2020 NFL Schedule Release: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Team
Even in a normal year, the NFL offseason generates as much interest as some sports do in the midst of their respective seasons. The NFL draft has become a three-day event. Even something as innocuous as the release of the upcoming season's schedule is now a television event.
Of course, this is anything but a normal year. And with most of the rest of the sports world in limbo, everything the NFL does draws that many more eyeballs.
We already knew each NFL team's set of opponents in 2020. But now we know when those matchups will take place, from the season opener between the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs on September 10 to the Week 17 matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers that could easily be for the NFC West title.
There's still a long way to go until that season opener at Arrowhead, but it's never too early to take a preliminary stab at predicting each team's 2020 record based on its schedule.
The Buffalo Bills enter the 2020 season as something they haven't been since the "K-Gun" days of Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed in the 1990s: the favorites to win the AFC East.
But to be the best, you have to beat the best. And after losing both meetings against the New England Patriots in 2019, the pressure will be on the Bills when they first meet the Pats in Buffalo in Week 8.
That pressure is going to stay on Buffalo for much of the season. The Bills have the easiest schedule in the division, but with two games against the Pats, home tilts with Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks and trips to San Francisco and Tennessee all on the slate, the Bills are tied for the league's fifth-hardest schedule in 2020.
The Miami Dolphins will look drastically different in 2020. They were highly aggressive in free agency and added three players in the first round of the draft, including Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the No. 5 overall pick.
Miami fans will enter the 2020 season wondering when Tagovailoa will make his regular-season debut. The Dolphins have a Week 11 bye that would give Tagovailoa an extra week to prepare, and they have a mini-bye of sorts following a Thursday night game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3.
Quick hook for Ryan Fitzpatrick, anyone?
All of the new faces will bring renewed optimism to Miami, but the Dolphins are a five-win team staring down the league's third-most difficult schedule. Even if they're better this year, their win-loss record might not reflect it.
New England Patriots
It's difficult to generate too much sympathy for a team that has won 11 consecutive AFC East titles and six Super Bowls since 2001. But the New England Patriots have had an admittedly rough offseason.
The Patriots lost defensive stalwarts Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy in free agency and watched Tom Brady join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They also have the league's most difficult schedule in 2020.
Beginning with a Week 1 contest against the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots play 16 teams that combined to post a winning percentage of .537 last season. That includes home dates with the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens and trips to Houston, Kansas City and Seattle.
New York Jets
The offensive line was the New York Jets' biggest weak spot entering the 2020 offseason, and they bolstered it in both free agency and the draft. Gang Green will likely have at least three new starters along the offensive front this season, but it may not be enough to get them back into the playoff picture.
The Jets' receiving corps, pass rush and secondary all continue to be significant question marks. They also have the league's second-hardest schedule, including a Week 2 home matchup with the NFC champion 49ers and a Week 8 trip to Arrowhead to square off with the Super Bowl champion Chiefs.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Baltimore Ravens were the NFL's best regular-season team in 2019. After starting the season 2-2, they didn't lose another game until the Tennessee Titans bounced them from the playoffs.
The Ravens sport the reigning NFL MVP in quarterback Lamar Jackson and got markedly better on both sides of the ball in free agency and the draft. They also have the league's easiest schedule in 2020, as their opponents were a combined 32 games under .500 last season.
Not every game will be a cakewalk, as the Ravens have to face the rival Steelers twice, host the Chiefs and Titans and have to travel to Houston, Philadelphia and Indianapolis. But beyond two games against the lowly Bengals, the Ravens also play the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants and Washington Redskins.
Here's your favorite (again) for the AFC's No. 1 seed in 2020.
OMG, Joe Burrow is so dreamy! The Bengals are going to the Super Bowl! WHOOOO DEYYYY!
Kidding aside, you can't blame Cincinnati Bengals fans for being stoked about the arrival of Burrow after his record-setting 2019 campaign at LSU. The Bengals started last season 0-11 and finished the season with only two wins. They haven't won a playoff game since George Bush Sr. was president.
Beginning with a season opener in Cincinnati against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Bengals should have an opportunity to improve on last year's disastrous season. Only five teams have an easier strength of schedule than the .477 winning percentage Cincinnati's opponents had last season.
However, the Bengals still have issues on both sides of the ball and have five games against teams that made the postseason in 2019. Baby steps.
