Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Forgive me for this NFL post during a time where we are all preparing to descend into madness.  March Madness, that is.

The NFL won't announce their schedule until April, but they have already determined the opponents.  Therefore, we can know the 2008 strength of schedule.  It's derived from the win/loss records of the 2007 season.  Of course there is the standard disclaimer that past performance does not guarantee future returns.  However, a few things leap out at me that cannot go unsaid.

Of primary concern (to me) is that the Colts have the second toughest schedule.  Partisan as I am, it seems they always rate in the top 10.  In fact, they had the 5th toughest in 2007.  No doubt that perennial playoff appearances and division titles will do that.  However, in stark contrast, observe the 18-1 Patriots.  They have the easiest schedule.  Ugh.  How can that be?  Thank the AFC East for being so terrible.  Parity?  What parity?

Also, note how awful the AFC West is.  The Chargers, Raiders, and Broncos have the 2nd - 4th easiest schedules, while the Chiefs have the 7th easiest.  Are they really so bad that playing intra-divisional games would dilute their schedule so horribly?  No, but do also note that they play the AFC East this year, so you have two terrible divisions paired together, each dragging the other deeper into futility.  It's very elegant in it's inanity.

I don't think it's much of reach to project the Patriots and Chargers to be the division winners... even 6 months before the season starts.  Further, I'll project them as the #1 and #2 seeds in the AFC, respectively.  I don't think it's that much of a reach.  New England had the 3rd toughest schedule in 2007 and finished one game short of perfect.  With the easiest schedule in 2008?  Let's hope they drop one to the Colts, the Chargers, or maybe Pittsburgh, lest we be subject to repeat of last year's breathless gushing by the collective punditry.

San Diego is really the gamble for the #2 seed, but I think an educated bet.  It hinges on the AFC South and the AFC North winners, and how bloodied they when they secure their division titles.  The AFC South occupies 4 of the 8 toughest schedules (2nd, 3rd, 6th, 8th) and the AFC North possess 4 of the 9 toughest schedules (1st, 5th, 7th, 9th).  Since both divisions clog the top of the projected toughest schedules, it's not a reach to say they're likely to finish in the #3 and #4 spots for the conference.  I hope I'm wrong.

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