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Thursday, August 4, 2011

NFL Predictions: 2011 Custom Strength of Schedule

Free agency has officially moved into the 2nd phase of signings as the majority of impact players have been taken off the board.  There are about 15-20 legitimate starters unsigned, but unless one team signs 3-4 of them there isn't going to be a significant change to my current power rankings.

I've made the necessary adjustments to the 2010 rankings factoring in coaching, roster changes, drafted players, injured/healthy players, and variance.  

It's time to take a closer look at the upcoming schedule and determine who's facing an uphill climb and who will be able to pad their stats.  This is the last step needed to make some informed season win total predictions and pick the division winners.

It's pretty remarkable that the team that finished at the bottom of the standings last year has been awarded with the toughest schedule for 2011, but sometimes that's just the way the cookie crumbles.  Adding insult to injury, the Super Bowl finalist Pittsburgh Steelers are looking at the easiest schedule this year.  This is due in large part to playing CLE and CIN twice each and the NFC West division.

TB and KC won't have the same opportunity to pad their win totals this year that they did last year.  CHI is another team that had a much better record than their power rating indicated in 2010.  The 6th toughest schedule should give them the test they require.  DET is a sexy pick this season but it could be another season of growth before they legitimately challenge for a playoff spot. 

The battle for the NFC West will once again be difficult to figure out because they all play each other and subsequently have another fairly easy road.  CIN and CLE are facing a painful transition year so they should be happy that they haven't been punished by the schedule Gods.

The darker shaded boxes indicate how close they are to the average strength of schedule.  A lot of teams fall within this range and they won't have many excuses if they underperform in 2011.

If compare my strength of schedule to the one you find on ESPN you'll see how different things look once you account for all the relevant variables.

For an explanation at how I came up with these rankings you can check out this post.   

2011 Custom Strength of Schedule
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