FanPost

Dispelling the 'Easy Schedule' Myth

What do we know about the 2012 Atlanta Falcons? Firstly, they’re 8-0. That’s a huge start and, coupled with a not-so-dominant NFC South, has put us a long way to making the playoffs for the 4th time in 5 years. Secondly, we don’t get much media love. Whilst this is exactly exclusive to the 2012 Falcons, it’s been particularly frustrating to me this year above most others. There have been many media knocks on the Falcons this year: they’re not winning comfortably, their ground game is patchy, they’re boring to watch, repeated comeback victories are lucky and don’t count etc. etc.

I’m sure you all agree, however, that the loudest and most frustrating opinion is that the Falcons 8-0 start is not impressive as we have a soft schedule. However, after hearing enough over the weekend, I had a look at the numbers, and will attempt to demonstrate why the Falcons strength of schedule in no way affects the legitimacy of their 8-0 start.

What follows is a numbers overload, so either turn away now or soldier through knowing you have been warned. For those who can’t deal with it, there is a handy summary table at the end: scroll away, I won’t hold it against you.

To begin with, I picked who I feel are the top 8 teams in the NFL. There is a strong argument to be made that the Broncos are in the top 8, but I feel the Patriots shade them (pretty much solely based on the Patriots 31-21 victory against them earlier in the season). The teams I will look at, in order of record, are:

· Falcons (8-0)

· Bears (7-1)

· Texans (7-1)

· Ravens (6-2)

· 49ers (6-2)

· Giants (6-3)

· Packers (6-3)

· Patriots (5-3)

Having a look at the teams schedules individually (this is where the number crunching fun really begins):

Falcons (8-0)

Opponent

Opponent’s Record

Opponent’s record (pct)

KC

1-7

.125

DEN

5-3

.625

SD

4-4

.500

CAR

2-6

.250

WAS

3-6

.333

OAK

3-5

.375

PHI

3-5

.375

DAL

3-5

.375

The Falcons 2012 opponents halfway through the year combined for a total record of 24-41, which is a win percentage of .369. They faced 1 team above .500, defeated 1 team above .500 and played one team on exactly .500

Bears (7-1)

Opponent

Opponent’s Record

Opponent’s record (pct)

IND

5-3

.625

GB (LOSS)

6-3

.666

STL

3-5

.375

DAL

3-5

.375

JAC

1-7

.125

DET

4-4

.500

CAR

2-6

.250

TEN

3-6

.333

Total opponents’ record: 27-39 (.409)

Total record of opponents in victories: 21-36 (.368)

The Bears faced 2 teams above .500, defeated 1 team above .500 and faced 1 team with exactly .500. Their 2012 schedule has only faced teams with a combined 3 more wins than the Falcons, and their victories have come against teams with a win percentage 0.001 lower than the Falcons’ opponents.

Texans (7-1)

Opponent

Opponent’s Record

Opponent’s record (pct)

MIA

4-4

.500

JAC

1-7

.125

DEN

5-3

.625

TEN

3-6

.333

NYJ

3-5

.375

GB (LOSS)

6-3

.666

BAL

6-2

.750

BUF

3-5

.375

Total opponents’ record: 31-35 (.469)

Total record of opponents in victories: 25-32 (.438)

The Texans have faced 3 teams above .500, won against two of them and also defeated one team exactly on .500. Their schedule has been fairly hard, facing two of the top 8 teams and having (in my eyes) the 3rd hardest schedule of the top 8 sides.

Ravens (6-2)

Opponent

Opponent’s Record

Opponent’s record (pct)

CIN

3-5

.375

PHI (LOSS)

3-5

.375

NE

5-3

.625

CLE

2-7

.222

KC

1-7

.125

DAL

3-5

.375

HOU (LOSS)

7-1

.875

CLE

2-7

.222

Total opponents’ record: 26-40 (.393)

Total record of opponents in victories: 16-34 (.320)

The Ravens have faced 2 teams above .500, defeated one and have not faced anyone on .500. With the softest schedule of anyone on this list, the Baltimore Ravens total opponents record is dragged up greatly by the 7-1 Texans, and their victories have come against teams with a combined 19-39 record, for a paltry .320 win percentage. This is comfortably lower than the Falcons .369. Their combined opponents have only won 2 more games, and their victories have come against opponents with a combined 5 less wins than the Falcons’.

49ers (6-2)

Opponent

Opponent’s Record

Opponent’s record (pct)

GB

6-3

.666

DET

4-4

.500

MIN (LOSS)

5-4

.555

NYJ

3-5

.375

BUF

3-5

.375

NYG (LOSS)

6-3

.666

SEA

5-4

.555

ARZ

4-5

.444

Total opponents’ record: 36-33 (.521)

Total record of opponents in victories: 25-26 (.490)

The league’s other 6-2 team have had by far the most difficult schedule, facing 4 teams above .500, winning 2 of them and also defeating the .500 Detroit Lions. They have also played 2 teams on this list, making their 6-2 record very impressive.

