The Strength of Schedule
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell recently chose the Detroit Lions as one of five teams who are most likely to improve in 2020. Now, we don’t consider his Pythagorean expectation of 6.0 wins to be a real improvement. And I’m not sure Lions’ ownership would disagree.
Still, the real takeaway here is the FPI projected strength of schedule which ranked the Lions as having the fifth easiest schedule of opponents in the NFL in 2020. This is undoubtedly with the expectation that the NFC North take a bit of a dive this year.
The Lions are slated to face the NFC South, AFC South, and the last place teams of the NFC East and the NFC West, as well as their own divisional opponents six times. The latter always being highly competitive and impossible to predict from year to year.
Outside of the NFC North, Detroit is set to face the Arizona Cardinals (5-10-1), New Orleans Saints (13-3), Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10), Atlanta Falcons (7-9), Indianapolis Colts (7-9), Washington Football Team (3-13), Carolina Panthers (5-11), Houston Texans (10-6), Tennessee Titans (9-7), and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9).
Out of this above group, seven of these teams finished 2019 with a record below .500. In the NFC North last year, no team but Detroit finished with a record less than 8-8.
It’s really anyone’s guess if this schedule of opponents will actually be an easier road to the playoffs for the Lions or not in 2020. But if ESPN believes it is, who are we to argue?