• New Orleans Saints have the easiest schedule: The Saints went 2-0 against the Falcons in 2022 and might do so again this season. With Derek Carr leading the offense, New Orleans could take hold of the weak NFC South.
• Tough run for the New England Patriots: The Patriots have two two-week stretches in which they play division rivals. In Weeks 7 and 8, they play the Bills and Dolphins. In Weeks 17 and 18, they play the Bills and Jets.
• Watch out for Baltimore Ravens? The Ravens start with an easy game against the Texans at home but must travel to Cincinnati the following week. If they can come out of that with a win, there is potential for a hot streak until their Week 13 bye.
Estimated reading time: 10 mins
While every NFL team's path to victory will be unique, the strength of their schedule plays a pivotal role in shaping their future. Here, we use PFF ELO to delve into the 2023 NFL season and determine which teams have the easiest and hardest schedules.
PFF ELO takes into account a team’s record from last season, their opponents' records, home and away games, injuries and roster changes. It is the same framework we used to create our market-implied power rankings, which can be found here.
We start with the New Orleans Saints, who have the easiest 2023 schedule.
The Saints went 2-0 against the Falcons in 2022 and might do so again this season. With Derek Carr leading the offense, New Orleans could take hold of the weak NFC South.
The Falcons have a Week 11 bye, which may help propel them to a good spot. However, they will have to get through a tough three-game stretch that pits them against Green Bay, Detroit and Jacksonville starting in Week 2. To do well in their division, they will need to beat the Saints at least once after their bye.
The AFC South is not a particularly strong division, and the Colts could take advantage of it. Their first two games come against division rivals, and the stretch of games after their Week 11 bye is not difficult outside of the road game against the Bengals.
The opposite of the Colts — Tennessee's last two games come against division rivals. They’ll have to finish strong in order to place well in their division.
The Panthers' first two games are against division opponents, but their schedule eases up after their Week 7 bye. They should be able to get some wins in the latter half of their season and do well in the NFC South.
Playing the conference runner-up is never an easy task, but besides that contest — which comes in Week 10 — the schedule should give Houston the opportunity to improve on their standing last year.
Starting Week 8, the 49ers have a gauntlet in the Bengals, Jaguars and Eagles with a bye week in between. With Brock Purdy seemingly entrenching himself as the starter for 2023, they’re set up for success.
The Ravens start off with an easy game against the Texans at home but have to travel to Cincinnati the following week. If they can come out of that with a win, there is potential for a hot streak until their Week 13 bye.
The Bears reaped some reward from Justin Fields in 2022 and will be looking for him to make an impact this season with his new receivers. With a late bye in Week 13, they could finish the season strong.
10. Cleveland Browns
The Browns don’t have an easy start or end to the season, facing the Bengals in both Week 1 and Week 18. However, they have an early bye in Week 5 that could set them up well for the second half of the season. If Deshaun Watson can get back to performing at a high level, the Browns may do well.
The Packers don’t have a proven quarterback on their roster, which doesn’t help them, and the NFC North has many teams trying to prove themselves as more than mediocre. An early bye week may help Green Bay set Jordan Love up for success.
The AFC North is a competitive division. With the help of Kenny Pickett and his skill-position players, the Steelers will have to prove their worth. After their early bye in Week 6, they will face the Bengals twice.
The Jaguars have a good chance of winning their division this season, with the other AFC South teams essentially rebuilding. Will the two games in London affect the Jaguars’ performance?
Without Tom Brady, the Buccaneers may have a more difficult time winning games this season. After their early bye in Week 5, they have a mix of heavyweights and manageable teams.
The Bengals have a bye in Week 7 and a relatively easy schedule before it. After their bye, not so much, with the 49ers and Bills on the schedule.
16. Detroit Lions
Starting the season with a game against the Chiefs is not easy — nor is playing five of their six intra-division games after their bye.
17. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks will rely on Geno Smith again this season. They should be well rested coming off their Week 5 bye to take a shot at the Bengals and face their division-rival Cardinals. It’s no easy task to play the 49ers twice in three weeks.
18. Los Angeles Rams
The first three weeks of the Rams' schedule are tough. Saving the best for last, they’ll vie for position in their division by playing the 49ers in Week 18.
The biggest question mark for the Cardinals is their starting quarterback — will Kyler Murray have recovered enough to start Week 1? They have a late bye in Week 14 to help them prepare for the last few tough weeks when they face the 49ers, Bears and Eagles.
20. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys have a difficult three-week stretch in the latter half of the season where they face the Eagles, Bills and Dolphins. Their division run will not be easy, as they play five of their six divisional games in the latter half of their season.
21. Denver Broncos
The Broncos have a tough three-week stretch, facing the Chiefs twice and the Packers before their bye in Week 9. Their last two games of the season are divisional opponents, which is never easy.
After a Week 10 bye, the Eagles have a three-week stretch against the Chiefs, Bills and 49ers. There will be a battle for the NFC East this season, and the second half of their season will not be a walk in the park.
The first half of the Chiefs season will be relatively easy, and a Week 10 bye will split it up nicely. The second half of their season will be more difficult, facing the Eagles, Bills and Bengals. They may have the AFC West title in hand sooner than you think.
24. New York Jets
The AFC East title may come down to the wire, with three solid teams competing. The Jets start their season against the reigning division champs and it doesn’t get easier from there, as they finish their regular season on the road against the Patriots — and you never know what Bill Belichick has up his sleeve.
The Vikings' final three games are against two division rivals. A late bye in Week 13 may give them some much-needed rest for these matchups.
The Commanders' first two games ease them into the season, but then they get three weeks of the Bills, Eagles and Bears. They have a late bye in Week 14 to hopefully finish off the season strong.
The Raiders have a late bye in Week 13, after which they have three divisional games — they don’t get much of a break this season.
28. New York Giants
The NFC East will be difficult this season, but the Giants may have a chance with Daboll at the helm. A Week 13 bye may give them some much-needed rest and time to prepare to play the Eagles twice in three weeks.
29. Buffalo Bills
The Bills will face the Bengals in Week 9 after not playing a full game against them in 287 days. After that, they play the Jets and Eagles before their Week 13 bye.
The Chargers have an early bye in Week 5, after which they play the Cowboys, Chiefs, Bears and Jets. Finishing the season against the Chiefs is not an easy task.
31. Miami Dolphins
Before their bye in Week 10, the Dolphins will play the Eagles, Patriots and Chiefs in back-to-back weeks. Their last game of the season will be against the reigning AFC East champions, with the winner determined by quarterback strength and the skills of their receiving corps. The last Bills-Dolphins matchup was a close game, with the Dolphins making a fourth-quarter comeback to close the margin. It will not be an easy season by any means for the Dolphins.
The Patriots have two two-week stretches in which they play division rivals. In Weeks 7 and 8, they play the Bills and Dolphins. In Weeks 17 and 18, they play the Bills and Jets. This will not be an easy season for them, and they’ll have to finish strong to have a chance in their division.