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Most Forgiving Schedules

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2024 NFL schedule release: Falcons, Chargers, Bengals among 10 teams with most favorable slates

We've known every opponent that every team will face in 2024 for months now. But there's something that feels so revelatory about learning the order of games, such that it fees like the landscape of a team's season can change dramatically.

A slew of prime-time games? Coaches' nightmare fuel.

Three straight road games? Sub-optimal.

A murderer's row of opponents right out of the gate? You get the idea.

With the release of the 2024 NFL schedule, I've identified the 10 teams with the most favorable slates below. Most teams on the list aren't facing as many opponents who are better than them. Not all of them received absolutely perfect conditions, of course. Some are here because the edge of their schedule was dulled by the way it came together; a few more might have had certain games stack up in an ideal order.

  • Strength of schedule: .453 (T-31st)
  • Bye: Week 12

The Falcons had one of the easier slates in 2023 and couldn't take advantage of it, with a 7-10 finish costing Arthur Smith his job as head coach. Raheem Morris takes his place with a stronger quarterback situation, assuming Kirk Cousins is back from the Achilles injury that limited him to eight games last season and rookie Michael Penix Jr. can claim the backup gig. Picking Penix eighth overall confused people, but otherwise, nearly every Falcons transaction this offseason has been aimed at contending now -- and this year's slate should help. Atlanta faces six games against playoff teams from a year ago, including the defending-champ Chiefs, but it's a pretty manageable schedule overall, including the ninth home game all NFC teams receive this season.

Atlanta will face the lowest opponents' win percentage from the 2023 season, and though there's plenty of change year to year, it's hard not to see the softer spots. Morris could face three rookie quarterbacks with road games against the Commanders (Jayden Daniels), Broncos (Bo Nix) and Vikings (J.J. McCarthy), and they have three more against teams with murkier QB situations, including the Giants, Seahawks and Raiders. Just look at the away portion of the calendar as a whole -- other than the Eagles, is there a clear-cut 10-win threat in the group?

If there's one caveat, it's the opening trio of games: vs. Pittsburgh, at Philadelphia (on Monday night) and vs. Kansas City. Going 0-3 to start the season would be a bad omen, but stiff competition and a fun shot at revenge could serve as motivators, as the Steelers will bring Smith back to Atlanta as their offensive coordinator. Another fun revenge game -- Cousins at Minnesota in Week 14 -- is followed by four less daunting games from teams that picked in the top 13 in the 2024 NFL Draft: at the Raiders, vs. the Giants, at the Commanders and vs. the Panthers to close out the season. 

Table inside Article
Week Opponent Week Opponent
1 Steelers 10 at Saints
2 at Eagles (Mon.) 11 at Broncos
3 Chiefs (SNF) 12 BYE
4 Saints 13 Chargers
5 Buccaneers (Thurs.) 14 at Vikings
6 at Panthers 15 at Raiders (Mon.)
7 Seahawks 16 Giants
8 at Buccaneers 16 at Commanders
9 Cowboys 18 Panthers
  • Strength of schedule: .478 (T-27th)
  • Bye: Week 5

Playing in the AFC West is no picnic, but Jim Harbaugh's reentry to the NFL should help counter that facet of the Bolts' schedule. There are tough home tests against the Ravens (the next edition of the Harbowl) and Bengals, road tests at Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Kansas City, plus two trips to the East Coast (at Atlanta and New England), which traditionally have been tougher for West Coast-based teams. Otherwise, there just aren't a lot of obvious pitfalls here.

The Chargers haven't been a great road team in recent seasons, but this year sets up pretty darned well away from home. Outside of the contest in Kansas City, there isn't a single away game that the Chargers shouldn't have a good chance of winning on paper right now, even after moving on from a handful of veteran players in cost-cutting moves.

The Bolts open with the Raiders at home, then visit the Panthers and Steelers prior to facing the Chiefs for the first time, in L.A. in Week 4. That works out rather nicely, as their first three opponents all struggled to score last season and carry some measure of offensive worry into 2024. The closing trio of games (vs. the Broncos, at the Patriots, at the Raiders) looks quite nice, too.

The toughest stretch comes in Weeks 11-15. While it helps that three of the five games in that portion of the schedule are at home, the Chargers must face the Bengals and Ravens (on Monday Night Football) at home, visit the Falcons and Chiefs (on Sunday Night Football) and then host the Buccaneers. Survive that run in decent shape, and the Chargers might be back in the postseason in Harbaugh's first year.