Last year, I was one of the many pundits who fell for the offseason hype surrounding the Browns. I predicted Cleveland would win 10 games and capture the AFC North. (Oops.)
I'm not falling for it again.
That isn't to say the Browns won't be better in 2020. New head coach Kevin Stefanski has no shortage of talent on both sides of the ball, and the addition of free agent Jack Conklin and rookie Jedrick Wills should solve Cleveland's problems at offensive tackle.
The schedule-makers were also relatively kind to the Browns. Cleveland has the fourth-easiest schedule in the league and has only two road games against squads that advanced to the playoffs last season.
However, the Browns have been to the playoffs only once since they re-joined the NFL in 1999. You can believe they're a contender when they're in the mix for a playoff spot in December.
Having the season opener in Baltimore doesn't help.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' fortunes will depend on one thing in 2020: Ben Roethlisberger's surgically repaired elbow.
Roethlisberger has indicated that his rehab is going well, and if he can recapture his pre-injury form, the Steelers' elite defense and solid (if unspectacular) offense are good enough to get them into the playoffs. If Roethlisberger can't stay on the field—well, we've already seen how that turns out.
Having the second-easiest schedule in the league won't hurt, though.
Pittsburgh's hardest contest outside the division may be a Week 4 trip to Nashville to face the Titans. The Steelers draw two other 2019 playoff teams in the Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles, but both of those games are at Heinz Field.
If Roethlisberger is ready in Week 1, the Steelers are a good bet to bring home at least a wild-card spot.
Bill O'Brien and the Houston Texans are heading into a make-or-break season.
After an offseason of puzzling personnel moves, highlighted by the decision to trade star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona, the Texans are under more pressure than ever to make a deep playoff run. O'Brien is only 2-4 as head coach in the postseason, and Houston has never advanced past the divisional round.
Getting back to the playoffs won't be easy, though. The Texans are tied for the league's eighth-toughest schedule, which portends a backslide.
Almost half of Houston's schedule comes against teams that advanced to the playoffs last year. The Texans travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs in the Thursday night season opener and then get to host the Baltimore Ravens, because ouch.
Houston's out-of-division schedule also includes games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers.
After a promising first half of the 2019 season turned into a second-half swoon, the Indianapolis Colts made major changes in the offseason.
The Colts signed veteran quarterback Philip Rivers to supplant Jacoby Brissett under center. They dealt a first-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers for Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. And they added a pair of weapons for Rivers early in the 2020 draft in wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Jonathan Taylor.
The Colts' middle-of-the-pack schedule offers at least one break, as their biggest out-of-division games against the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers are both at home. But the matchups that determine how much noise they'll make in the AFC South—four games against the Texans and Tennessee Titans—won't begin until Week 10.
In a division this tightly packed, those late games are going to be pivotal.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have the easiest schedule of any AFC South team, but that's about the extent of the good news for them in 2020.
The Jaguars traded a number of veterans in the offseason, including quarterback Nick Foles, cornerback A.J. Bouye and defensive lineman Calais Campbell. They would have shipped out running back Leonard Fournette had they found a taker, too.
It's a curious strategy, as neither head coach Doug Marrone nor general manager Dave Caldwell appear to have the job security to survive the Jaguars bottoming out in 2020.
Make no mistake, that's what will happen. The Jaguars are in the mix to finish with the worst record in the NFL this year.
The Tennessee Titans were the AFC's biggest surprise in 2019. After barely squeaking into the playoffs, they peeled off wins against the Patriots and Ravens on the road to the AFC Championship Game.
That unexpected success in 2019 carries the price of increased expectations in 2020.
The Titans' overall strength of schedule isn't too bad, but among their big out-of-division tilts, only the Buffalo Bills in Week 5 will come to Nashville. The Titans face a number of major road challenges, including a playoff rematch against Baltimore and NFC North road trips to Green Bay and Minnesota.
Fortunately, the Titans had a better record away from Nissan Stadium than they did at home in 2019. With their core from last season mostly intact, the Titans should again be a player in the AFC South.
The Denver Broncos were a 3-8 mess last season before rookie quarterback Drew Lock took over under center and led them to wins in four of their final five games.
In some respects, the schedule sets up well for the Broncos to carry over that late-season success. They play only six games against playoff teams, and four of those contents take place in the Mile High City.
