Dan Quinn picked a good year to take over in Atlanta.
Based on 2014 records, the Falcons will play the easiest schedule in the NFL next season. Of the 16 regular season games Atlanta will play in 2015, only four of those will come against opponents who finished 2014 with a winning record.
The Falcons can thank their horrible division for their "easy" strength of schedule: Every team in the NFC South finished the 2014 season with a losing record.
The Falcons strength of schedule for 2015 is .409, which beat out the Colts (.417) for the easiest strength of schedule next season.
On the other hand, there's the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are going to have to navigate through a difficult schedule if they want to return to the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Based on 2014 records, the Steelers will play the toughest schedule in the NFL next season. The Steelers will play a total of nine games against 2014 playoff teams, plus games against the Chiefs and Chargers, who both finished with winning records, but didn't make the playoffs.
That means the Steelers will play a total of 11 games next season against teams who finished 2014 with a winning record. Again, the Falcons will only have to play four.
The Steelers strength of schedule for 2015 is .579, which beat out the Bengals (.563) for the toughest strength of schedule.
Now you might be wondering: Does strength of schedule actually mean anything?
It probably does if you ask the Raiders. Going into the 2014 season, the Raiders were slated to have the toughest strength of schedule based on their opponents' combined 2013 record of 148-108, a winning percentage of .578.
After all 256 regular season games were played, it turned out that the Raiders did have the toughest strength of schedule (their opponents combined to go 146-110) and Oakland finished 3-13. Although this is the Raiders we're talking about, so it's possible they would have gone 3-13 with the easiest schedule.
The Jets weren't helped by their strength of schedule either. Going into the 2014 season, New York was supposed to have the ninth toughest schedule based on their opponents' 2013 records, but after all the the games were played, the Jets played the second toughest schedule in the NFL. The Jets went from 8-8 in 2013 to 4-12 in 2014.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the Dallas Cowboys, who were supposed to have the 18th most difficult schedule going into 2014, based on their opponents' 2013 records. However, after all the games were played in 2014, Dallas ended up having the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL, playing against teams that combined to go 114-142 (.445).
Of the 12 teams that made the playoffs in 2014, only four of those teams had a strength of schedule over .500. That means the other eight playoff teams got into the postseason in due part to playing a weaker schedule.
After all was said and done, Dallas, Detroit, Houston and Pittsburgh played the four weakest schedules in 2014. Three of those teams made the playoffs and the one that didn't -- Houston -- finished with a winning record.
Anyway, here's the 2015 strength of schedule for each NFL team (Combined 2014 record of all 16 opponents, combined winning percentage)
1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 147-107-2, .579
2. Cincinnati Bengals: 144-112, .563
3. San Francisco 49ers: 143-112-1, .561
4. Seattle Seahawks: 142-112-2, .559
5. Arizona Cardinals:142-113-1, .557
6. St. Louis Rams: 141-114-1, .553
T-7. Oakland Raiders: 139-116-1, .545
T-7. Kansas City Chiefs: 139-116-1, .545
9. Cleveland Browns: 138-116-2, .543
10. Denver Broncos: 138-117-1, .541
11. Baltimore Ravens: 137-117-2, .539
12. Minnesota Vikings: 138-118, .539
13. Chicago Bears: 136-120, .531
14. Green Bay Packers: 135-120-1, .529
15. Detroit Lions: 135-121, .527
16. San Diego Chargers: 132-123-1, .518
17. Miami Dolphins: 126-130, .492
18. New York Jets: 125-131, .488
19. Buffalo Bills: 124-131-1, .486
T-20. Washington Redskins: 122-133-1, .478
T-20. New York Giants: 122-133-1, .478
22. New England Patriots: 122-134, .477
23. Philadelphia Eagles: 121-134-1, .475
24. Dallas Cowboys: 119-136-1, .467
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: 118-137-1, .463
26. Tennessee Titans: 111-144-1, .435
27. Carolina Panthers: 111-145, .434
28. New Orleans Saints: 109-145-2, .429
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 108-146-2, .425
30. Houston Texans: 106-148-2, .417
31. Indianapolis Colts: 106-149-1, .417
32. Atlanta Falcons: 104-150-2, .409
Here's a link to a list of every opponent each team will play in 2015. The time and dates of each game will be released in the spring.