Calculating The 2021 NFL Strength Of Schedule


When you’re creating a schedule for a tournament, it’s tough to match opponents evenly. You want to give each team a fair shot at winning the cup, but there are only so many games they can play. How do you do it?

In the NFL, a regular season consists of over 250 games. But in 2021, the NFL revised the schedule. Up until this season, each team had played 16 games, for a total of 256 games in a regular season. Now, the NFL has just announced that this year, each of the 32 teams will play 17 games (for 272 games total).

While fans are eager to see their teams on the field for one more game, others have questions about how this might affect the season—namely, the strength of schedule. Will adding another game throw things off balance?

In the NFL, not all teams can play one another the same number of times. This creates imbalances in the varying schedules. To get a clearer picture of the discrepancies, sports analysts calculate the strength of schedule. It weighs how difficult each team’s schedule is against their opponents. 

Who’s got the toughest schedule this year, and who got off easy? We’re going to explain how you can determine the strength of schedule in the 2021 NFL season, and how you can use it to become a profitable sports bettor:

Making an Accurate Strength of Schedule

Among sports analysts, there’s a bit of a dispute about how to properly calculate the strength of schedule. We’re going to outline the strengths and weaknesses of the two most common methods:

Using Previous Season Records

Some prefer to use the team’s record from the last season, but this method is flawed for a few reasons. It overlooks all factors outside of a team’s performance during the season—things like draft picks, new coaches, injuries, or free agents.

While this method can give you a general overview of what a team is up against, it’s not accurate enough to use for sports betting. 

Using Win Totals 

Another way to calculate the strength of schedule is by using win totals (or the total number of games a team wins in a regular season). Sports bettors will be familiar with this term—win totals are a popular way to wager on a team’s performance throughout a season, in one swoop. 

Instead of focusing solely on a snapshot from last season, our strength of schedule method considers how teams are currently performing. 

You can rest assured that sports bettors won’t leave a single factor up to chance. When money is on the line, accuracy is more important than ever. Sportsbooks look at each detail that affects the outcome of a game. Using win totals to calculate the strength of schedule gives you a more comprehensive overview of a team’s opponents. 

To calculate the 2021 strength of schedule, start by adding up the win totals of a team’s roster of opponents. After you add all 17 numbers, the highest total indicates which team has the toughest strength of schedule. You can use this method to rank all 32 teams.

Curious about how your favorite teams will fare in 2021? Or are you looking for insights to use for your next sports bet? Here’s a glimpse at who’s in for a tough year, and who got off comparatively easy:

Teams with the Easiest 2021 Schedule

Coming in at rank 32, it appears that the San Francisco 49ers will have one of the easier schedules. Of course, playing in the NFL is never easy, but they got off light compared to their opponents. 

This is partially because their 2020 season left them with a handful of injured players and a measly 6-10 record. Their strength of schedule stands at 138.2—the Browns, with the second easiest schedule, come in at 141.9.

Teams with the Hardest 2021 Schedule

Now that we’ve got the easy ones out of the way, who has the odds stacked against them this season?

At the top of the list are the Las Vegas Raiders; the combined win totals of their 17 opponents is 153.5. That’s 15.3 points higher than the 49ers, which exemplifies why strength of schedule is so important in sports betting. 

The Raiders are in for a tough season, especially because they’re playing the Kansas City Chiefs twice, who lost against the Buccaneers in the 2021 Super Bowl. In addition, they’re only playing teams with low win totals a handful of times, meaning they’ll rarely catch a break.

Next up are the Pittsburgh Steelers, who rank second with a score of 152.8. While they didn’t make the Super Bowl in 2020, they performed consistently and impressively all season. Still, they have their work cut out for them with a schedule as tough as that.

Using Strength of Schedule in Sports Betting

We think it’s important to consider all factors at play when calculating the strength of schedule. It’s the same approach we take when formulating our NFL picks and parlays

When making projections for the season, we take into account everything that influences a game’s outcome. Everything from the home-field advantage to the weather conditions play a role in how a team performs. We account for the elements that many sportsbooks overlook. 

Trust your wagers in the hands of the professional sports bettors at Kyle Covers. We’ll help you place bets that hold strong through the 2021 NFL season. Purchase one of our VIP Access packages today!