But outside of two in-division matchups against the Super Bowl champion Chiefs, the Broncos also face the New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans at home. They play two other potential contenders back-to-back early in the season in the Steelers on the road in Week 2 and the Buccaneers at home in Week 3.
The Broncos could be in the wild-card mix this season, but they don't have much margin for error.
Kansas City Chiefs
No division race in the NFL is more over before it starts than the AFC West. Barring an unforeseen disaster, the Kansas City Chiefs are going to win this division again and contend for a second straight Super Bowl title.
That isn't to say the Chiefs won't face tests, but even those come with some caveats. Their two home tilts against 2019 playoff squads come against teams (Houston and New England) that suffered major losses in the offseason.
If Kansas City stumbles, it will be on the road. A Week 3 trip to Baltimore to face the Ravens marks one of four big matchups away from Arrowhead. The Chiefs also have to travel to Buffalo, New Orleans and Tampa.
How Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs fare in those contests will play a large part in determining home-field advantage in the AFC bracket.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders' move to Las Vegas hasn't gotten off to the start they'd hoped. The COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on the draft festivities that were supposed to serve as a coming-out party for the new-look franchise.
That won't matter if the Raiders start winning games and contend in the AFC West, though. And the team's home opener against the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 will still be a sight to see, even if no fans are allowed to attend.
Although the Raiders' opponents were a combined 127-129 a year ago, it's difficult to imagine this team being a real force in the AFC West in 2020.
It's not a matter of talent, as Las Vegas added some on both sides of the ball in the offseason. But there are too many holes left for this team to win more than it loses against the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Los Angeles Chargers
Two years ago, the Los Angeles Chargers won 12 games and a playoff contest. After a wildly disappointing 2019 campaign, the Bolts are now starting over.
With Philip Rivers set to throw passes in Indianapolis, the Chargers have turned over the reins at quarterback to a combination of veteran Tyrod Taylor and rookie Justin Herbert. The Melvin Gordon era is over as well; the ground game now belongs to Austin Ekeler.
The Chargers will benefit from the weakest schedule in the AFC West in 2020. Their opponents had a combined winning percentage of .492, and they face only four teams that made the playoffs a year ago.
But unless Herbert proves to be an exceedingly quick study, the Chargers have the look of a last-place team.
The Dallas Cowboys enter every season with Super Bowl aspirations, but the presence of new head coach Mike McCarthy should have them particularly hopeful in 2020.
The McCarthy era will begin on September 13 in Los Angeles against the Rams, and from a scheduling standpoint, the Cowboys got somewhat of a break. No NFC team has an easier schedule than Dallas, which faces a slate of opponents that had a combined .459 winning percentage last season.
Not all of the Cowboys' games will be easy, though. Dallas has a home date with the NFC champion 49ers and road trips to Baltimore, Minnesota and Seattle.
But in addition to four games with the Giants and Redskins, dates with both Ohio teams (at home against Cleveland in Week 4 and at Cincinnati in Week 14) afford the Cowboys a strong chance at a winning record in McCarthy's first season at the helm.
New York Giants
Like their NFC East rivals in both Dallas and Washington, the New York Giants have a new coach in 2020. Joe Judge is taking over a Giants franchise that won only four games last year and has advanced to the playoffs only once in the last eight seasons.
The Giants' schedule could help Judge get off to a fast start. Among the NFL's eight divisions, only the AFC North has an easier draw this year than the NFC East, and New York's opponents were a combined nine games under .500 last season.
However, a Giants team trying to upgrade its offense and piece together a pass rush will face some stiff tests. Beyond their four games against the Cowboys and Eagles, the Giants will play host to the 49ers in Week 3 and travel to face the 14-win Ravens in Week 16.
Any improvement the Giants make in 2020 will likely be incremental.
The Philadelphia Eagles entered the offseason with two clear needs: improving their secondary and receiving corps. They accomplished the first by trading for veteran cornerback Darius Slay, but they didn't address receiver until the draft, in which they spent a first-round pick on TCU's Jalen Reagor.
It won't take long to find out how improved the reigning NFC champions are. The Eagles face the rival Cowboys for the first time in Week 8 in Philadelphia, and a Week 4 date with the San Francisco 49ers looms as their first big test outside the NFC East.
Like all of the teams in the NFC East, the Eagles face a relatively easy schedule. Philly's opposing winning percentage of .486 ranks as the eighth-easiest slate in the NFL.
