It's now been more than NFL schedule, and since I'm in quarantine and have nothing better to do, I decided to comb through all 32 schedules to find the five easiest stretches that any team will face this year (I also took some time to figure out the five most difficult stretches, but let's not get ahead of ourselves, that's coming out next week).of the 2020
To figure which teams had the five easiest stretches, I took multiple things into account like Super Bowl odds, whether a team will be playing at home or away during their "easy" stretch, and what their opponent's over/under for the season looks like. I also considered a few independent factors. For instance, the Seahawks, who have the third-easiest stretch of any team in the NFL this year in our rankings, will play two east coast teams at home during their stretch, which is viewed as an advantage because the Seahawks have a history of dominating teams from the eastern time zone at home during the regular season.
When putting this list together, I really only followed one rule: For a stretch of games to count in the rankings, it had to be at least three weeks long. There are a lot of teams that play two straight difficult games, but once you throw in a third one, things usually get slightly easier.
Alright, let's get to the rankings, and remember, the five most difficult stretches will be coming out next week. But for now, let's dive into the top-five easiest schedule stretches.
5. Washington Redskins (Weeks 8 thru 11)
The Redskins don't have an easy schedule this year, but they will be catching somewhat of a break coming out of their Week 8 bye. After that week off, they will play consecutive games against the Giants, Lions and Bengals. Although this stretch is considered "easy" based on these rankings, the Redskins might not dominate this three-game span, and that's because they're just not expected to be very good.
Of course, even if they were to win every game during this stretch, that might not even help them, and that's because after their Week 11 game against the Bengals, the Redskins will start a four-game stretch where they play at the Cowboys, at the Steelers, at the 49ers and at home against Seahawks. That stretch is so difficult that it ranked among the top-five hardest stretches in the NFL this year. Unfortunately for you, you'll have to wait until next week to find out exactly where it ranks when we release our list of the five most difficult stretches that any team will face this season. The Redskins were the only team in the NFL that landed on both our "Easiest stretch" list and our "Most difficult stretch" list.
4. Seattle Seahawks (Weeks 13 thru 15)
Opponents: Giants, Jets, at Redskins
This stretch of games couldn't come at a better time for the Seahawks. By the time the schedule hits December, there's a good chance Seattle will be in a dogfight to win the NFC West, and the good news for the Seahawks is that their easy stretch starts in December. Starting in Week 13 (Dec. 6), the Seahawks will get to play consecutive home games against the Giants and Jets. That's a huge advantage for a team that has been known to dominate teams from the eastern time zone at home. Since Russell Wilson's rookie year in 2012, the Seahawks have played 20 regular season home games against teams from the eastern time zone and they've gone 16-4 in those games. Of those four losses, one came to an eventual Super Bowl team (2015 Panthers) and another one came against a team that finished its season with the NFL's best regular season record (2019 Ravens). The other two losses came in 2017 during a rare rut where the Seahawks lost consecutive home games (Falcons, Redskins). Basically, it's not going to be easy for Daniel Jones or Sam Darnold to stroll into CenturyLink Field and steal a win.
As for that other game during this stretch, although it's being played in Washington, that shouldn't bother the Seahawks, who are 7-0 in the eastern time zone since the beginning of the 2018 season.
3. Arizona Cardinals (Weeks 2 thru 5)
Opponents: Redskins, Lions, at Panthers, at Jets
After going 5-11 in 2019, it's hard to say how good the Cards are going to be in 2020, but now that I'm looking at their schedule, this might be one team that should be considered a dark horse to get to the playoffs, and that's because they're easy stretch comes during the beginning of the season. After playing the 49ers in Week 1, the Cardinals get a stretch of four very winnable games with home showdowns against the Redskins and Lions, before hitting the road for consecutive games against the Panthers and Jets.
Another big upside for the Cardinals is that they're going to be able to compact their two road games into one trip. Coach Kliff Kingsbury has already announced that the team will be staying out east for that two-game swing to Carolina and New York.
Kliff Kingsbury said the plan is for the Cardinals to stay on the East Coast between the Panthers and Jets games this season.— Josh Weinfuss (@joshweinfuss) May 11, 2020
The fact that the Cards will be able to compress that into one trip is huge because it comes during a stretch where they'll actually be playing three road games in a row, which can take a toll on NFL teams (The third road game comes in Week 5 when they play at Dallas). If the Cards can sweep this stretch, they could start the season 4-1, and maybe even 5-0 if they can upset the 49ers in Week 1.
2. Miami Dolphins (Weeks 10-13)
Opponents: Jets, BYE, at Jets, Bengals
One of the Chargers and Seahawks played two games in a row against each other). For the Dolphins, this works out to their advantage, because they've been dominating the Jets over the past few years. Since the beginning of the 2016 season, Miami is 6-2 against the Jets with the only two losses coming by a total of 15 points. The scheduling quirk means that the Dolphins will get to try to beat their old coach (Adam Gase) two times in a span of 14 days.of 2020 involves the Dolphins, and luckily for Miami, the strange quirk on the schedule is going to work out in its favor. Starting in Week 10, the Dolphins will play consecutive games against the Jets, marking the first time in 29 years that two teams have played consecutive games against each other (The last time it happened came in 1991 when the
After facing the Jets twice, the Dolphins "easy" stretch will end with a Week 13 home game against the Bengals. Not only is that a winnable game, but it's coming at a winnable time: Since the beginning of the 2016 season, the Dolphins are 7-2 in December home games. The heat in Miami can cause some issues for an opponent, which is why the Dolphins have been able to score some major home upsets in December over the past four years, including two wins over the Patriots (2017, 2018) and a shocking win last season over an Eagles team that eventually made the playoffs (The Dolphins were 10.5-point underdogs in that game).
1. Baltimore Ravens (Weeks 15 thru 17)
Opponents: Jaguars, Giants, at Bengals
Ravens coach John Harbaugh should send a thank you note to everyone in the NFL scheduling department, because not only did the Ravens get the easiest schedule stretch of the any team in the NFL this year according to our rankings, but that stretch will be coming at a key time. The Ravens 2019 schedule will close with three very winnable games with two of those coming at home (Jaguars, Giants) and one coming on the road in Week 17 (at Bengals).
The reason this is a big deal is that the NFL playoff format is changing this year, and there's a good chance this stretch of games could work out to Baltimore's advantage. With seven teams now qualifying for the postseason out of the AFC, that means only one team will be getting a first-round bye. With only one bye up for grabs, there's a good chance that Ravens will be battling it out for the top seed over the final few weeks of the year, and with a season-ending schedule that looks like this, there's a good chance the Ravens will end the season on a high note and clinch the No. 1 overall seed.
As for the Ravens, you could argue their "easy" stretch actually starts in Week 14 when they play the Browns. Not only will Baltimore get 11 days of rest going into that Monday night game in Cleveland (They play on a Thursday in Week 13), but they've gone 12-4 against the Browns since the beginning of the 2012 season.