NFL Teams with the Toughest 2013 Schedules
What makes a schedule tough? There are strength of schedule numbers, but those can be deceiving because teams get better and worse each year.
Several things make a schedule difficult, such as multiple tough road games back-to-back, travel and the positioning of the bye week. Short weeks and long weeks can be good or bad depending on the opponent and the need for extra study.
Sometimes a schedule is tough just because most of the opponents are good teams, and it doesn't really matter what order you play them. Facing a rookie quarterback in his first road start would be a good scheduling break, but a team might prefer to face an opponent with a new head coach (i.e. Chip Kelly's Eagles) later in the season when there is more tape of its offense and defense.
Chip Kelly may have left Oregon to avoid NCAA violations, but he couldn't avoid one the toughest NFL schedules in years, especially early on...
It starts with three games in 10 days. The opener is a road game against the Redskins and Robert Griffin III. The Eagles come home to play the Chargers and then the Chiefs on Thursday night. The Chargers and Chiefs aren’t going to be pushovers.
If Kelly really intends to have a fast-paced offense, there’s a good chance his team won’t have much left in the tank by Week 3 against former Eagles head coach Andy Reid. After that, the Eagles get 10 days to prepare for a road tilt with the Broncos, followed by a road game against the rival Giants and another road game against the Buccaneers.
The Eagles come home for two games against the Cowboys and Giants and then fly across the country to Oakland followed by a trip the Lambeau Field. They play at home against the Redskins before a Week 12 bye.
Normally you would like a tough game coming off the bye week so you can put the extra preparation to good use, but the Eagles play the lowly Cardinals in Week 13. Outside of 10 days to prepare for a road game against the Broncos, it'd be hard to put this collection of opponents in a worse order for the Eagles.
|Sept. 9||at Washington Redskins (Mon)||7:10 p.m.|
|Sept. 15||San Diego Chargers||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 19||Kansas City Chiefs (Thurs)||8:25 p.m.|
|Sept. 29||at Denver Broncos||4:25 p.m.|
|Oct. 6||at New York Giants||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 13||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 20||Dallas Cowboys||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 27||New York Giants||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 3||at Oakland Raiders||4:05 p.m.|
|Nov. 10||at Green Bay Packers||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 17||Washington Redskins||1 p.m.|
|Dec. 1||Arizona Cardinals||1 p.m.|
|Dec. 8||Detroit Lions||1 p.m.|
|Dec. 15||at Minnesota Vikings||1 p.m.|
|Dec. 22||Chicago Bears||1 p.m.|
|Dec. 29||at Dallas Cowboys||1 p.m.|
It’s bad enough that the Cardinals are in the NFC West, but to play the 49ers and Seahawks in back-to-back weeks two times in one season is brutal. The Cardinals only get a couple of days to prepare for the Seahawks after playing the 49ers in Week 6 and have to play these two playoff teams again over the final two weeks.
Arizona also faces three playoff teams at home in the Falcons, Texans and Colts, and it goes on the road to play its weaker opponents.
If there is one saving grace for the Cardinals, it’s that the schedule doesn’t look particularly difficult overall and they have a Week 9 bye. Despite a couple weaker opponents, the Cardinals couldn’t have a less favorable ordering of games.
|Sept. 8||at St. Louis Rams||1:25 p.m.|
|Sept. 15||Detroit Lions||1:05 p.m.|
|Sept. 22||at New Orleans Saints||10:00 a.m.|
|Sept. 29||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||10:00 a.m.|
|Oct. 6||Carolina Panthers||1:05 p.m.|
|Oct. 13||at San Francisco 49ers||1:25 p.m.|
|Oct. 17||Seattle Seahawks (Thurs)||5:25 p.m.|
|Oct. 27||Atlanta Falcons||1:25 p.m.|
|Nov. 10||Houston Texans||2:25 p.m.|
|Nov. 17||at Jacksonville Jaguars||11:00 a.m.|
|Nov. 24||Indianapolis Colts||2:05 p.m.|
|Dec. 1||at Philadelphia Eagles||11:00 a.m.|
|Dec. 8||St. Louis Rams||2:25 p.m.|
|Dec. 15||at Tennessee Titans||11:00 a.m.|
|Dec. 22||at Seattle Seahawks||2:05 p.m.|
|Dec. 29||San Francisco 49ers||2:25 p.m.|
The Giants play three of their first four games on the road, which is a tough start for any team. The only home game is against the Denver Broncos before they come home to face the Eagles.