However, this Eagles team isn't much different than the squad that went 9-7 last year. It isn't hard to see their 2020 record being close to the same.
The Washington Redskins now have a proven winner at head coach in Ron Rivera, who took the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl back in 2015. Adding No. 2 overall pick Chase Young to the defensive line also gives them a 49ers-esque front that contains five first-round picks.
The Redskins should also benefit from a schedule that features only four opponents that made it to the playoffs in 2019.
However, Washington didn't make major upgrades to its 31st-ranked offense, so second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins needs to take a huge leap to keep this team competitive on a weekly basis. The Redskins' chances of making the playoffs for the first time since 2015 are, um, not great.
In 2020, the Chicago Bears will set out to prove they're a lot more like the 2018 version that won 12 games and the NFC North than the disappointing team that went 8-8 and missed the postseason last year.
The Bears made at least one major change to their roster when they flipped a Day 3 pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Super Bowl MVP quarterback Nick Foles. The 31-year-old will battle Mitchell Trubisky for the right to start under center on the road against the Detroit Lions in Week 1.
That game kicks off a slate that's neither especially difficult nor easy. Chicago's opponents finished the 2019 season a combined four games over .500, and the out-of-division schedule features home games against the division champions from both the AFC South (Houston Texans) and NFC South (New Orleans Saints).
The Bears aren't the worst team in the NFC North, but they aren't close to the best, either.
The Detroit Lions have made the playoffs only three times since the turn of the century. They haven't won a playoff game since 1991 and haven't won 10 games in a season since going 11-5 in 2014.
The Lions aren't winning 10 games in 2020, either—or making the playoffs.
Fresh off a 3-12-1 mess of a 2019 season, the Lions are tied for the league's fifth-hardest schedule this year. Beyond four games against in-division playoff teams in Minnesota and Green Bay, the Lions face three more teams that made the postseason in 2019—the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints at home and the Tennessee Titans on the road.
The Lions may be marginally better in 2020, but they aren't going to be especially good.
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers went 13-3 and won the NFC North in 2019, and they came within a game of winning the entire conference. Given that, one would think they would paper over the weak spots on their roster this offseason and make another run at the Super Bowl.
Instead, the Packers chose to be quiet in free agency (mostly out of necessity) and then traded up in the first round of the 2020 draft to select Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. For better or worse, Green Bay is essentially the same team we saw a year ago.
The Packers' opponents combined to go only two games over .500 last year, but half of their road games come against teams that made the postseason. They appear primed for at least some regression in 2020.
Like the Packers, the Minnesota Vikings made the playoffs in 2019 and then didn't do much in free agency. But they also suffered a number of critical personnel losses, including their top three cornerbacks, their No. 2 defensive end and their No. 2 wide receiver.
The Vikings replaced those losses as best they could in the draft. But whether it's a rookie like wideout Justin Jefferson or a young reserve like end Ifeadi Odenigbo, a number of players will need to make an instant impact for Minnesota to get back to the postseason.
The Vikes will also need to have more success on the road than they did last year (4-4). Many of their tougher games take place away from the Twin Cities, namely trips to New Orleans (for a Christmas Day game on a Friday), Green Bay, Houston, Tampa, Indianapolis and Seattle.
Over the first half of the 2019 season, the Atlanta Falcons went a horrendous 1-7. But they looked like a playoff team from November on, peeling off six victories over their last eight contests.
That second-half surge got head coach Dan Quinn another year in charge, and the Falcons remain a talented offensive team that juiced up its pass rush with the addition of free agent Dante Fowler Jr.
However, the Falcons have at least two things working against them in 2020: their division and their strength of schedule.
A full quarter of the Falcons' games will come against the powerful Saints and upstart Buccaneers. Additionally, only four NFL teams have a higher opponent winning percentage than the .525 mark that awaits Atlanta.
The Falcons are a good team with a bad schedule playing in a division that could be a bloodbath this year. A wild-card spot is their best-case scenario.
Other than star tailback Christian McCaffrey, the Carolina Panthers will be hardly recognizable in 2020.
Free-agent addition Teddy Bridgewater will replace longtime starting quarterback Cam Newton, and stalwart middle linebacker Luke Kuechly retired this offseason. The Panthers also have a new head coach in Matt Rhule.
