If the Eagles are going to win the NFC East for the second straight season and get back to the Super Bowl, it's not going to be easy and that's because they'll be facing the NFL's most difficult strength of schedule in 2023.
It's been 20 years since the NFC East has produced a repeat champion and based on this year's strength of schedule, that's a drought that likely isn't going to end this season. Philadelphia has a strength of schedule of .566, which not only gives them the most difficult schedule for the upcoming season, but it makes them one of only two teams in the NFL -- along with the Dolphins -- who will have a strength of schedule above .550.
The Eagles' rough schedule includes 10 games against 2022 playoff teams, which is tied for the most in the NFL. To put that in perspective, the other Super Bowl team from last year -- Kansas City -- will only have seven games against playoff teams from last season.
The Eagles' home schedule is especially brutal with six of their eight games coming against teams that made the playoffs last year (Cowboys, Giants, Bills, 49ers, Dolphins and Vikings). If you add the Commanders, that means seven of Philly's eight home games will come against teams that finished 2022 with a record of .500 or better.
The second-most difficult schedule belongs to the Dolphins, who will face a brutal road schedule this year with games against the Bills, Chiefs, Chargers, Eagles, Ravens and Aaron Rodgers' Jets.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the easiest strength of schedule belongs to Atlanta at .417. The Falcons only play four 2022 playoff teams, which is the lowest number a team can play in a season based on the current scheduling formula.
If you're looking for a division that could produce a few surprise teams next season, then you might want to look at the NFC South. One dark horse in that division could be Derek Carr's Saints, who will be facing one of the easier schedules in the NFL.
At .427, the Saints have the second easiest schedule going into 2023 (The Falcons and Saints are the only two teams facing a strength of schedule under .430).
The good news for the Saints and/or the Falcons is that over the past SEVEN YEARS, at least one team playing one of the two easiest schedules has made the postseason. If that trend stands, then either New Orleans or Atlanta (or both teams) will be making it to the playoffs in 2023.
The addition of the 17th game has added some spice to the strength of schedule measurement and that's because it means that good teams are now playing more difficult schedules. From 2002 to 2020, the schedule was inherently the same for everyone, whether they were playing a "first-place" schedule or a "last-place" schedule. Each team played four games against a team that finished in first place, four games against teams that finished in second, four games against teams that finished in third and four games against teams that finished in last place.
With the addition of the 17th game, a first-place team will now play FIVE first place teams, which means you're rarely going to see a division winner with an easy schedule. Every team in the NFC East has a tough schedule this year, but the Eagles' is the most difficult because they have to play five first place teams, unlike the Cowboys, Giants and Commanders, who will only play four games against first-place teams.
Of the eight teams playing a "first-place" schedule in 2023, the Jaguars have it the easiest, which is notable, because first-place teams have done well in that situation since the NFL switched to a 17-game schedule in 2021. The Cowboys had the "easiest" first-place schedule in 2022 and they were able to turn that into an 12-5 record. The Bills had the "easiest" first-place schedule in 2021 and they were able to turn that into an 11-6 record.
As for teams who are playing a "last-place" schedule this year, the Falcons scored the biggest win as they have the easiest schedule among last place teams. On the other hand, the Jets, who are also playing a last-place schedule, have the sixth most difficult schedule in the NFL, which means this could be a rough year for them, even with the addition of Aaron Rodgers.
One team to watch could be the Houston Texans, who have the easiest strength of schedule in the AFC. They might not make the playoffs, but it wouldn't be surprising to see them improve by several games over their 2022 record of 3-13-1.
If you're looking for teams that could take a step back this year based on strength of schedule, those would probably be the Giants and Dolphins, who will be playing two of the five toughest schedules.
The one thing about strength of schedule is that there's no perfect way to measure schedule difficulty before the season kicks off. Thanks to injuries, free agency and trades, rosters are changing all the time and they will continue to change between now and the start of the season in September. That being said, strength of schedule does give you a good idea of what your favorite team will be facing in the upcoming season.
Here are the 2023 strength of schedule rankings for each team (combined 2022 record of all 17 opponents, combined winning percentage).
If you're curious about the scheduling formula, every team plays 17 games as follows:Home and away against its three division opponents (six games). The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (four games). The four teams from a division in