Written By Billy Attridge
In late May we published a piece discussing home-field advantage, weather, and the easiest and toughest schedule for the 2020 NFL season! Over the next month we’ll expound on that and continue down the preview path with schedule breakdowns for all 32 teams, starting in the East with both the AFC and NFC divisions. You will see just how difficult each teams projected schedule is using the “Wins Faced” metric, in addition to favorable and unfavorable spots, along with the most difficult stretch for each ball club. Buckle your chin strap, football is back and so our off-season work ratchets up.
Buffalo Bills: (131.55 Wins Faced)
Best Spot: Week 3, Home vs. Los Angeles Rams – The Bills welcome Sean McVay and the Rams to the east coast for a 1:00pm start, the second week in a row for LA on the east coast after their Week 2 contest in Philadelphia (likely staying east). Is there a chance Buffalo could be 2-0 after facing division foes New York and Miami in Weeks 1 and 2?
Worst Spot: Week 15, Away vs. Denver – Yikes. Coming off of Sunday Night football against Pittsburgh, Buffalo heads west in a “revenge spot” for Denver after Brandon Allen and the Broncos only managed 2.9 yards per play last year in Orchard Park. This game is sandwiched in-between three primetime spots for Buffalo, so we could see a potential “flat” spot for the Bills.
Toughest Stretch: Weeks 12-16 – In this 5-game span off of their bye, Buffalo faces opponents whom the market projects will win an average of 8.84 games. They start with the Chargers, end with a Monday Night showdown in New England, with primetime games at San Francisco and home against Pittsburgh, plus the aforementioned road trip to Denver sandwiched in there. Buffalo as of late is a team not used to being in the limelight, and head coach Sean McDermott loves playing up the blue-collar, underdog role. Will 3 primetime games in 4 weeks start to wear on the Bills, or will this team continue to come together and over-achieve? FoxBet.com opened Buffalo the favorite to win the AFC East division, and in addition to playing the role of favorite this season, the Bills will travel the 7th most miles in the NFL.
Miami Dolphins: (129.15 Wins Faced)
Best Spot: Week 15, Home vs. New England – In Week 15, the Dolphins host the Patriots for their third straight home game, following visits from the Chiefs and Bengals, respectively. New England does have the advantage of coming off a Thursday night game with extra prep time, but this is their 3rd straight road game (coming back from the West coast), and 6th road game in 8 weeks with the Bills on deck for Monday night football.
Worst Spot: Week 6, Away at Denver – Road games in Denver seem to be a recurring theme in this section, but when it’s your 2nd game on the West coast and 3rd road game in 4 weeks, you can quickly see why this creates a difficult spot especially at elevation. The Dolphins are coming off of a trip to San Francisco, and this game is the tail end section of their “toughest stretch” which we will touch on below.
Toughest Stretch: Weeks 1-6 – Unfortunately for Miami, the start of the schedule brings along plenty of challenges, including road trips to New England, San Francisco, and Denver, while hosting Buffalo and Seattle. To spare them a horrid start, the schedule makers gifted the Phins a road game in Jacksonville to break up this stretch, which includes 4 teams projected to win 9 or more games. While the Dolphins do face the least amount of wins in the AFC East, Miami will have to travel the most as they will rack up over 21,000 air miles, fourth most in the entire league.
New England Patriots: (132.55 Wins Faced)
Best Spot: Week 5, Home vs. Denver – This spot is more about the difficult travel situation for the Broncos than it is about the Patriots being in a “Home-run” spot. Denver is on their 2nd game in a row on the east coast (will likely stay on the coast in between, but something to monitor), and it is their 3rd road game in 4 weeks. The Pats have a bye in Week 6, and are coming off of a road trip to KC where they’ll likely be sizable dogs, so their sole focus should be on Denver and getting to the bye off of a win.
Worst Spot: Week 14, Away at Los Angeles Rams – On a short week (Thursday Night Football), New England will likely be staying on the west coast after facing the Chargers on Sunday to take on the Rams. It’s their 5th road game in 7 weeks, in arguably their toughest stretch of the season. The influence of the circadian rhythm might not be prevalent here as Bill and the boys will already be on the coast, but this is a tall task late in the season.
Toughest Stretch: Weeks 8-15 – The opponent list during this portion of New England’s schedule won’t blow your hair back, but factor in 6 of these games are on the highway, including trips to Los Angeles and Miami, and things get much trickier. They play all three division opponents on the road, and the only games they host are Super Bowl contender Baltimore and up and coming Arizona. Not to pile on here, but even the “border games” Week 7 versus San Francisco and Week 16 against Buffalo, features two teams priced to win over 9 games this season.
New York Jets: (135.9 Wins Faced)
Best Spot: Week 5, Home vs. Arizona – Despite a tough stretch for the Jets, the game where they’ll seemingly have a situation/travel advantage is Week 5 against the Cardinals. New York is off of a home Thursday night football game in Week 4, and has the Cardinals coming across the country in their 2nd of 3 straight road games (historically a 44% cover rate for the road teams). Monitoring whether or not Arizona will travel back home after facing Carolina in Week 4 will be key in determining if an even larger edge exists for New York. Arizona has to go to Dallas in Week 6 for their lone primetime game this year outside of Thursday night football, so you’ll have to gauge if mentally they’re “all-in” for their Jets trip.
Worst Spot: Week 15, Away at Los Angeles Rams – Week 15 against the Rams comes on the heels of a road trip to Seattle, where we hope for the Jets sake they stay out west. The Rams will have three extra days of prep coming off of a Thursday night football game against the Patriots at home. The time is still TBD, so we’ll have to see whether this stays at a likely time slot of 4:25pm eastern time.