Carolina's 2020 opponents went a combined 127-127-2 last season, which could help the new-look Panthers stay competitive in a tough division. But they aren't likely to compete for a division title, or even a wild-card spot.
Instead, the Panthers can only hope to play spoiler against the Saints, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings, especially since they face all those teams on the road.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints suffered a disappointing loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card Round last year. But on paper, there isn't a better roster in the NFC—or the NFL, for that matter.
The Saints got even better in the offseason, filling their hole at wide receiver opposite Michael Thomas with veteran Emmanuel Sanders and adding depth to both the offensive line and pass rush early in the draft.
The Saints are also the toughest of outs when they play in the friendly confines of the Superdome. The schedule did them a major solid in that regard.
The Saints' biggest games against NFC heavyweights like the Packers, Vikings and 49ers all take place in the Big Easy, as does a potential Super Bowl preview against the champion Chiefs in Week 15.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As you may have heard, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a few changes in the offseason.
Tom Brady's arrival has sent expectations into the stratosphere in Tampa. A Buccaneers squad that was a postseason afterthought in January now has the second-best odds of any NFC team to make it to Super Bowl LV.
Beginning with a Week 1 matchup against the Saints in New Orleans, there won't be a more scrutinized team in the league in 2020. The Bucs' two battles with Drew Brees and the Saints will be must-see TV. So will home dates with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Week 6 and Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in Week 12.
The Bucs have offensive weapons galore and the NFL's best run defense from a year ago, but their run game and secondary are still question marks.
Even with Brady in the fold, the Buccaneers aren't as good as the Saints. At least not yet.
Were it not for Tom Brady heading to Tampa, the Arizona Cardinals might be the NFL's hype darlings of 2020. That's what happens when you make the offseason's biggest veteran acquisition in wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and add one of the draft's top defensive talents in Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons.
In each of the last two seasons, we've seen a second-year quarterback explode into stardom and bring home MVP honors. Kyler Murray will soon have his chance to follow suit, but it won't be easy.
Beyond playing in the NFL's most difficult division, the Cardinals will host the Buffalo Bills in Week 10 and Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15 and travel to Dallas to meet the Cowboys in Week 6.
These Cardinals aren't going to win 12 games. The playoffs are probably a long shot, too. But they are going to be better in 2020 than they were last season.
Los Angeles Rams
Two years ago, the Los Angeles Rams were the NFC representative in Super Bowl LIII. Last year, they missed the postseason altogether, finishing 9-7.
This year could be even worse.
The Rams have plenty of talent, from Cooper Kupp and Andrew Whitworth to Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. But big contracts (including some ill-advised ones) have left them in salary-cap purgatory, and they haven't made a first-round draft pick since selecting Jared Goff No. 1 overall in 2016.
The Rams play in the NFL's most brutal division and are trending in the wrong direction.
Perhaps this prediction is a bit harsh, but it wouldn't be a major upset if the Rams wound up last in the NFC West this season.
San Francisco 49ers
In some respects, staying on top of the mountain can be even harder than climbing it. That's the task awaiting the San Francisco 49ers after they won the NFC West in 2019 and represented the conference in Super Bowl LIV.
The Niners at least did a good job of filling holes created by roster attrition this offseason. Rookies Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk will replace DeForest Buckner and Emmanuel Sanders, respectively, and the acquisition of Trent Williams makes up for Joe Staley's retirement.
Plenty of NFC teams will get a crack at dethroning San Fran. In addition to two meetings with the Seahawks, the 49ers will host the Packers and Eagles and will hit the road to face the Saints and Cowboys.
But these 49ers remain loaded on both sides of the ball and should a sizable favorite in the NFC West.
Just as they have been for the last several years, the Seattle Seahawks are a playoff contender in 2020. And the primary reason is the same as it has been for the past few seasons: Russell Wilson.
This isn't to say that Seattle doesn't have issues. The offensive line continues to be a question mark. The secondary is a shadow of its former "Legion of Boom" glory days. And the pass rush is a massive unknown with Jadeveon Clowney still unsigned.
That last one, in particular, could come back to haunt the Seahawks. In addition to six games against Kyler Murray, Jared Goff and Jimmy Garoppolo, Seattle also faces the likes of Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins at home and Matt Ryan, Josh Allen and Carson Wentz on the road.
Strength-of-schedule data courtesy of CBS Sports.