Table inside Article
Week Opponent Week Opponent
1 Raiders 10 Titans
2 at Panthers 11 Bengals
3 at Steelers 12 Ravens (Mon.)
4 Chiefs 13 at Falcons
5 BYE 14 at Chiefs (SNF)
6 at Broncos 15 Buccaneers
7 at Cardinals (Mon.) 16 Broncos
8 Saints 17 at Patriots
9 at Browns 18 at Raiders
  • Strength of schedule: .502 (T-16th)
  • Bye: Week 12

The AFC North has become a bear, with all four teams capable of contending, so there's a limit to the appeal of the Bengals' schedule, especially after Cincinnati's 2023 was waylaid by a slow start and the loss of Joe Burrow to injury. But overall, Burrow's return to the field comes with a pretty reasonable itinerary.

The Bengals open with the Patriots in Jerod Mayo's debut as head coach, which will also feature a QB change for New England. The Week 2 and Week 5 battles in Kansas City and at home vs. Baltimore, respectively, figure to be tough tests. Cincinnati also has prime-time games in Weeks 3 and 6, but those come against the Commanders (home) and Giants (road), with a Week 4 game at Carolina sandwiched in between.

There are a few tough stretches for the Bengals this coming season, but a lot of their bigger games, including a road challenge in Baltimore in Week 10, are spread out pretty nicely.

The Bengals ended up facing the league's toughest schedule a year ago, and they managed to scrape out nine victories in spite of Burrow missing more than half the season. Assuming Tee Higgins and Trey Hendrickson, who requested trades this offseason, contribute as expected, it's easy to see how the Bengals can bounce back and be a title contender again, with a bit better luck.

Table inside Article
Week Opponent Week Opponent
1 Patriots 10 at Ravens (Thurs.)
2 at Chiefs 11 at Chargers
3 Commanders (Mon.) 12 BYE
4 at Panthers 13 Steelers
5 Ravens 14 at Cowboys
6 at Giants (SNF) 15 at Titans
7 at Browns 16 Browns (Thurs.)
8 Eagles 17 Broncos
9 Raiders 18 at Steelers
Chicago Bears
  • Strength of schedule: .467 (T-29th)
  • Bye: Week 7

A critical season for Chicago features a pretty winnable slate, even as the NFC North is developing into one of the league's better divisions. Caleb Williams' entry into the NFL will come with a pretty clean takeoff. The Bears open (oddly) with a trio of AFC South opponents. Hosting the revamped Titans in Week 1 is a good draw. Going to Houston in Week 2 is a solid early test; there are a few more fun ones on the first half of the schedule, namely a home game against the Rams in Week 4 and the London matchup with the Jags in Week 6.

After that? The second half of the schedule lays out pretty darned nicely. The Bears have three straight home games leading up to the big Thanksgiving Day showdown at Detroit, and they won't leave the Central Time Zone after playing the 49ers in Week 14.

Big picture, there are stiff road battles at Houston and San Francisco, plus the tough divisional matchups. How the Bears navigate their six-pack of games against the Lions, Packers and Vikings will determine their success -- and might end up deciding whether or not they making the playoffs for just the third time since 2010. But if they truly have improved, they'll have at least a puncher's chance to win (hot take incoming!) all of their home games, plus the game against Jacksonville at Tottenham, for which Chicago is the designated team. There are some obvious tossups, even ones that could turn into losses, but it's arguably the easiest home slate in the NFL this season, all things considered. In one of the more anticipated Bears seasons in recent memory, Chicago will have a solid chance to make the postseason, especially if Williams performs at a high level early.

Table inside Article
Week Opponent Week Opponent
1 Titans 10 Patriots
2 at Texans (SNF) 11 Packers
3 at Colts 12 Vikings
4 Rams 13 at Lions (Thanksgiving)
5 Panthers 14 at 49ers
6 Jaguars (London) 15 at Vikings (Mon.)
7 BYE 16 Lions
8 at Commanders 17 Seahawks (Thurs.)
9 at Cardinals 18 at Packers
New York Jets
  • Strength of schedule: .505 (T-12th)
  • Bye: Week 12

In what looms as a franchise-defining season for the Jets, there is justified, reasoned optimism. Aaron Rodgers ultimately will be one of the biggest reasons whether the Jets fail or succeed, and it's also easy for well-seasoned Jets fans to be nervous -- especially given how last year unfolded so cruelly.

Following the Week 1 whopper at San Francisco against the NFC champs, the Jets have all winnable games until the big Week 6 Monday Night Football showdown with the Bills at MetLife, the scene of last year's wild opener. Otherwise, there aren't too many worrisome spots prior to the Week 12 bye, outside of a short-week home game on Halloween against the Texans. If Rodgers stays healthy, the Jets can afford to drop some of their tougher games and still enter the home stretch in contention.

