FO Mailbag: Easiest First-Half Schedules Ever
Nat Brooks: You include past schedule strength in each week's DVOA analysis. Here at the midpoint of the season, the Chiefs have the weakest past schedule I can remember. How does their Week 9 schedule stack up against other seasons? How do the weakest three schedules this year stack up against the past? Are we seeing something historic?
Believe it or not, no. I went back and looked at every team's schedule through Week 9, going all the way back to 1989. These schedule ratings are based on DVOA as it looked as of Week 9 of each year, meaning only based on games through that week. The Chiefs come out with the sixth worst schedule based on average DVOA of opponents. And 2013 as a whole can't even come close to 2005 when it comes to easy schedules. San Diego (31st) and Denver (30th) don't make our list of the dozen easiest first-half schedules, but three different teams from 2005 do. That's the year that the Colts' schedule was so easy through the first few weeks of the season that it basically broke the DVOA system, ranking them sixth because the teams they had dominated were so pathetic. That's when we had to change things to do more complicated second-level opponent adjustments. If we look through nine weeks, though, the Colts don't even come out with the easiest schedule of that season. Tampa Bay does.
But the 2005 Bucs also don't end up with the easiest first-half schedule ever. That claim to fame belongs to the 1997 San Francisco 49ers. Here are the dozen easiest schedules through Week 9, along with each team's final finish:
|Easiest Schedule as of Week 9, 1989-2013|
|YEAR||TEAM||W-L||DVOA||RANK|| SCHED THRU
You can thank the pre-2002 six-division setup for San Francisco's ridiculous 1997 schedule. Somehow, the 49ers ended up playing seven of their eight NFC West division games before Week 10, and that included two games each against New Orleans (30th through Week 9), St. Louis (29th through Week 9), and Atlanta (27th through Week 9). Their other opponents in the first eight games were Carolina (21st) and Tampa Bay (16th). The 49ers' schedule wasn't particularly difficult over the second half of the season either, except for games against the two best teams in the AFC, Denver and Kansas City.
The 2005 Bucs played seven of their first eight games against teams that had DVOA below 0% through Week 9 of that year, including two teams (San Francisco and Minnesota) that were below -40%. Carolina (ninth through Week 9) was the only team they had played that ranked higher than 19th.