It is no coincidence that the eight teams with the most difficult schedules in the 2014 season represent only two divisions. As a product of the NFL’s rotating division scheduling process, the AFC West will face off against the NFC West this year.
Both of these divisions were heavily represented in the playoffs last year. Of course the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos met in the Super Bowl. But interestingly enough, both team had to beat division rivals to get there. The Broncos beat the San Diego Charger in the divisional round, and the Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship.
The Kansas City Chiefs, also from the AFC West, made it into the playoffs as well. On the NFC side, the Arizona Cardinals had a 10-6 record, but missed out on the playoffs to a Green Bay Packers team with an inferior record because they won the NFC Central.
Only the St. Louis Rams and the Oakland Raiders were not playoff contenders from the two divisions last year.
This scheduling nugget should make for an interesting season for the top teams in these divisions. We will definitely be able to see if the Chiefs were for real last year when they go up against the defenses of the NFC West. As for the Cardinals, we’ll see if their defense is finally up to par with the 49ers and Seahawks when they contend with the Broncos and Chargers offenses.
I can’t imagine 5-6 teams from these divisions making it to the playoffs again since they go head to head. If these two divisions simply beat up on each other throughout the year, it may also open up a spot or two in the playoffs for a wildcard team to sneak in past them. Teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins or the Chicago Bears will be in line to gobble up a spot if it gets created.
Here is how the eight teams rank for the toughest schedules in the NFL for 2014 based on opponent winning percentage last year.
Team – Opponent Winning Percentage in 2013
1. Oakland Raiders – .578
2. Denver Broncos – .570
3. St. Louis Rams – .564
4. San Diego Chargers – .563
4. San Francisco 49ers – .563
6. Seattle Seahawks – .561
7. Kansas City Chiefs – .559
8. Arizona Cardinals – .547
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