Coming out of what has been a crazy offseason so far is going to be a challenge. We’re looking at missing out on training camp sessions, which will make the process of developing new additions more difficult. Then, as with every year, comes the unknown future of the NFL season. With the buildup to the season, I want to highlight my thoughts on which teams have particularly hard roads ahead.
How I intend on doing this is by looking at two things for each team: Roster strength and coaching staff. Both will be rated on a scale from 1-to-5. Once that has been done for each team, I’ll compare that to other teams on their schedule by adding each scheduled teams points together.
To be clear, this isn’t just the top five hardest schedules. While that does play a major factor, I’ll also be taking into account other factors. The scoring method I’ve created is just to give an additional reference as to the difficulty of schedule the team will be facing.
5. Atlanta Falcons
Schedule Strength – 120
Matt Ryan’s MVP race leading the Atlanta Falcons to Super Bowl LI was three seasons ago. The team is now two years removed from their last playoff run, and they haven’t looked great since. Issues with the offense never quite taking off like it should, combined with disappointing defensive development has lead to a team unprepared to deal with a schedule that I have tied as the hardest in 2020.
I would like to be clear in saying that I don’t feel the Falcons are a poor team. In fact, I think that they should be talented by all accounts. The issue is that they’ve yet to show the ability to match their potential. Now they head into a season where they have to play Tom Brady and Drew Brees twice a year. Then you add games against Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and Patrick Mahomes. It’s a brutal schedule for a team that has yet to find it’s footing.
4. New York Giants
Schedule Strength – 120
The other team tied for the hardest schedule in the 2020 season is the New York Giants. A brutal schedule in a division that is very much a fight between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys leaves the Giants in an odd spot. On top of this, the reason I have them outranking the Falcons is due to new coaching.
The truth is that nobody knows how the Giants new head coach Joe Judge is going to perform in his first year. He has a developing quarterback, who did show flashes at times last year. Judge and the Giants also boast one of the greatest young talents the league has ever seen at running back in Saquon Barkley. That said, this team needs to develop quickly if they want to beat some of the teams on their schedule, which features the Eagles, Cowboys, 49ers, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Rams, Ravens, and Steelers.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Schedule Strength – 109
I love Gardner Minshew. Not only is he a fun personality, but he’s shown a lot of talent on the field. That said, you can’t deny this team is devoid of talent after trading so much of it away. As a result, it’s unrealistic to expect Gardner to carry a team with limited weapons around him.
Add on top of that one of their best remaining defensive stars, Yannick Ngakoue, has been extremely vocal in his desire to be traded. Combine this with a coaching staff that leaves a lot to be desired and it doesn’t look great for a team that really needs some stability and growth. It won’t help that they’ll have to play the Colts, Titans, Packers, Ravens, and Steelers either.
2. Detroit Lions
Schedule Strength – 113
Well, Darius Slay had a lot to say about Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia:
I know many are high on this team being a dark horse this year, but I think some may be overvaluing their hot start last year. This team doesn’t have a vast array of proven talent. Beyond that, while I do like Matthew Stafford, he is 32 with an injury history. He also hasn’t played quite as well as he had before Patricia arrived.
Speaking of the head coach, he has yet to prove that he can be a quality name in the NFL. If anything, he’s proven the exact opposite. This will be his third year with the team, and if things don’t change soon, he may find it as his last. Which when looking at a schedule that has him playing the Packers, Vikings, Buccaneers, Saints, Titans, and Colts, the hot seat could be a real possibility.
1. New York Jets
Schedule Strength – 117
It’s not going to be a fun year for New York fans.
Adam Gase has failed in the AFC East twice now, which is regarded now as the worst division in football. Under his guidance, we saw Ryan Tannehill bust, only to be a star in Tennessee. Last year, we saw Sam Darnold fail to progress as a quarterback in his second year. For a coach who is supposed to be a quarterback guru, his track record as a head coach is not one most want to remember.
On top of a poor coaching situation, the roster leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a lot of unproven talent, but if Gase can’t develop that talent, the potential won’t matter. Time will tell if Gase can turn it around, but a tough schedule featuring the Bills, 49ers, Colts, Chiefs, Patriots, Browns, Seahawks, and Rams will make it far from easy.