In a typical year, the NFL likes to set its schedule release date for roughly a week before the NFL Draft. For obvious reasons, though, 2020 is not a typical year.
The coronavirus pandemic has either outright canceled or postponed almost all sporting events around the globe for the coming months. In that sense, the NFL was fortunate to be in its offseason when the outbreak reached the United States, but now the NFL schedule release — and what that schedule might look like when it is released — is a big question mark for America’s most popular sports league.
Below is what we know about the NFL’s plans for its 2020 schedule release. Though we don’t yet know the date on which the schedules will be announced, we do know the opponents for all 32 teams and, based on winning percentage from last season, the strength of schedule rankings.
NFL schedule release date 2020
When asked in late March whether it plans to release 2020 schedules on time (usually the week before the draft, which this year is April 23-25), the NFL told Sporting News it was not commenting on the record at that point, and “no specific date had been set yet.”
The league likes to release its complete schedule roughly a week before the draft in part because it’s an open window for media coverage. Yet in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic having cleared the sports calendar through the spring and into the summer, the NFL forcing its schedule release before the draft might not be necessary if media coverage and fan attention is what the league craves. May and June are wide open.
Another reason the NFL could consider pushing back its 2020 schedule release date is the doubt surrounding how that schedule will play out — and if it will play out at all. While there has been no official word on the status of the 2020 college and pro football seasons, late-summer sports like the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been impacted by the virus, and some like ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit have speculated publicly that there will be no NFL season.
“The easy answer and the hard answer are the same answer — which is it’s too soon to tell,” NFLPA medical director Thom Mayer said on Adam Schefter’s podcast on March 30 when asked whether there will be a 2020 NFL season. “I think we’re going to know a lot more in late May, early June.”
All NFL team facilities are currently shut down due to the pandemic, and offseason programs likely will be canceled. According to the New York Times, though, the league is still planning to schedule a 16-game season even if it’s delayed.
On a less important level, the NFL pushing back its schedule release date in 2020 would be welcomed by those who are tasked with creating the schedule. The difficult process takes months, and any extra time could help ensure fairness for all 32 teams as well as optimal prime-time lineups for the NFL’s broadcast partners.
Whether the NFL will provide that extra time is to be determined.
Who has the toughest NFL schedule in 2020?
New England Patriots (.537 opponents win percentage)
Thanks to the lowly Dolphins and the average-at-best Jets, the Patriots are dragged down by the 2019 records of their divisional opponents (44-52). But their rotational opponents in 2020 are tough.
New England draws Super Bowl-champion Kansas City in addition to first-place opponents Baltimore and Houston. And like everybody else in the AFC East, the Patriots have to play against the NFC West, one of if not the best division in football.
New England will have seven matchups with teams that won 10 or more regular-season games last year.
Who has the easiest NFL schedule in 2020?
Baltimore Ravens (.438 opponents win percentage)
Though the Ravens technically have the easiest schedule for 2020 in terms of opponents’ 2019 win percentage, chances are they won’t actually have the easiest schedule in 2020.
For one, we expect their division opponents in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati to improve upon the 32-64 mark they posted last season. Likewise, other teams on their schedule like the Giants, Eagles and Colts could end up with more wins this year. And yes, as a first-place team, Baltimore still has to play Kansas City.
With all that said, only three teams on the Ravens’ schedule won more than 10 regular-season games last year.
2020 NFL strength of schedule rankings
Even though we don’t know the specifics of the 2020 NFL schedule like dates and kickoff times, we do know all the matchups. So based on 2019 win percentages, we can determine the NFL strength of schedule rankings for 2020.
Below are those rankings, from the toughest schedule in New England to the easiest schedule in Baltimore.
2020 NFL schedule for all 32 teams
The opponents for each NFL team in 2020 were determined upon the conclusion of the 2019 regular season. The league’s scheduling formula guarantees all teams play each other on a rotating basis.
Every team plays …
Below are the opponents for each team in 2020.
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Kansas City Chiefs
Las Vegas Raiders
Los Angeles Chargers
New York Giants
Green Bay Packers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
San Francisco 49ers
Los Angeles Rams
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