Written By Billy Attridge
Sadly the final iteration of our 2020 NFL schedule preview is here. After deep-diving 24 teams in Part 1, 2, and 3 of our series, we wrap with the NFC and AFC West divisions where the Broncos caught the attention of professional bettors who have shipped money OVER their win total, but can Denver survive the first 5 weeks? Meanwhile, the Raiders begin their inaugural season in Las Vegas but schedule makers did them no favors Weeks 2 through 9, where their average opponent wins faced is 9.43! Trekking to the NFC West we examine this off-seasons “it team” in Arizona to see if the back-half of the schedule keeps the Cardinals from the postseason. With every team reporting for camp by the end of July, we feel very confident you’re well prepared schedule-wise for the 2020 NFL Season.
Denver Broncos: (Wins Faced: 135.65)
Best Spot: Week 15, Home vs. Buffalo Bills
Denver’s only home game weeks 13 through 16 is this one right here, and the Broncos should have revenge on their mind after last year’s dud in Orchard Park where they were held to a 31% success rate through the air and a 7% explosive pass rate. This is a brutal spot for Buffalo coming off a Sunday Night Football clash against Pittsburgh and then having to travel west. Don’t forget, Buffalo has a division game on deck against New England and the newly signed Cam Newton. This Week 15 matchup happens to be Buffalo’s only non-primetime game during this 4-week period.
Worst Spot: Week 5, Away at New England Patriots
On the second leg of their east coast trip, Denver duels new look New England with Cam Newton under center. The Broncos enter off a Thursday Night road game in New York against the Jets, so they have 3 additional days of rest and prep. However, this will be Denver’s 3rd road game in 4 weeks. Meanwhile, the Patriots enter off a trip to Kansas City, and after their bye they square off against NFC Champion San Francisco. This looks like a must have game for New England.
Toughest Stretch: Weeks 1-5
The Broncos have one of the tougher schedules in terms of “Wins Faced”, and they’ll be challenged right out of the gate. Over the first five weeks, Denver has 3 games on the east coast (Pittsburgh, New England, NY Jets), with home games against the Titans and Buccaneers. These five opponents have an average projected win total of 8.58, which doesn’t include Kansas City (2x) or New Orleans, who they face later in the season.
Kansas City Chiefs: (Wins Faced: 128.65)
Best Spot: Week 13, Home vs. Denver Broncos
Kansas City follows their Week 10 bye with road games at Las Vegas and Tampa Bay. Week 13 will be the Chiefs only game at home over a five week stretch, so this Sunday Night game against Denver will be one they can’t let slip away. Denver comes off games against the Charges and Saints at home, while a road game looms against the Panthers.
Worst Spot: Week 15, Away at New Orleans Saints
Oof! We discussed the Chiefs hitting the highway for 4 games in 5 weeks, and what a way to end it! We’re unsure if fans will be in the stands for the upcoming season but if New Orleans can pack the Superdome it could help. This will be New Orleans first home game in 4 weeks, as they come off a 3 week road stretch ending Week 14 in Philadelphia.
Toughest Stretch: Weeks 2-7
Facing opponents with a projected average of 8.68 wins, Kansas City hits the road 4x during their toughest 6-week stretch this season. They start with road games at LA (Chargers) and Baltimore (MNF), followed by home games against New England and the Raiders, and they conclude their travels with stops in Buffalo (TNF) and Denver. The travel is problematic as the Chiefs hit the west coast, then back east, followed by home games in the Midwest, before going coast-to-coast again to end this run.
Las Vegas Raiders: (Wins Faced: 135.20)
Best Spot: Week 16, Home vs. Miami Dolphins
Coming on the heels of a Thursday Night game against the Chargers, Las Vegas was one of the few teams blessed with 3 consecutive home games in 2020. The Raiders will welcome Miami to Sin City and they might have a rookie quarterback under center at that point in the campaign. With additional rest and the Dolphins off a heated division game against New England, this could develop into a nice situation for the Raiders.
Worst Spot: Week 13, Away at New York Jets
Week 13 will be interesting to monitor for Las Vegas as they return from a road trip in Atlanta. John Gruden will have a decision to make about staying east for the week or heading back to Vegas, and knowing he hates to fly that decision isn’t a tough one. If they do decide to travel home, the extra flight could provide a disadvantage for Derek Carr and company. Additionally, this is the Jets 3rd consecutive week in the Metropolitan area, as they host Miami Week 12 after their bye.
Toughest Stretch: Weeks 2-9
The lone positive over this 8-week stretch is Las Vegas has their bye Week 6. The Raiders will need all the help they can get with 4 of 7 games on the road featuring opponent’s with an average win total of 9.43. Starting with a home Monday Night game versus New Orleans, the Raiders then travel to New England, host Buffalo, and hit the road for Kansas City before a much needed bye. Tack on Tampa, Cleveland, and LA (Chargers), with the latter being on the road and you can see why the Raiders have taken early UNDER money on their win total.
Los Angeles Chargers: (Wins Faced: 126.95)
Best Spot: Week 13, Home vs. New England Patriots
Following back-to-back road games in Denver and Buffalo, the Chargers come home to battle the Patriots at the start of New England’s two week west coast trip. For Belichick’s gang this will be their 4th road game in 6 weeks and short week looms for Thursday Night Football Week 14 against the Rams. Could the Chargers catch Cam and New England in a disadvantageous situation?