Following the Week 10 game at Arizona, the Jets won't cross the Mississippi River again for the rest of the season. They finish with four home games, the later-season bye, back-to-back games in the state of Florida in Weeks 14 (at the Dolphins) and 15 (at the Jags) and the all-important short hop up to Buffalo for Round 2 with the Bills. It also doesn't hurt that the Jets host two West Coast-based teams (the Seahawks and Rams) in 1 p.m. ET games.

The AFC East remains an intriguing division, but don't count out the Jets as they push all the chips to the middle. They drew a pretty good hand.

Table inside Article
Week Opponent Week Opponent
1 at 49ers (Mon.) 10 at Cardinals
2 at Titans 11 Colts (SNF)
3 Patriots (Thurs.) 12 BYE
4 Broncos 13 Seahawks
5 Vikings (London) 14 at Dolphins
6 Bills (Mon.) 15 at Jaguars
7 at Steelers (SNF) 16 Rams
8 at Patriots 17 at Bills
9 Texans (Thurs.) 18 Dolphins
  • Strength of schedule: .453 (T-31st)
  • Bye: Week 12

It feels like the national buzz has been pretty muted about the Saints' chances, but this is quietly shaping up to be a big season in New Orleans, where, even after a 9-8 season, the futures of head coach Dennis Allen and QB Derek Carr might hang in the balance. That said, the schedule landscape looks fairly good for a second straight year.

The Saints will have to survive a tough stretch in Weeks 2-5, when they travel to Dallas, Atlanta and Kansas City (the latter game being in prime time) and host the Eagles. If New Orleans can scrape by with a split there, it portends good things. Going to Green Bay in December is never fun, and they'll be trying to atone for a fourth-quarter collapse at Lambeau in Week 3 last season.

The second half of the season overall is much smoother, with a well-placed bye in Week 12, plus five home games and only three on the road from Week 10 on. The Saints might not have fully capitalized against an easier slate in 2023, but they'll have their opportunity to make amends this season.

Table inside Article
Week Opponent Week Opponent
1 Panthers 10 Falcons
2 at Cowboys 11 Browns
3 Eagles 12 BYE
4 at Falcons 13 Rams
5 at Chiefs (Mon.) 14 at Giants
6 Buccaneers 15 Commanders
7 Broncos (Thurs.) 16 at Packers (Mon.)
8 at Chargers 17 Raiders
9 at Panthers 18 at Buccaneers
  • Strength of schedule: .491 (T-21st)
  • Bye: Week 14

The Colts are lying in the weeds a bit right now, and there is a wide range of possible outcomes for them as they set course with Anthony Richardson after his abbreviated rookie year. We simply don't know whether Richardson is capable of leading this team for 17-plus games, and the early season schedule will test Richardson's readiness. While three of the first four games are at home, it's a tough quartet of opponents, consisting of the Texans, Packers (in Green Bay), Bears and Steelers. Four of the next five games are on the road, including a few more toughies: at the Jaguars, at the Titans, vs. the Dolphins, at the Texans, at the Vikings. That's immediately followed by a pretty hefty three-pack of the Bills, Jets (on the road) and Lions.

If Indianapolis can hold serve through that patch, the end of the season looks remarkably smooth right now. After visiting the Patriots in Week 13, the Colts have a Week 14 bye, followed by games at the Broncos, vs. the Titans, at the Giants and at home in Week 18 against the Jaguars.

All told, it's not a monster slate. Even with the tough start and nine total road games, the Colts don't have to jump more than one time zone when traveling, and some of their tougher non-conference games will be at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Table inside Article
Week Opponent Week Opponent
1 Texans 10 Bills
2 at Packers 11 at Jets (SNF)
3 Bears 12 Lions
4 Steelers 13 at Patriots
5 at Jaguars 14 BYE
6 at Titans 15 at Broncos
7 Dolphins 16 Titans
8 at Texans 17 at Giants
9 at Vikings 18 Jaguars
Detroit Lions
  • Strength of schedule: .509 (11th)
  • Bye: Week 5

For a legitimate Super Bowl contender, the Lions aren't facing the most menacing gauntlet of a schedule. The NFC North games all should be tightly contested ones, and there are playoff-caliber away games against the Cowboys, Texans and 49ers. Naturally, Detroit's success last season also has made them TV darlings, and they have five games in prime time, so the bar has been raised.

