The 2014 NFL regular-season schedule was released this week. Based each team’s record from a year ago, the Oakland Raiders have the hardest slate of games in the league.
In 16 games last season, Oakland’s 2014 opponents recorded a.578 winning percentage. The Raiders are one of just 13 teams that will face opponents that had a combined winning record.
While the draft looks to help out poor teams from a season ago by giving them top selections, a team’s record doesn’t have any effect on its strength of schedule. The Indianapolis Colts, who won 11 games in 2013, have the easiest schedule next year. Two other playoff teams rank in the bottom 10 in schedule difficulty.
Last year, the Raiders had one of the worst records in the league. The NFL certainly did them no favors, giving them the most difficult schedule, following a 4-12 season.
The biggest reason for Oakland’s strength of schedule is their division. In 2013, the AFC West was the toughest division in the conference. Not only did the Denver Broncos claim the No.1 seed, but the division also featured both AFC wild card teams. The Kansas City Chiefs went 11-5, and the San Diego Chargers finished at 9-7. Oakland will face those teams six times.
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In addition to playing in their conference’s’ toughest division, the Raiders have the misfortune of facing every team in the NFL’s top division. In 2014, all of the AFC West teams will play one game against the NFC West clubs. That means Oakland is forced to take on the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, the NFC runners-up San Francisco 49ers, and the 10-win Arizona Cardinals. Even the last-place St. Louis Rams had a respectable season, going 7-9.
Because of the interconference matchups, all of the NFC and AFC West teams make up the most difficult schedules in the NFL. The Broncos had the easiest draw last year, but rank No.2 in SOS this year at .570. The Cardinals have the easiest schedule of the eight teams, but their opponents still combined to record a .547 winning percentage in 2013.
Since strength of schedule is based on last year’s records, it’s often not a good indicator of how well a team will perform. The Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints had two of the three most difficult draws in 2013, and combined to win 23 games. Last year, the Raiders ranked 29th in schedule difficulty, but still didn’t come close to reaching the playoffs.
The softest part of Oakland’s schedule comes in the first two weeks, when they are set to face the New York Jets, followed by the Houston Texans. The Rams, Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills are the only teams on the Raiders’ schedule that finished 2013 with a losing record.