The Bears played the hardest schedule in 2017; Jaguars and Titans had it easiest

When Matt Nagy coaches his first season with the Bears in 2018, he'll probably be hoping that his schedule ends up slightly easier than the one that John Fox had to deal with this season. 

For the 2017 season, the Bears ended up playing the most difficult schedule in the NFL, and obviously, that didn't end up working out too well for Fox, who was fired on Black Monday after his team finished the season 5-11. 

Playing the most difficult schedule almost never works out well for anyone. Of the teams that played the 10 most difficult schedules in 2017, two ended up firing their coaches and only three of the teams ended up making the playoffs. In something that's probably not a coincidence, all three of those teams came from NFC South, which means the Saints and Falcons are arguably the two most battled-tested teams heading into the divisional round of the playoffs. 

On the other hand, playing an easy schedule seemed to work out well for nearly anyone. Of the teams that played the 10 easiest schedules in 2017, six of them ended up getting into the postseason. As a matter of fact, of the eight teams remaining going into the divisional round, five -- the Patriots, Eagles, Steelers, Jaguars and Titans --- ended up with one of the league's easiest schedules. 

From a purely strength-of-schedule standpoint, it's somewhat surprising that the Bengals ended up holding on to Marvin Lewis. Of the 10 teams that played the easiest schedules, eight finished with a winning record, one fired its coach (Colts) and then there's the Bengals, who didn't finish with a winning record or fire their coach despite having the seventh-easiest schedule. 

The fact that the Colts finished 4-12 with one of the NFL's easiest schedules probably means Indy probably made a smart move by firing Chuck Pagano. And then there's Cleveland. The Browns went 0-16 playing a schedule that ended up being the 10th toughest in the NFL. 

Anyway, here's a look at how the strength-of-schedule rankings ended up shaking out for all 32 teams. 

2017 Strength of Schedule

(Team, record, opponent winning percentage)

1. Bears, 5-11 (.559): Fired their coach
2. Buccaneers, 5-11 (.555)
T-3. Dolphins, 6-10 (.543)
T-3. Falcons, 10-6 (.543): Made playoffs
T-5. Panthers, 11-5 (.539): Made playoffs
T-5. Packers, 7-9 (.539)
T-5. Redskins, 7-9 (.539)
8. Saints, 11-5 (.536): Made playoffs
9. Giants, 3-13 (.531): Fired their coach
T-10. Jets, 5-11 (.520)
T-10. Browns, 0-16 (.520)
12. Texans, 4-12 (.516)
T-13. Raiders, 6-10 (.512): Fired their coach
T-13. 49ers, 6-10 (.512)
15. Rams, 11-5 (.504): Made playoffs
T-16. Lions, 9-7 (.496): Fired their coach
T-16. Cowboys, 9-7 (.496)
T-18. Bills, 9-7 (.492): Made playoffs
T-18. Broncos, 5-11 (.492)
T-18. Vikings, 13-3 (.492): Made playoffs
T-18. Seahawks, 9-7 (.492)
22. Cardinals, 8-8 (.488): Coach retired
23. Patriots, 13-3 (.484): Made playoffs
24. Colts, 4-12 (.480): Fired their coach
25. Chiefs, 10-6 (.477): Made playoffs
26. Bengals, 7-9 (.465)
27. Eagles, 13-3 (.461): Made playoffs
28. Chargers, 9-7 (.457)
29. Steelers, 13-3 (.453): Made playoffs
30. Ravens, 9-7 (.441)
T-31. Jaguars, 10-6 (.434): Made playoffs
T-31. Titans, 10-6 (.434): Made playoffs

(Note: We also tabulated the strength-of-schedule before the season started, which you can see by clicking here)

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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