The NFL will release the full date of schedules in April, but in the meantime, we can at least take a look at the various opponents the San Francisco 49ers will face in 2016. One thing that is always analyzed is strength of schedule. Folks will take the 2015 records of opponents, and use that to rank how easy or difficult a given schedule is going to be. Teams can change dramatically in the offseason, so there is only so much value to take from it, but it is still an interesting point of discussion.
Our friends at Blogging the Boys put together a complete rundown of strength of schedule based on various 2015 results. They ranked teams by opponent winning percentage, 8+ win opponents, and point differential for opponents. The 49ers have the toughest schedule this season based on point differential, and are tied with the Atlanta Falcons for the toughest schedule based on opponent win percentage.
One big reason for the tougher schedule is having the Cardinals and Seahawks twice apiece. They finished a combined 23-9, with a combined point differential of +322. Mix in matchups against the 15-1 Carolina Panthers, 12-4 New England Patriots, and 10-6 New York Jets, and it is no surprise they are so high in difficulty.
Plenty will change this offseason. The Panthers probably will not go 15-1 this coming season, but the 49ers still face some really talented teams in spite of their last place finish. A year ago, the 49ers went into the 2015 season facing the third toughest schedule. They finished the season with the second toughest strength of schedule.
Home opponents: Arizona, Los Angeles, Seattle, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, New England, NY Jets, Dallas
Away opponents: Arizona, Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta, Carolina, Buffalo, Miami, Chicago