Looking ahead to 2012 schedule

The NFL is expected to announce the 2012 regular-season schedule this week, perhaps as early as Tuesday.

We’ll find out dates and times then, but we already know opponents. We also know things aren’t going to be easy for the New Orleans Saints and we’re not even talking about the fallout from their bounty program.

Based purely on the records of opponents, John Clayton writes that the Saints, who went 13-3 last season, could drop about three wins, if history holds true.

The combined records of last season’s opponents totaled a .449 winning percentage. This season, that number jumps to .504. Clayton points out that .65 differential is the largest in the NFL.

The Atlanta Falcons, generally seen as the main threat to take the NFC South title from New Orleans didn’t have nearly as big a swing in opponent’s winning percentage. Last season, it was .480. This year, it’s .488.

You can see the strength of schedule for all NFL teams here. The Carolina Panthers have the NFC South’s hardest schedule (opponents had a .508 winning percentage in 2011) and rank No. 10 in the league. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the division’s easiest schedule. Their opponents had a .484 winning percentage in 2011 and that ranks No. 27 in the league.

You can see the list of 2012 opponents for all NFL teams here.