After playing a very tough schedule in 2016, the Cincinnati Bengals are set to play what looks to be an easier schedule in 2017.
Based on 2016 record, the Bengals' strength of schedule has been deemed the fourth easiest in the NFL this year. The team’s opponents had a combined record of 115-141-0, (.449) last year.
Warren Sharp at Rotoworld took it a step further with what he says is a “more educated SOS analysis”:
I’ve attempted to pioneer a more educated SOS analysis because the current method used to analyze schedule strength is literally the least efficient possible. The established method looks only at prior-year win percentage with no context and measures those rates against current-year opponents.
He uses forecast win totals from Pinnacle, CG Technology and South Point in his analysis and created a consensus line, "which factors in juice". Forecast win totals are thought by Sharpe to be more useful than last season's results, which seems fair as NFL teams can go from 12-4 to 6-9-1 in one season, as we saw with the Bengals in the last two years. Sharp’s ranking has the Bengals with the NFL’s eighth easiest schedule, four places above where the typical SOS formula ranks the Bengals:
8. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals’ SOS ranking is somewhat misleading. They face a number of very difficult and capable teams in the middle of the league, such as the Ravens twice, Texans, Colts, Vikings and Broncos. But they play very few top-10 games (just four, second fewest) and they play six bottom-10 games, second most in the NFL. Metrics wise, the Bengals play the 8th easiest schedule of run defenses, and last year they were the third most run-heavy team when leading. All of these elements bode well for a rookie I think can make a mark this year: Joe Mixon.
Sharp looked at more than 20 categories (click the link for awesome visualizations) and how each team’s opponents project across the board. Categories include defensive efficiency, explosive pass defensive, explosive pass offense, rushing efficiency, special teams efficiency, third down conversion rates and much more. Click here to see how the Bengals’ opponents rank in each category. Here’s a look at the team’s strength of schedule when considering total efficiency:
From this view, it appears the Bengals’ toughest games will be against the Steelers, Packers, Ravens, Titans and Broncos, in that order from hardest to least hard. The easiest games should be against the Browns (easiest), Texans, Lions, Jaguars, Bears and Colts. The Vikings and Bills games are seen as middle-of-the-road in terms of how difficult the games will be. Though, when you change the category for each metric, these numbers and difficulties shift significantly.
The Bengals seem to have a fairly easy schedule on paper, despite there being a few games that stand out as being particularly difficult. One of the hardest stretches will be the three straight away games against the Jaguars, Titans and Broncos right in the middle of the season.
What are your top takeaways from Sharp’s analysis of the Bengals having the NFL’s eighth easiest schedule in 2017?