Analyzing the 2010 NFL Strength of Schedule List

Donna CavanaghCorrespondent IJune 9, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 27:  Head coach of the New York Giants, Tom Coughlin watches on from the sideline against the Carolina Panthers at Giants Stadium on December 27, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

No doubt you have seen what we call the “classic” strength of schedule, which is based on a team’s schedule and the records of their opponents in 2009, published in various places.

This analysis has been done this way for many years now.

Two years ago, PossessionPoints.com looked at Strength of Schedule (SOS) based on our Relative Performance Rankings (RPM). We have explained this in detail in other articles .

But to put it simply, this measures how a team performed for the season based on our in-game PossessionPoints statistic.

To us, statistics are just data, which only become information if some useful conclusion can be drawn from the data. So, we looked at the traditional SOS rankings for the prior two years.

We found the average position of the teams that made the playoffs was 15.8 in the rankings. We looked at our RPM rank and found it was only marginally better, at 16.6, for the teams that made the playoffs.

While our RPM out-performed the classic SOS method both years, we wanted to see if there could still be a better measure.

What we came up with involved using the overall RPM as well as a difference between the home and road RPMs. When we did this, the average of the teams who made the playoffs in the last two years rose to 18.6.

On this scale, that is quite a difference. The best 12-team average would be 26 (average of 21-32) and the worst 12-team average would be a 6 (average of 1-12).

An illustration of why we like this new measure can be seen with the 2008 Super Bowl Champions, the Steelers. 

They were ranked  as having the most difficult (1) schedule by both the SOS and our RPM measure. But by the PossessionPoints new measure, the Steelers rank went down to seven. 

The new measure does not say their road to the championship was easy, but it does paint a less challenging picture than previously thought.

Below is a chart of last year’s classic SOS rankings alongside our new Home/Road RPM measure. Hopefully, you will note the relative even distribution of the classic SOS vs. our new measure.

Last year only two of the 12 playoff teams had a difficulty ranking higher than 16 by our new measure:

The above information serves as groundwork for presenting this year’s equivalent rankings shown below:

You can find many interesting observations from this information. And we will note a few. 

If the new ranking we developed continues to outperform the classic SOS, it will possibly be more difficult for the Jets to return to the playoffs this year than the classic SOS would project.

The Eagles and Redskins are also in a more difficult situation than the classic SOS puts them in, but only marginally so.

Conversely, the Titans, Texans and Giants may not have as difficult a time making the playoffs as the classic SOS would project for them.

We hope you enjoy this new measure. We always spend the offseason looking at new ways to analyze data.  We are as interested as you are to see how this new measure plays out. 


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