Projecting the difficulty of an NFL team’s schedule is a tall order. Few sports have as much volatility from year to year as the NFL, and the inherent parity in the league tends to make measures based on previous years’ records unreliable.
However, Football Outsiders attempted to project the strength of NFL team’s schedules for 2018 by projecting what their opponents’ collective DVOA ratings will be for the upcoming season rather than relying on simple measures like 2017 records. Under that scheme, they project the Green Bay Packers to have just the 25th-toughest schedule — in other words, the eighth-easiest slate in the NFL.
That projection comes thanks to the team’s opponents having an average projected DVOA of -1.1%. Interestingly, that is the easiest slate of any team in the NFC North, with the Lions coming in 11th (+0.6%), the Vikings 16th (+0.1%), and the Bears 18th (0.0%). Last season, by contrast, the Packers’ schedule was the second-toughest in the entire NFL behind only the Bears.
Granted, the Packers have a brutally difficult set of games in the middle of the season. That five-week stretch after the bye week, which features four road games and three of those coming against 2017 division winners, will define this team’s season. Back-to-back games there come at the Rams and at the Patriots, two of the toughest contests on the schedule. However, with an advantageous lineup to start and close the season — including three games against poor AFC East squads — the Packers should have a chance to be right in the mix in the NFC North.
This year’s toughest schedules belong to the four teams in the NFC South, with the Panthers, Falcons, Buccaneers, and Saints going one through four in that order. A big reason for that fact is that the division featured three playoff teams a year ago; likewise their schedule rotation features the NFC East (with the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles) and the AFC North.