Last year, the Minnesota Vikings had a tough stretch of games in the second half of the season that featured the Green Bay Packers twice, the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals for four of their final seven games. They still navigated their November and December games and won the NFC North.
This year, while the Vikings have more night games and nationally televised games coming off their division title and moving into a new stadium, they trade back and forth between home games and road games throughout November and December and have only one potential/likely cold-weather game – at Green Bay on Christmas Eve, and that’s scheduled for a noon start time.
While the Vikings are in the bottom half of the NFL for strength of schedule – based on opponents’ records in 2015 – this year, they do have the toughest strength of schedule of any of the NFC North teams. One might expect that after winning the division in 2015, but the four hardest strength of schedules this year were non-playoff teams in 2015, including the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers, who tied for the hardest strength of schedule, followed by the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints.
The Vikings are 18th in strength of schedule in the NFL, with their opponents having a .488 winning percentage in 2015, but that’s still the hardest in the division.
The Green Bay Packers have the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL, with their opponents winning a cumulative .457 percent of their games in 2015. The Chicago Bears are tied for 30th at .461, and the Detroit Lions are tied for 27th at .465.
In fact, five of the six easiest schedules, at least according to the strength of schedule, reside in the NFC. The New York Giants are with the Bears at 30th, and the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals are tied with the Lions for 27th.
Free agency, the draft, injuries and myriad other factors (like how the schedule lays out), will all play a factor in determining how tough a team’s 2016 opponents really are, but when it comes to strength of schedule based on opponents’ 2015 records, the Vikings and the rest of the NFC North have it relatively easy.
2016 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
T-1. Atlanta Falcons (0.555)
T-1. San Francisco 49ers (0.555)
3. Los Angeles Rams (0.551)
4. New Orleans Saints (0.547)
T-5. Seattle Seahawks (0.543)
T-5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0.543)
T-7. Arizona Cardinals (0.531)
T-7. New York Jets (0.531)
9. New England Patriots (0.523)
10. Buffalo Bills (0.520)
11. Miami Dolphins (0.516)
12. Carolina Panthers (0.512)
13. San Diego Chargers (0.508)
14. Denver Broncos (0.504)
15. Oakland Raiders (0.500)
16. Kansas City Chiefs (0.496)
17. Washington Redskins (0.492)
18. Minnesota Vikings (0.488)
T-19. Baltimore Ravens (0.484)
T-19. Houston Texans (0.484)
21. Cleveland Browns (0.480)
22. Indianapolis Colts (0.477)
T-23. Jacksonville Jaguars (0.473)
T-23. Pittsburgh Steelers (0.473)
T-23. Tennessee Titans (0.473)
26. Philadelphia Eagles (0.469)
T-27. Cincinnati Bengals (0.465)
T-27. Detroit Lions (0.465)
T-27. Dallas Cowboys (0.465)
T-30. Chicago Bears (0.461)
T-30. New York Giants (0.461)
32. Green Bay Packers (0.457)