Heading into the 2019 regular season, the San Francisco 49ers had the 12th-toughest strength of schedule in the NFL. That’s usually different by the end of the season as most teams aren’t—in my best Dennis Green voice—who we thought they were by seasons end. San Francisco’s schedule didn’t change much as they finished the season with the 11th-toughest strength of schedule in the league. Many would have led you to believe the 49ers played a cupcake schedule, specifically in the first half, but Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh finished the season strong.
Last season came on the last place schedule. We don’t know the order next season’s schedule, but we do know the 2020 opponents. Here is a look at the Niners strength of schedule for next season:
Strength of schedule: .527 (134-120-2)
Record of Division opponents (SEA, LAR, AZ): 50-44-2
Record of Rotation opponents (PHI, DAL, NYG, WAS, NE, BUF, NYJ, MIA): 58-70
Record of Corresponding Finish opponents (GB, NO): 26-6
Games against teams with 10-plus wins: 6
Only three AFC East teams play more games in 2020 against teams that one ten or more games in 2019 than the 49ers. As for the rest of the NFC West, the Arizona Cardinals are tied for eighth, the Los Angeles Rams are tied for 10th, while the Seattle Seahawks are tied for 13th.
That strength of schedule number above isn’t adjusted. If you use projected win totals as opposed to last seasons’ win/loss record, the 49ers strength of schedule goes to 13th-toughest. For reference, the New England Patriots go from the toughest to the seventh-easiest, which makes more sense as that number is inflated considering how well Buffalo played this past season. Using projected win totals makes more sense as it accounts for what the team will look like in the future. The 2018 Cardinals led by Josh Rosen were going to be a tiny bit better than the Kyler Murray-led Cardinals.
While the schedule appears tough on paper, if there are two divisions you want to play in the NFL, it’s both the AFC and NFC East. That gives San Francisco a little more leeway in a tough division. The 49ers only lost one divisional game last season. That won’t be easy to replicate in 2020.