Worst Spot: Week 7, Away at Miami Dolphins
Last year Los Angeles charged into Miami Week 4 and thumped the Dolphins by 20. Things could be different this season with the Chargers playing their 3rd road game in 4 weeks for an early 1:00 pm eastern kick. Miami is coming off of their two-game west coast trip, and have the other LA (Rams) on deck. Could we see the 5th and 6th overall picks from last April’s draft battle it out?
Toughest Stretch: Weeks 4-7
The Chargers benefit from having a lighter schedule according to our projected “Wins Faced” metric, but that doesn’t mean they’re void of vulnerable stretches. Weeks 4 through 7 has Los Angeles traveling to Tampa Bay and New Orleans, followed by a home game against the Jets, and then another east coast trip to Miami. The miles could start to wear on LAC as they hit South Beach, and that’s a theme we have to monitor throughout the season as the Chargers navigate the second most travel in the league.
Arizona Cardinals: (Wins Faced: 130.15)
Best Spot: Week 10, Home vs. Buffalo Bills
The Cardinals find themselves in a great position Week 10 as they welcome Buffalo to the desert. This will be Arizona’s 4th straight week at home, while this game for Buffalo comes right before their Week 11 bye (following games at home versus New England and Seattle).
Worst Spot: Week 5, Away at New York Jets
In the middle of a 3-game road stretch where Arizona faces Carolina and Dallas, the Cardinals have to head east for a 1:00pm kick against the New York Jets. It’s imperative to monitor the travel situation as Arizona will already be in Carolina the week before; it’s likely Kyler and crew stay on the east coast. Then Airzona has a Monday Night game on deck against Dallas, while the Jets enter off a Thursday night home game against Denver where they’ll have added rest and prep.
Toughest Stretch: Weeks 10-17
The Cardinals final 8 games of the season feature opponents with an average projected win total of 8.81, which includes trips to Seattle, New England, New York (Giants), and Los Angeles (Rams). Unfortunately for Arizona, the games at home are actually more difficult hosting Buffalo, LAR, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. It’s important for Arizona to start well, as the back end of the schedule provides challenges.
Los Angeles Rams: (Wins Faced: 133.8)
Best Spot: Week 15, Home vs. New York Jets
After hosting New England Week 14 for Thursday Night Football, the Rams enjoy an extended week as they wait to face the Jets at home. New York enters off a road game in Seattle, and it’s still undetermined how they will handle travel between these games. One thing is certain, it won’t be ideal. The start time is still TBD, and even in the unlikely event that the matchup is pushed to primetime, the Circadian rhythm would come into play.
Worst Spot: Week 3, Away at Buffalo Bills
Following a road game in Philadelphia, the Rams will stay east to face Buffalo. Not only do we expect the Bills to be a very competitive this season, but the 1:00pm start is an extra hurdle west coast teams must overcome when traveling east. This game arrives on the tail end of the “toughest stretch” for the Rams.
Toughest Stretch: Weeks 1-3
Dallas, Philadelphia and Buffalo are the three squads Los Angeles opens the season with, fortunately the Cowboys game is at home. The aforementioned opponents all project to win 9 or more games, and with two of them played on the east coast it’s crucial the Rams avoid a 0-3 start. Despite improvement late last season, the Rams offensive line will be tested early against these three defensive fronts.
San Francisco 49ers: (Wins Faced: 131.6)
Best Spot: Week 6, Home vs. Los Angeles Rams
NFL schedule makers handed out a few 3-game home stands, and San Francisco is a beneficiary of that. In particular, the 49’ers Sunday night clash against Los Angeles comes on the 3rd game in this stretch, immediately following a home date against Miami. For the Rams, this marks their 4th road game in 5 weeks and follows an east coast trip to Washington.
Worst Spot: Week 7, Away at New England
It just so happens that immediately following the best spot for San Francisco, they face an uphill challenge in Foxboro. Not only does this game follow a Sunday night primetime show, but Belichick and the Patriots enter off a bye with extra prep and recovery time. The matchup also finds itself sandwiched between two NFC West division games, as a road trip to Seattle looms for San Francisco.
Toughest Stretch: Weeks 7-13
San Francisco starts their difficult stretch in New England, and it finally concludes seven weeks later at home against Buffalo for Monday night football. During this sector, the 49ers opponents have an average “Wins Faced” of 9.19. 4 of 6 games are on the highway, including trips to Seattle, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. The 49ers want to prove they’re still the team to beat in the NFC, and they can do that during this stretch.
Seattle Seahawks: (Wins Faced: 131.5)
Best Spot: Week 5, Home vs. Minnesota Vikings
Right before their Week 6 bye, Seattle hosts Minnesota for Sunday night football. Entering off a trip to Miami, the Seahawks travel back west for what could be a pivotal NFC showdown with playoff implications. This will be Minnesota’s 3rd road game in 4 weeks after facing Houston Week 4.
Worst Spot: Week 9, Away at Buffalo Bills
Following a road game in Arizona and a home date against NFC champion San Francisco, the Seahawks travel east for a 1:00pm kickoff at Orchard Park against Buffalo. This is Seattle’s only non-division game over this 5 week a span. For the Bills, it’s their second consecutive home game.
Toughest Stretch: Weeks 7-12
Immediately following their bye week, Seattle hits the road 4 times over their next 6 games; including trips to Arizona, Buffalo, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. The Seahawks home games during this stretch are against San Francisco and a primetime TNF matchup versus Arizona. The Seahawks season could be determined by this stretch featuring two trips East and four games against division rivals. All told, the average opponent win total during this sector of games is 8.78.