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The NFC South has the three most impressive teams in football by strength of schedule

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The Falcons, Saints, and Panthers have had tougher slates than any other contender.

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Here’s something you may have suspected: The NFC South has had the most difficult schedule in the NFL this year, collectively, and yet three of its teams are on the cusp of the playoffs.

The Falcons, by this chart, have the hardest strength of schedule out of any of the teams on this list, including the Patriots (who were left off, but would slot in between the Rams and Vikings). The Saints and Panthers are just behind, and combined, those three teams have 24 wins and just 12 losses on the year. I don’t want to overstate how good the NFC South is compared to every other division in football, but it is way better than every other division in football.

Unfortunately for the Falcons, they’ve dropped two of their games to subpar opponents in the Bills (who were at least once good) and Dolphins, making their road to the playoffs even more fraught. As good as they are capable of being, they have to go through two teams who are similarly battle-tested and have more wins at the moment,

The next time someone suggests that the Patriots, Eagles, or Jaguars have had to battle a tough schedule to get to where they are—not that you’ll hear that suggested often—point out the weakness of their divisions and their schedules. The big battles are happening in the NFC South, and has been the case so often of late, whoever emerges from this division will have a real shot at representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.