Toughest Stretch: Weeks 6-9 – I contemplated using Weeks 1-9 here, but we narrowed it down to the four game stretch where their opponents have a projected win total of 9.4, including road trips to Los Angeles (Chargers) and Kansas City, and home games versus division rivals Buffalo and New England. If New York could come out of those four games 2-2, that’d be a huge mental win for a team whose win total has moved down from 7 to 6.5 at FoxBet.com. Weeks 1-9 the Jets face opponents whose average projected win total is 8.98! Talk about a tough stretch to start the season.
Dallas Cowboys: (128.7 Wins Faced)
Best Spot: Week 6, Home vs. Arizona – This Monday night game was teed up for the Cowboys. While it is their 3rd home game in so many weeks, the Cardinals, unfortunately, are on the other end of the stick. Arizona travels from Carolina (east coast) to New York (east coast) to Dallas. Arizona will likely go home after the New York game, but all that travel has been shown to wear down teams on the back end of these trips.
Worst Spot: Week 8, Away at Philadelphia – Teams traveling on their 3rd straight road game have only covered 46% of the time in those spots. Arizona fits the bill here. Teams face much worse spots than the Cowboys will in their Week 8 matchup against the Eagles, but with a softer schedule this season, this is where we’ll look. Philadelphia comes off of a home Thursday night game, and is playing their 3rd home game in as many weeks, with a bye on deck. Dallas is coming off a road game in Washington, and will likely travel back to Dallas before heading to Philadelphia.
Toughest Stretch: Weeks 13-16 – It’s not the boldest prediction saying this stretch could have major playoff seeding implications for the NFC, as Dallas starts this sector at Baltimore on a short week for Thursday night football, then plays their 3rd road game in 4 weeks in Cincinnati before finishing out with San Francisco (Sunday night football) and Philadelphia at home. With three games slated to be against opponents projected to win 9.5 games or greater, Dallas could consider themselves fortunate to be 2-2 after this stretch.
New York Giants: (136.45 Wins Faced)
Best Spot: Week 8, Home vs. Tampa Bay – After coming off a primetime Sunday night game in Las Vegas, the Buccaneers travel back east for a November Monday night game in New York. The Giants have 4 extra days of rest and prep after playing Week 7 on Thursday in Philadelphia. Outside of their Thursday night game against Philadelphia and Week 1 against the Steelers, this is the last primetime spot for the G-men. While the schedule makers did New York absolutely no favors this season, the roster looks better on paper and we know their expected wins last season fell nearly 3 games below their actual win rate.
Worst Spot: Week 5, Away at Dallas – The worst spot of the year comes on the back-end of their toughest stretch, outlined below. Visiting Dallas for their 3rd road game in 4 weeks, after traveling to the west coast to take on the Rams is far from ideal for first year head coach Joe Judge. Dallas will be coming off of a home game against the Browns, so they should be well rested with no travel for this Week 5 matchup.
Toughest Stretch: Weeks 1-5 – New York opens with a brutal stretch, facing opponents projected to win an average of 9.2 games this season. After opening at home on Monday night football against the Steelers, the Giants hit the highway for 3 of their next 4, going to Chicago, LA (Rams) and Dallas, with a home visit from the reigning NFC champion 49ers in Week 3. Getting two wins here would have to be considered a monumental success considering the opponents and travel situation.
Philadelphia Eagles: (131.95 Wins Faced)
Best Spot: Week 8, Home vs. Dallas – We touched on this previously when discussing the Cowboys “worst spot” portion of the article, but the Eagles are on 3 extra days of rest and prep, and it’s their 3rd home game in a row with a bye on deck to boot. Dallas is coming off of a trip to Washington, and will really be up against it in Philadelphia for this Sunday night NFC east clash especially if fans are allowed to be in attendance.
Worst Spot: Week 15, Away at Arizona – This one was extremely difficult to choose from. The Birds do have a brutal Week 4 game against the 49ers on Sunday night football that historically is tough for east coast teams, but the spot against Arizona stuck out a bit more. It is their 4th road game in 6 weeks, sandwiched between a home game against the Saints and what could be an NFC East deciding matchup on the road in Dallas. This game also comes in their toughest portion of the schedule.
Toughest Stretch: Weeks 11-16 – Over the course of a 6-game stretch, Philadelphia will face opponents whose average projected wins this year is 9.1! If that wasn’t tough enough, four of these games are on the road (Cleveland, Green Bay, Arizona, Dallas), and their home games are against Seattle (won in Philadelphia 2x last year), and the Saints. With only one 1:00pm time-slot, and playing in three different time zones, Doug Pederson and the Birds will have their hands full.
Washington Redskins: (133.7 Wins Faced)
Best Spot: Week 16, Home vs. Carolina – If you think Coach Ron Rivera doesn’t have this game circled on his calendar, you’re crazy. The former head coach of the Panthers will look to exact revenge after being canned last year. This is the Redskins second home game in a row after hosting Seattle in Week 15, while the Panthers are on their second road game after visiting Lambeau Field the previous week.
Worst Spot: Week 14, Away at San Francisco – I’m not sure what Washington did to deserve some of the scheduling quirks they received, and there is no game more unfavorable to them than their trip west to take on the 49ers. It will be their 3rd road game in a row (46% cover rate). The 49ers get to stay at home after hosting Buffalo on Monday Night Football.
Toughest Stretch: Week 12-15 – Not only are the first three games of this stretch on the road (Dallas, Pittsburgh, San Francisco), but they’re welcomed back home with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, who have been covering machines on the east coast in the 1:00pm slot with Wilson under center. These four games are against opponents who are projected to win 9.7 games this year; Ron Rivera and Company will be up against it late in the season.