A few weeks ago, we examined the top 11 teams in the NFC and compared their remaining schedules. While the Detroit Lions had an obviously tough road ahead, it was actually somewhere in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the league. The Lions ended up winning the first two games on that schedule—a deceivingly tough road game against the Saints and a home matchup with the division rival Bears.
Now, with just three weeks remaining in the regular season, each individual game grows increasingly important for the Lions and the other teams still in the NFC hunt. So it’s time to revisit the strength of schedule remaining and see which teams have the matchup advantage going forward.
For simplicity purposes, I have only included the top nine NFC teams. Though the Saints, Panthers and Eagles are all still technically alive in the NFC playoff race, they cannot catch the Lions no matter what happens, so they are irrelevant to our interests. Take a look:
|Team||Strength of schedule||Opponents|
|Seahawks||0.256||vs. LA, vs. AZ, @SF|
|Falcons||0.282||vs SF, @CAR, vs. NO|
|Vikings||0.410||vs. IND, @GB, vs. CHI|
|Washington||0.436||vs. CAR, @CHI, vs. NYG|
|Packers||0.487||@CHI, vs. MIN, @DET|
|Buccaneers||0.538||@DAL, @NO, vs. CAR|
|Giants||0.538||vs. DET, @PHI, @WAS|
|Cowboys||0.564||vs. TB, vs. DET, @PHI|
|Lions||0.692||@NYG, @DAL, vs. GB|
Not only do the Lions face the toughest remaining schedule, but it’s not really close. Their final three opponents have a combined 27 wins, which is five more wins than any other team. Additionally, two of those games are on the road.
If there’s any good news to take from this it’s that the teams that the Lions need to lose the most—the Giants, Buccaneers, Packers and Cowboys—all have schedules on the tougher end of the spectrum as well. However, if you’re hoping the Lions keep the Seahawks at bay for the two-seed, don’t expect any help from Seattle; their next three opponents have a combined 10 wins on the season.
Of course, strength of schedule is just a number. Every single one of these teams—except the Lions and Cowboys—has at least two divisional games left, and those are never easy. It’s always premature to count wins ahead of time, because anything can happen in the NFL, but it’s still pretty clear the Lions have the toughest road ahead.