to win Super Bowl 50. This demonstrates that a tough schedule doesn’t preclude postseason success.
  • Playoff Appearances: Teams with challenging schedules often face an uphill battle in securing a playoff spot. However, there have been instances where these teams not only made it to the playoffs but also performed well. For example, the 2019 Tennessee Titans had a tough schedule but managed to reach the AFC Championship Game.

Looking at historical trends, it’s clear that teams with tougher schedules often have a harder path to the playoffs. However, there are notable exceptions where teams have overcome these odds. For instance, in previous seasons, some teams have managed to secure playoff spots despite daunting schedules, highlighting the unpredictability and competitive nature of the NFL.

Strategies for Overcoming Challenges

Teams with difficult schedules must employ effective strategies to navigate these challenges. This involves not only tactical game planning but also managing player health and fatigue throughout the season. Coaches play a pivotal role here; for instance, Bill Belichick’s experience and adaptability could be key for the Patriots in managing their tough schedule.

Predictions and Potential Surprises

NFL seasons are known for their unpredictability. Teams expected to struggle due to tough schedules can sometimes surpass expectations, while others might underperform. Expert predictions often highlight this uncertainty, suggesting that while the schedule provides a framework, actual game-day performances can defy initial expectations.

Final Thoughts

The 2023 NFL season, characterized by some of the hardest schedules for teams like the Patriots, Bills, and Chiefs, sets the stage for an intriguing and unpredictable series of events. These schedules not only pose significant challenges but also offer opportunities for teams to demonstrate resilience and strategic acumen.

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By Casey
Casey is a seasoned NFL aficionado with years of dedication to observing and analyzing the intricacies of American football. As the mastermind behind "NFL Schedule", Casey offers a treasure trove of insights ranging from detailed analyses of team schedules to the cultural nuances within the sport. His website is a testament to his passion, showcasing articles on diverse topics like team logistics, player experiences, and the financial aspects of the game. Casey's expertise is not just in the statistics and strategies of football, but also in its cultural and human elements, making him a comprehensive guide to the world of the NFL.
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