But the Lions should be well-prepared and strongly motivated for the trips to Dallas and San Francisco after suffering crushing losses in both locations last season, setting up serious revenge-game opportunities. Plus, the showcase games are all sort of nicely spread throughout the schedule and predominantly at home: Week 1 (vs. the Rams), Week 4 (vs. the Seahawks), Week 10 (at the Texans), Week 14 (vs. the Packers) and Week 17 (at the Niners).

Sure, the early bye is a tiny bummer, and Detroit has three pairs of back-to-back road games. But the Lions don't have any really quick turnarounds, outside of the Thanksgiving home game against the Bears, and they are familiar with a lot of their opponents, even in light of the usual year-to-year changes.

Can the Lions make their first Super Bowl? If they don't this season, you can't blame the schedule.

Table inside Article
Week Opponent Week Opponent
1 Rams (SNF) 10 at Texans (SNF)
2 Buccaneers 11 Jaguars
3 at Cardinals 12 at Colts
4 Seahawks (Mon.) 13 Bears (Thanksgiving)
5 BYE 14 Packers (Thurs.)
6 at Cowboys 15 Bills
7 at Vikings 16 at Bears
8 Titans 17 at 49ers (Mon.)
9 at Packers 18 Vikings
  • Strength of schedule: .488 (T-24th)
  • Bye: Week 6

Facing one of the league's easier schedules in 2023 allowed the Dolphins to start 9-3 and register a final mark that, even in light of their obviously disappointing finish, was very respectable at 11-5. Will this year's equally friendly looking schedule result in a similar or better record?

In addition to a weakened AFC East, the Dolphins benefit from a relatively non-threatening home slate, with the 49ers arguably being the biggest test in Miami. The nine road contests look tougher, with the Texans, Browns and Packers seeking to either continue their 2023 success or improve on it.

The Jags and Bills are two good tests out of the gate, but they're both at home, and Buffalo will be dealing with a quick turnaround for the Thursday Week 2 contest. The Week 6 bye might not be ideal, but everything looks pretty unremarkable through Week 12.

The thorniest patch comes -- when else? -- down the stretch. After the Thanksgiving game at Green Bay, the Dolphins host the Jets, go to the Texans, come back to face the 49ers and then close out the season with a pair of road games, at the Browns and Jets.

This might not feel like a favorable draw, and you saw what facing a flurry of late-season heavyweights did to the Eagles last season. But I would be stunned if Mike McDaniel didn't spend a lot of time thinking about how better to preserve his team down the stretch after 2023, and we absolutely will find out if he found some solutions.

Table inside Article
Week Opponent Week Opponent
1 Jaguars 10 at Rams (Mon.)
2 Bills (Thurs.) 11 Raiders
3 at Seahawks 12 Patriots
4 Titans (Mon.) 13 at Packers (Thanksgiving)
5 at Patriots 14 Jets
6 BYE 15 at Texans
7 at Colts 16 49ers
8 Cardinals 17 at Browns (SNF)
9 at Bills 18 at Jets
Houston Texans
  • Strength of schedule: .526 (T-4th)
  • Bye: Week 14

I won't try to argue the Texans have an easy schedule, because they don't. We've known for months that they'd be playing a pretty impressive card. But now that we know the order of the fights, it might not be quite as bad as it seemed.

They'll face the Colts in Anthony Richardson's first game back in Week 1, which could be followed with matchups against rookie quarterbacks in Weeks 2 (when they face the Bears) and 3 (when they face the Vikings). Things thicken up a bit in the middle of the season, in that stretch from Week 7 (at Green Bay) through Week 13 (at Jacksonville).

The real meat of the schedule hits in December, including one potentially season-defining 11-day span. The three-game cluster of the Dolphins (home), Chiefs (Saturday road game) and Ravens (four days later, back at home, on Christmas Day) is a doozy, no doubt. But the Texans should be fairly well geared up for that, with the Week 14 bye helping immensely.

Houston won't have a smooth path back to the playoffs this season, but it could be a little easier for C.J. Stroud and DeMeco Ryans to navigate than expected.

Table inside Article
Week Opponent Week Opponent
1 at Colts 10 Lions
2 Bears (SNF) 11 at Cowboys (Mon.)
3 at Vikings 12 Titans
4 Jaguars 13 at Jaguars
5 Bills 14 BYE
6 at Patriots 15 Dolphins
7 at Packers 16 at Chiefs (Sat.)
8 Colts 17 Ravens (Christmas Day)
9 at Jets (Thurs.) 18 at Titans