Giants (6-3)

Opponent

Opponent’s Record

Opponent’s record (pct)

DAL (LOSS)

3-5

.375

TB

4-4

.500

CAR

2-6

.250

PHI (LOSS)

3-5

.375

CLE

2-7

.222

SF

6-2

.750

DAL

3-5

.375

PIT (LOSS)

5-3

.625

Total opponents’ record: 28-37 (.430)

Total record of opponents in victories: 17-24 (.414)

The Giants have faced 2 teams above .500, won once and also defeated 1 team exactly on .500. Their total schedule has only dished up 4 more wins than the Falcons’ opponents. Not an easy schedule by any stretch, but the Giants have not exactly faced the league’s elite either.

Packers (6-3)

Opponent

Opponent’s Record

Opponent’s record (pct)

SF (LOSS)

6-2

.750

CHI

7-1

.875

SEA (LOSS)

5-4

.555

NO

3-5

.375

IND (LOSS)

5-3

.625

HOU

7-1

.875

STL

3-5

.375

JAC

1-7

.125

ARZ

4-5

.444

Total opponents’ record: 41-33 (.554)

Total record of opponents in victories: 25-24 (.510)

The Packers have faced a massive 5 teams above .500 in their 9 games so far, beating 2 of them. Whilst not facing anyone exactly on .500, the Packers have clearly had a schedule to rival San Francisco’s: facing 3 teams on this list. Their last 3 weeks have softened the draw somewhat, but the Packers are a contender for hardest schedule too. They are the only team on this list who's wins have come against teams who are combined over .500

Patriots (5-3)

Opponent

Opponent’s Record

Opponent’s record (pct)

TEN

3-6

.333

ARZ (LOSS)

4-5

.444

BAL (LOSS)

6-2

.750

BUF

3-5

.375

DEN

5-3

.625

SEA (LOSS)

5-4

.555

NYJ

3-5

.375

STL

3-5

.375

Total opponents’ record: 32-35 (.477)

Total record of opponents in victories: 17-24 (.414)

The Patriots have played 3 teams above .500, beaten 1 of the and have not played anyone sitting on .500. Their opponents are all within a small range of victories, as they have not played any dominant teams (outside of the top 8 Ravens) or any awful sides.

Summary

Opponent’s record

Opponent’s record in victories

# of teams above .500 played

Wins against teams above .500

Win pct against teams above .500

Falcons

24-41 (.369)

24-41 (.369)

1

1

1.000

Bears

27-39 (.409)

21-36 (.368)

2

1

.500

Texans

31-35 (.469)

25-32 (.438)

3

2

.666

Ravens

26-40 (.393)

16-34 (.320)

2

1

.500

49ers

36-33 (.521)

25-26 (.490)

4

2

.500

Giants

28-37 (.430)

17-24 (.414)

2

1

.500

Packers

41-33 (.554)

25-24 (.510)

5

2

.400

Patriots

32-35 (.477)

17-24 (.414)

3

1

.333

Ranked by opponent’s record in victories:

1. Packers (.510)

2. 49ers (.490)

3. Texans (.438)

4. Giants (.414)

4. Patriots (.414)

6. Falcons (.369)

7. Bears (.368)

8. Ravens (.320)

Ranked by opponents in victories combined wins:

1. 49ers (25)

1. Texans (25)

1. Packers (25)

4. Falcons (24)

5. Bears (21)

6. Ravens (19)

7. Giants (17)

7. Patriots (17)

Ranked by wins against teams above .500:

1. Texans (2)

1. 49ers (2)

1. Packers (2)

4. Falcons (1)

4. Bears (1)

4. Giants (1)

4. Patriots (1)

4. Ravens (1)

Conclusion

What did we learn from this brain assaulting exercise? Well, firstly, only one of the top 8 teams have beaten teams with a combined record above .500. Secondly, only 2 of the top 8 sides have even played teams with combined records above .500. Thirdly, the Falcons have won just as many games against teams above .500 as four of the remaining 7 top teams. Lastly, the 49ers, Texans and Packers are all better than their record, and clearly in the top 5 in the league, whilst the Ravens victories have come against teams with truly awful records. The 49ers and Packers are the clear outlier here, and are solidly entrenched in my top 3 as a result of these findings (I had San Fran at #3 and Green Bay at #6 before doing this).

Next time somebody tells you that the Falcons have had a free pass to 8-0, tell them that the Ravens, Bears, Patriots and Giants have all had similarly easy paths, and to take it up with them instead. 8-0 doesn’t just happen, ‘easy’ schedule or not. Thanks for reading!

<em>This FanPost was written by one of The Falcoholic's talented readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The Falcoholic.</em>

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