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2022 NFL strength of schedule: Detroit Lions have easier slate by several metrics

NFL strength of schedule can be measured in several different ways. But any way you look at it, the 2022 Detroit Lions have a favorable slate of games.

Minnesota Vikings vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

You’ve probably known for several months now that the Detroit Lions’ schedule is one of the easiest in the NFL for the 2022 season. We’ve known their opponents since the end of the 2021 regular season, and since then, we’ve seen what appears to be a pretty breezy schedule. Using 2021 records, this schedule is the fifth-easiest among all NFL teams, with an average opponent winning percentage of .467.

However, using last year’s record is considered a pretty lazy and useless way to measure the strength of schedule. There is a lot of year-to-year variance in the NFL, and this offseason, especially, was transformative for a lot of teams. For example, the Denver Broncos went just 7-10 last year, but after adding Russell Wilson this offseason, their expectations are much higher. The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the year 9-7-1, but with either Kenny Pickett or Mitchell Trubisky expected to start at quarterback—not to mention DeShaun Watson now in their division—most people are thinking it will be a down year.

So instead of looking at last year’s record, one method that has been more accurate in predicting strength of schedule is simply looking at the gambling odds for the projected win totals of each opponent. Those odds obviously take into account all of the offseason moves made, and typically have strong predictive power. Sharp Football did exactly that, and coincidentally enough, the Lions’ schedule still ranks fifth easiest in the NFL.

Just how accurate may that be when we get to the end of the season? Last year, of the eight schedules predicted to be among the most difficult using this method, seven turned out to be in the top-eight most difficult. On the other end of the spectrum, of the seven easiest schedules using this forecasting model, all but one finished in the 10 easiest schedules.

But that’s not where all the advantages stop for the Lions. One often overlooked advantage in the schedule is the amount of rest between games a team has compared to their opponent. In this metric, the Lions, once again, come out with an extremely favorably slate.

The Lions rank second in Warren Sharp’s calculated net rest edge. In short, that means the Lions have 12 more days of rest than their opponents do in 2022. Looking a little closer, you’ll see that there isn’t a single game in which Detroit will have less rest than their opponent this year, and that the Lions are the only team that can say that. Part of that is intuitive. With no primetime games on the schedule, the Lions are only going to have to play on a short week twice: Thanksgiving and a Saturday game. But obviously, their opponents will be on a short week, too. However, it’s a stroke of luck that Detroit doesn’t have to play a single team coming off their bye week, or a team getting extra rest after a Thursday game.

In addition to this, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press noted that the Lions will be getting three consecutive opponents coming off a “Sunday Night Football” appearance. That doesn’t appear on Sharp’s chart above, but it is certainly a small advantage when it comes to extra rest.

So how much of a factor in the game result is getting a rest advantage each week? Sharp noted that teams with at least three days extra rest have won 53.8 percent of games since 2015. So it’s not a huge advantage, but it does tip the scales a bit.

We’ve also already noted that the Lions travel the second-fewest miles on road trips this year, and they don’t have to play a single game outside of the early window on Sundays.

“It’s awesome,” Lions head coach Dan Campbell said of the early games. “One o’clock. You knock them out, you go home, you get ready for the next opponent. You’re not waiting all day in the hotel, all night.”

So any way you slice it, the Lions have one of the easiest schedules in the league this year. With expectations for significant Year 2 growth, it’s no wonder many local writers are expecting a 4-6 win jump this year.