First, here's a full look at the 2011 strength of schedule for every team before the season started. Note how the simple stats of using last season's wins is largely meaningless to the 2011 reality. Carolina plays in an average division with a total of 18 wins, yet has the toughest schedule. Teams that play in the Steeler's division have a total of 22 wins and the GB dominated divisions have the most, at 23 wins. The 49er's are shown as the 30th rated schedule despite the killing East Coast gambit and having to play the tough AFC North with only one home game in the bunch.
Team Combined win-loss record Percentage
1. Carolina Panthers 142-114-0 .555
2. Buffalo Bills 137-119-0 .535
3t. New York Jets* 133-123-0 .520
3t. Indianapolis Colts* 133-123-0 .520
3t. Jacksonville Jaguars 133-123-0 .520
3t. Kansas City Chiefs* 133-123-0 .520
3t. San Diego Chargers 133-133-0 .520
3t. Denver Broncos 133-123-0 .520
3t. Detroit Lions 133-123-0 .520
10t. Miami Dolphins 132-124-0 .516
10t. Houston Texans 132-124-0 .516
10t. Minnesota Vikings 132-124-0 .516
13t. Green Bay Packers* 130-126-0 .508
13t. New Orleans Saints* 130-126-0 .508
15t. New England Patriots* 129-127-0 .504
15t. Philadelphia Eagles* 129-127-0 .504
15t. Dallas Cowboys 129-127-0 .504
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 127-129-0 .496
19t. Cleveland Browns 126-130-0 .492
19t. Oakland Raiders 126-130-0 .492
19t. New York Giants 126-130-0 .492
19t. Atlanta Falcons* 126-130-0 .492
23t. Tennessee Titans 125-131-0 .488
23t. Chicago Bears* 125-131-0 .488
23t. Seattle Seahawks* 125-131-0 .488
26. St. Louis Rams 122-134-0 .477
27t. Pittsburgh Steelers* 121-135-0 .473
27t. Cincinnati Bengals 121-135-0 .473
27t. Washington Redskins 121-135-0 .473
30. San Francisco 49ers 119-137-0 .465
31. Baltimore Ravens* 117-139-0 .457
32. Arizona Cardinals 113-143-0 .441
Now let's look at the strength of schedule for the National Conference opponents in the upcoming playoffs.
Opponents have 37 wins, tied with the NYG. They have only 3 away games including a gimmie against KC. They play the Lions twice and the NYG on the road. Let's give them one loss and home field advantage throughout.
Opponents have only 26 wins. With their bye only six games remain with only two on the road or perhaps roadkill - Tenn and the hapless Vikings.
Give New Orleans two loses at most, maybe the NYG and ATL. That totals 11 wins.
Opponents have 30 wins, including the Leinart-lead Texans who have 7. They could easily only lose one game, against the Saints, and finish with 11 wins, wrapping up a playoff appearance.
Opponents have 27 wins. Apart from two games with the Giants, an easy breezy unless they have an off game, always possible. Give them five wins with six a definite possibility. That's 10 or 11 wins and a probable playoff appearance. If they run the table they could end up playing Green Bay for the title.
Opponents have 31 wins. These wins seem suspect since they play four games against the entire weak AFL West and Seattle at home plus the hapless Vikings. They can play mediocre and still win five of seven, giving them 11 wins.
Opponents have a robust 38 wins since they get the joy of two games against Green Bay. Add at New Orleans into the mix and we can safely say that the Lions will wait until next year to enter the playoffs.
They have a whopping 37 wins by upcoming opponents. If someone like Philly jumps up on them, they may lose as many as four games, which would give them 10 wins. This means they would be scratching for a playoff spot.
Opponents have only 26 wins thanks to their five remaining divisional games. As we know, these kind of games can be tough. It was only a few blinks ago when the Niners merely had to beat Seattle to have a shot at the playoffs. Didn't happen.
Baltimore on the East Coast on a inhumanly short week. Let's project a loss there and one against the best team in the AFC, Pitt plus one against the division opponents. That gives the Niners 12 wins and home field with a bye.
Would you agree that this is a safe and sane look? Would happily you take it?