So the NFL schedule has been released and with nothing else to analyze or talk about right now, we’re all fawning or freaking out over the Vikings strength of schedule.
On one hand, there’s a lot of good players, more specificallyyoung good players that the Vikings will see for the first time this season that add a layer of intrigue to the team’s schedule. That’s fun, it’s exciting and it will certainly help sell intrigue. And then on the other hand there’s the crowd that is freaking out over the perceived Strength of Schedule (SoS) being the 5th most difficult throughout the league.
For my dollar, we all need to take a step back, a deep breath and stop worrying about anything that happened in the NFL last year, and that’s what SoS is solely based off of.
Now this isn’t a blanket statement, there are clearly good teams and bad teams in the league and it’s rare that those teams flip completely season-to-season, but it does happen.
Take the 2015 to 2016 Carolina Panthers as an example. This is the one that will always stick out in my head and has pushed me to not care a lick about SoS each year when the new schedules are released. The 2015 Carolina Panthers, led by Cam Newton, went all the way to the Super Bowl where they entered the game as 5.5 point favorites but were ultimately dominated by the Denver Broncos losing Super Bowl 50 by two scores. The following season, the Panthers were on the Vikings schedule and headlined what we all thought was going to be a “really tough schedule” when it was first released.
But things happened.
The 2016 Carolina Panthers wet the bed entirely, losing 5 of their first 6 games (including a 22-10 loss to the Vikings) and they finished the season 6-10. In this case, Cam Newton wasn’t injured, there wasn’t dramatic turnover, they just stunk that next season. Whatever clicked in 2015 wasn’t working in 2016?
This is my case study for why we shouldn’t get worked up when a difficult schedule is dropped, but there are countless examples in recent history alone that would back up this general theory as well…