When you're a bad NFL team, you can at least take solace in the fact that you'll land a high draft pick the next year. But don't expect to have a much easier ride when it comes to who you play. That's because there really isn't such a thing as a last-place schedule in this league.
That's the beautiful/frustrating thing about the NFL's scheduling formula. Eleven of your 13 opponents are predetermined based on an annual cycle, with only two opponents differing from your division mates' opponents based on where you finished the previous season.
As a result, the Philadelphia Eagles actually have a tougher schedule, on paper, than the Giants and Cowboys, despite the fact New York and Dallas finished ahead of them in the standings. And from the standpoint of 2013 point differential, Philadelphia actually has the toughest schedule in the NFC East.
Every team in the East will play the following teams outside of the division next year: Chicago (10-6), Detroit (4-12), Minnesota (10-6), Green Bay (11-5), Denver (13-3), Kansas City (2-14), Oakland (4-12) and San Diego (7-9).
Against those two non-common opponents, the Eagles have an obvious edge:
Record of non-common opponents:
Even that's a bit deceptive, because one of those opponents is Arizona, who smoked Philly this past season. But the Eagles' biggest disadvantage is that the rest of the division plays them (4-12 last year), while they play the rest of the division (27-21 last year).
Another even bigger disadvantage is the way the schedule shakes out from a home/away perspective. Like Washington, the Eagles must travel to Green Bay, Minnesota and Denver. Those three teams were a combined 21-3 at home this season. You'd rather have a tougher home schedule than road schedule, and the Giants and Cowboys luck out in that respect, too.
On the road this year, Philly has to play five teams that had winning records in 2012. New York and Dallas only play four winning teams away from home, combined. That'll make it extremely hard for Chip Kelly to get this team out of the basement.
Now that we've previewed the opponents for all four NFC East teams, here's a final chart to summarize the whole thing.