Strangely, the Giants get two short weeks and two long weeks just before the bye week. The Giants play the Bears on a Thursday night with 10 days before playing on Monday night against the Vikings. The Giants then travel to Philadelphia on a short week.
After the bye week, the Giants get three consecutive home games, starting with the Raiders. That’s supposed to be an easy stretch, but the Giants' extra preparation time will be wasted if they don’t divert more energy to their future opponents.
|Sept. 8||at Dallas Cowboys||8:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 15||Denver Broncos||4:25 p.m.|
|Sept. 22||at Carolina Panthers||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 29||at Kansas City Chiefs||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 6||Philadelphia Eagles||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 10||at Chicago Bears (Thurs)||8:25 p.m.|
|Oct. 21||Minnesota Vikings (Mon)||8:40 p.m.|
|Oct. 27||at Philadelphia Eagles||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 10||Oakland Raiders||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 17||Green Bay Packers *||8:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 24||Dallas Cowboys||4:25 p.m.|
|Dec. 1||at Washington Redskins *||8:30 p.m.|
|Dec. 8||at San Diego Chargers||4:25 p.m.|
|Dec. 15||Seattle Seahawks||1 p.m.|
|Dec. 22||at Detroit Lions||4:05 p.m.|
|Dec. 29||Washington Redskins||1 p.m|
The Packers play a first-place schedule and one of the tougher divisions in football in 2013. They also get the worst bye week in Week 4. In return, the Packers don’t have a single back-to-back road game in 2013.
Opponents for the Packers include the 49ers, Falcons, Steelers, Ravens, Redskins, Bengals, Giants and Cowboys. The only out-of-division team the Packers play next year that shouldn't have playoff expectations is the Cleveland Browns.
On a short week the Packers play the Lions on Thanksgiving. Green Bay will have back-to-back home games just once all season.
|Sept. 8||at San Francisco 49ers||3:25 p.m.|
|Sept. 15||Washington Redskins||12 p.m.|
|Sept. 22||at Cincinnati Bengals||12 p.m.|
|Oct. 6||Detroit Lions||12 p.m.|
|Oct. 13||at Baltimore Ravens||12 p.m.|
|Oct. 20||Cleveland Browns||3:25 p.m.|
|Oct. 27||at Minnesota Vikings||7:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 4||Chicago Bears (Mon)||7:40 p.m.|
|Nov. 10||Philadelphia Eagles||12 p.m.|
|Nov. 17||at New York Giants *||7:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 24||Minnesota Vikings||12 p.m.|
|Nov. 28||at Detroit Lions (Thurs)||11:30a|
|Dec. 8||Atlanta Falcons *||7:30 p.m.|
|Dec. 15||at Dallas Cowboys||3:25 p.m.|
|Dec. 22||Pittsburgh Steelers||3:25 p.m.|
|Dec. 29||at Chicago Bears||12 p.m.|
Part of the reason that the loser of the previous Super Bowl has trouble winning games the following season is a tougher schedule.
Challenging games include the Packers, Texans, Colts and Redskins, as well as division games against the Seahawks and Rams. The 49ers are fortunate to play the weak AFC South, but they have to travel to London to play the Jaguars.
Playing the Saints on the road followed by the Redskins on the road is a tough back-to-back combination. The 49ers play a first-place schedule and their division is one of the best in football, so it’s not hard to see why they have a tough schedule in 2013.
|Sept. 8||Green Bay Packers||1:25 p.m.|
|Sept. 15||at Seattle Seahawks||5:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 22||Indianapolis Colts||1:25 p.m.|
|Sept. 26||at St. Louis Rams (Thurs)||5:25 p.m.|
|Oct. 6||Houston Texans||5:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 13||Arizona Cardinals||1:25 p.m.|
|Oct. 20||at Tennessee Titans||1:05 p.m.|
|Oct. 27||at Jacksonville Jaguars (London)||10:00 a.m.|
|Nov. 10||Carolina Panthers||1:05 p.m.|
|Nov. 17||at New Orleans Saints||1:25 p.m.|
|Nov. 25||at Washington Redskins (Mon)||5:40 p.m.|
|Dec. 1||St. Louis Rams||1:05 p.m.|
|Dec. 8||Seattle Seahawks||1:25 p.m.|
|Dec. 15||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||10:00 a.m.|
|Dec. 23||Atlanta Falcons (Mon)||5:40 p.m.|
|Dec. 29||at Arizona Cardinals||1:25 p.m.|
According to NFL.com, the Panthers have the toughest strength of schedule in 2013, as their opponents had a 138-116-2 record last season. These opponents include the Giants, Patriots, Falcons, 49ers and Seahawks.
