Thursday, January 22, 2009

Did the Steelers really have the toughest schedule?

Before the season began much was made of the fact that, based upon the 2007 won-loss record of their scheduled opponents, the Steelers had the league's toughest schedule. Of course one never knows just how things will play out (i.e. would the teams that performed well last season perform well this season), so we were interested to see a press release from the NFL with the updated first round draft order, a document that includes the aggregate won-loss record of each team's opponents. So where did the Steelers' 2008 opponents actually rank? Here's a look:

WinsLossesTies
Cleveland1451083
Detroit1431130
Cincinnati1411141
Kansas City1371181
Jacksonville1371181
St. Louis1361191
Pittsburgh1331203
Oakland1331230
Baltimore1321213
Houston1321231
San Diego1321240
Philadelphia1311241
Green Bay1291270
Minnesota1291270
N.Y. Giants1271263
Seattle1271281
Indianapolis1271281
New Orleans1271290
Dallas1261273
Carolina1251310
Arizona1241311
Tampa Bay1231330
New England1231330
Washington1211323
Chicago1211341
N.Y. Jets1201351
Miami1181380
Atlanta1171381
Tennessee1171381
Denver1171390
Buffalo1161400
San Francisco1141411

So, as it turns out, the Steelers "only" had the seventh most difficult schedule in the league, but the most difficult of all of the teams that made the playoffs. Here's how those playoff teams rank in strength of regular season schedule:

WinsLossesTies
Pittsburgh1331203
Baltimore1321213
San Diego1321240
Philadelphia1311241
Minnesota1291270
N.Y. Giants1271263
Indianapolis1271281
Carolina1251310
Arizona1241311
Miami1181380
Atlanta1171381
Tennessee1171381

We find it interesting that there is a (weak) inverse relationship between the strength of each team's regular season schedule and their performance in the playoffs ~ i.e. the easier the path the less successful the playoff run ~ with the notable exception being the Arizona Cardinals.

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