2019 NFL Schedule Analysis: Hardest, Easiest Schedules

By Audacy

NFL Schedule Day is complete. First came the leaks, the peeks at the season's marquee matchups, and then the full schedule was released in a Wednesday night anti-climax.

Each team's opponents are decided by a formula that rotates the non-division matchups, and the strengths of schedule (by opponents' combined winning percentage) already were determined at the end of last season. It's the sequence of these games -- the length of the road trips, the tricky patches and soft spots, when the bye week falls -- that can make or break a schedule.

The mysterious alchemy of the NFL schedulers takes place in a small bunker in the league offices. 

"It's a really weird place," NBC Sports' Peter King said on 94WIP ("The Peter King Podcast," including the latest episode on the NFL scheduling process, is available on RADIO.COM). "You come to this room that's an entirely frosted glass room. Nobody can see in it."

Here are the 32 NFL teams ranked from most difficult to easiest 2019 schedules (with opponents' 2018 winning percentage), along with analysis that put the 16-game slates in context:

Schedules Ranked From Hardest to Easiest:

1. Oakland Raiders (.539)

2. Denver Broncos (.537)

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (.531)

4. Houston Texans (.527)

A key stretch: Week 6 at Kansas City Chiefs, Week 7 at Indianapolis Colts, Week 8 vs. Oakland Raiders, Week 9 in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Week 10 bye, Week 11 at Baltimore Ravens. (SportsRadio 610)

5. Chicago Bears (.520)

A difficult schedule -- at least on paper and in April. Winning the NFC North crown last year means facing their fellow first-place finishers in the NFC. The Bears will face six teams that reached the playoffs a year ago, the challenge after emerging as a championship contender. (670 The Score)

6. Kansas City Chiefs (.520)

7. Indianapolis Colts (.518)

8. Atlanta Falcons (.518)

Games against the Eagles, Rams and Seahawks are all at home, and the Falcons close with the following six matchups: vs. Buccaneers, vs. Saints (Thanksgiving), vs. Panthers, at 49ers, vs. Jaguars, at Buccaneers. (92.9 The Game)

9. Tennessee Titans (.514)

10. Minnesota Vikings (.512)

11. San Francisco 49ers (.510)

The Niners will play on Monday Night Football twice (Week 5 vs. Cleveland and Week 10 vs. Seattle), plus once on Thursday night (Week 9 at Arizona). (95.7 The Game)

12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (.508)

13. Arizona Cardinals (.508)

14. Green Bay Packers (.504)

Five of the first eight games are at Lambeau Field, including three home games in a row from Week 2 to Week 4. Green Bay will also play in two Thursday night games: at the Bears in Week 1 and hosting the Eagles in Week 4. (105.7 The Fan)

15. Dallas Cowboys (.504)

The Cowboys have some tough games, including a game at the Saints in Week 4, hosting the Packers in Week 5, heading to Foxboro to take on the Patriots in Week 6. In Week 14, the Cowboys are at the Bears on a Thursday, and Week 15 is a rematch of this year's divisional round playoff loss with the Rams coming to AT&T Stadium. (105.3 The Fan

16. Carolina Panthers (.502)

The Panthers will play six games against teams that made the playoffs in 2018, including three games against the No. 1 and 2 seeds in the NFC (the Rams once and the Saints twice). They will play three road games in the eastern time zone, three in the central time zone (New Orleans, Green Bay, Houston), one in the mountain time zone (Arizona), one in the pacific time zone (San Francisco) and one in London game, which is five hours ahead. (WFNZ

17. Los Angeles Chargers (.502)

18. Miami Dolphins (.500)

19. Pittsburgh Steelers (.496)

The Steelers will be featured in primetime slots five times this year, starting with a Week 1 Sunday night matchup in New England against the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. Other primetime games include a Monday night game vs. the Bengals in Week 4, a Sunday night matchup at the Chargers in Week 6, Monday night vs. Dolphins in Week 8 and an intriguing Thursday night game at the Browns in Week 11. (93.7 The Fan)

20. Baltimore Ravens (.496)

The Ravens' five toughest games: at the Seahawks in Week 7, at the Steelers in Week 5, at the Chiefs in Week 3, vs. the Patriots in Week 9, vs. the Rams in Week 12. (105.7 The Fan)

21. Detroit Lions (.496)

The Lions get the Chargers, Eagles, Chiefs and Packers inside the first six weeks of the season. (97.1 The Ticket)

22. New Orleans Saints (.488)

The Black & Gold will jump feet-first into the fire with the schedule’s opening quarter. The Saints will host the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football to open the season, then follow that up with two straight trips to the West Coast to face the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks before returning home for a Sunday night showdown with the Dallas Cowboys. (WWL)

23. Cleveland Browns (.484)

Some might call a Week 8 visit to the New England Patriots the game of the regular season – the up-and-coming Browns take on former head coach Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions. It gets the prime CBS national afternoon window at 4:25 ET with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo in the booth. (92.3 The Fan)

24. Buffalo Bills (.480)

The Bills have to get off to a fast start and take advantage of the early-season schedule. They’ll have every chance. The Bills start the season with three games against teams that all had the same or worse record (6-10) than they did last year: the Jets (4-12), Giants (5-11) and Bengals (6-10). After a home game against the  Patriots and road contest against the Titans, they’ll have a bye and two weeks to prepare for the rebuilding Dolphins. If they can get to 3-3 or even 4-2, the next two games are at home against the Eagles and Redskins. (WGR 550)

25. Seattle Seahawks (.479)

26. Philadelphia Eagles (.477)

Although the schedule overall is manageable, it does present a brutal stretch to start, the last thing the Eagles needed as Carson Wentz returns as franchise quarterback. After a home date against Washington to start the season, the Eagles go on a stretch of five road games in seven weeks, including a trip on Thursday night to Green Bay and a three-game stretch that could decide the season: consecutive trips to Minnesota, Dallas and Buffalo from Weeks 6 through 8. (94WIP)

27. Cincinnati Bengals (.473)

28. New York Jets (.473)

The early Week 4 bye is suboptimal, but only five of the Jets' 16 games (counting the Patriots twice) will be played against a team that qualified for last season’s NFL playoffs -- only one will be played after the New England game in Week 7. Per ESPN, the team will only need to jet (pun intended) 6,668 air miles, the fewest in franchise history. There are no trips west of Cincinnati. (WFAN)

29. New York Giants (.473)

The schedule includes three primetime games: Thursday, Oct. 10 at New England; Monday, Nov. 4 vs. Dallas; and Monday, Dec. 9 at Philadelphia. The Patriots game pits quarterbacks Eli Manning and Tom Brady against each other in possibly the final rematch of two classic Super Bowls. (WFAN)

30. Los Angeles Rams (.473)

31. New England Patriots (.473)

It’s a fairly easy start with a bunch of familiar opponents and some teams who are expected to struggle -- it would not be a surprise to see the Patriots at 7-0 or 6-1 heading into Week 8’s matchup with Cleveland. The toughest stretch of games is from Week 8 to Week 14: Cleveland, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston and Kansas City. (WEEI)

32. Washington Redskins (.469)

On paper, the easiest schedule in football. The Sports Junkies all predicted the Redskins will lose the opening week in Philadelphia, the home opener against the hated Dallas Cowboys and Week 3 to the Chicago Bears. For JP and EB, the first win comes at the New York Giants in Week 4. "If they start 0-5 (after losing the Patriots in Week 5)," Cakes said. "It's very bad optics for the Redskins, Gruden could be fired before the Week 6 game against the Dolphins." (106.7 The Fan)