The Panthers also get the dreaded Week 4 bye week that comes far too early in the season to be useful. In consecutive weeks, the Panthers have to play the Falcons, 49ers and Patriots, followed by a game on the road.
A short week is tolerable, but the Panthers have to travel to Tampa Bay to play a Thursday night game in Week 8. There’s a combination of tough opponents and schedule orders to make things difficult for the Carolina in 2012.
|Sept. 8||Seattle Seahawks||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 15||at Buffalo Bills||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 22||New York Giants||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 6||at Arizona Cardinals||4:05 p.m.|
|Oct. 13||at Minnesota Vikings||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 20||St. Louis Rams||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 24||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Thurs)||8:25 p.m.|
|Nov. 3||Atlanta Falcons||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 10||at San Francisco 49ers||4:05 p.m.|
|Nov. 18||New England Patriots (Mon)||8:40 p.m.|
|Nov. 24||at Miami Dolphins||1 p.m.|
|Dec. 1||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1 p.m.|
|Dec. 8||at New Orleans Saints||1 p.m.|
|Dec. 15||New York Jets||4:05 p.m.|
|Dec. 22||New Orleans Saints||1 p.m.|
|Dec. 29||at Atlanta Falcons||1 p.m.|
The defending champs really got screwed by the schedule-makers. Instead of accommodating the Ravens because Major League Baseball wouldn’t allow them to play the opener in Baltimore with the Orioles in town, the NFL’s schedule made things worse.
The Ravens open on the road in Denver and have to play the Texans, Packers and Patriots as well. Like any other year, the Ravens also have to play the Steelers and Bengals twice.
Baltimore’s bye week is sandwiched between two division road games. The Ravens also aren’t a lock to beat teams like the Bears, Lions or Dolphins in 2013.
|Sept. 5||at Denver Broncos (Thurs)||8:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 15||Cleveland Browns||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 22||Houston Texans||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 29||at Buffalo Bills||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 6||at Miami Dolphins||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 13||Green Bay Packers||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 20||at Pittsburgh Steelers||4:25 p.m.|
|Nov. 3||at Cleveland Browns||4:25 p.m.|
|Nov. 10||Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 17||at Chicago Bears||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 24||New York Jets||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 28||Pittsburgh Steelers (Thurs)||8:30 p.m.|
|Dec. 8||Minnesota Vikings||1 p.m.|
|Dec. 16||at Detroit Lions (Mon)||8:40 p.m.|
|Dec. 22||New England Patriots *||8:30 p.m.|
|Dec. 29||at Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m.|
The Raiders almost always log the most travel miles of any team. With several trips to the East Coast in 2013, it would be a surprise if the Raiders didn’t spend more time on a plane than any other squad.
It wouldn’t be that hard for the NFL to push 10:00 a.m. start times back to 1:00 p.m. when a team from the West Coast has to travel to the East. That’s not the case in 2013; the Raiders have two 10:00 a.m. start times on the East Coast.
The poor Raiders also get to face the Broncos twice and playoff-caliber teams like the Colts, Redskins, Texans and Steelers. The Raiders have brutal stretch after the bye, with three of those teams and Chip Kelly’s Eagles in a four-week span.
For a rebuilding team, it could be an easier schedule. The Raiders wish the times were a little more favorable and the quality opponents were spaced more evenly, but they will have to play the cards they were dealt.
|Sept. 8||at Indianapolis Colts||10:00 a.m.|
|Sept. 15||Jacksonville Jaguars||1:25 p.m.|
|Sept. 23||at Denver Broncos (Mon)||5:40 p.m.|
|Sept. 29||Washington Redskins||1:25 p.m.|
|Oct. 6||San Diego Chargers||1:25 p.m.|
|Oct. 13||at Kansas City Chiefs||10:00 a.m.|
|Oct. 27||Pittsburgh Steelers||1:05 p.m.|
|Nov. 3||Philadelphia Eagles||1:05 p.m.|
|Nov. 10||at New York Giants||10:00 a.m.|
|Nov. 17||at Houston Texans||10:00 a.m.|
|Nov. 24||Tennessee Titans||1:05 p.m.|
|Nov. 28||at Dallas Cowboys (Thurs)||1:30 p.m.|
|Dec. 8||at New York Jets||10:00 a.m.|
|Dec. 15||Kansas City Chiefs||1:05 p.m.|
|Dec. 22||at San Diego Chargers||1:25 p.m.|
|Dec. 29||Denver Broncos||1:25 p.m.|