- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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Last season, as the Detroit Lions tried to make a run at the playoffs, a large reason why they looked like they could be legitimate playoff contenders had to do with the team’s strength of schedule.
It was, before the season and at the end, fairly weak. And yet here Detroit is again, coming off a 7-9 season with a fairly reasonable schedule heading into next season. Of course, that comes with the caveat in the NFL that one never knows from one year to the next how good teams will actually be.
But based on last season’s results, Detroit has the 16th-hardest strength of schedule entering next season. The Lions have a strength of schedule of .492 entering next year, but a schedule that will likely be more difficult on the road than at home.
Of teams with new coaches, the Lions have the most difficult schedule of all, just ahead of Washington, which has a strength of schedule of .490.
Detroit’s home strength of schedule is .453, and much of that has to do with Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Miami and the New York Giants being part of the home slate. The toughest out-of-division opponent at Ford Field will likely be New Orleans, the only one of that group to make the playoffs last season.
The road schedule, with a strength of schedule of .531, is markedly more difficult. The Lions have to travel to Carolina and New England -- both of whom made the playoffs last season. They also have to head to New York to face the Jets, and take a trip to Arizona for the third straight season.
The “easiest” potential non-division road game is on another continent, where the Lions will face Atlanta in London. But the Falcons have the look of a team that had a one-year blip instead of falling down the NFL hierarchy, so Detroit’s road schedule might be more difficult than the numbers say.
Not the easiest schedule for Jim Caldwell in his first season.