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Eagles have the easiest 2017 NFL schedule in the NFC East


NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

If you go by standard strength of schedule, the Eagles have one of the hardest slates in the league this year. Philadelphia is tied for the 10th most difficult schedule.

If you go by Football Outsiders’ advanced analytics, the Eagles have THE hardest slate in the league this year.

Not great!

But there’s hope.

According to Warren Sharp of Rotoworld, the Eagles’ schedule might not be as hard as previously thought. Sharp released his own model, which you can read more about here, that focuses on 2017 win total projections instead of 2016 results.

And not only is the Eagles’ schedule less difficult than previously thought. Philadelphia also owns the easiest schedule in the NFC East.

16 - Possibly like 2016, look for the Eagles to start better than they finish the season. From Week 11 onward, the Eagles play four top-5 opponents (Cowboys twice, Seahawks, Raiders). However, until that point, they are one of only four teams to face zero top-5 opponents. This should mean competitive games and allow Doug Pederson and Frank Reich to call very balanced games, which will help Carson Wentz immensely.

Not too bad. Hopefully the Eagles don’t start hot only to finish weak again.

Now let’s check in on the Giants.

17 - The Giants’ schedule is neatly broken into halves. The first half is Weeks 1-7, where they play top-5 teams in Weeks 1 and 7 (Cowboys and Seahawks) but all winnable games in between. The second tougher portion begins in Week 11 and features two more top-5 games the rest of the way. In between, they have a Week 8 bye and play the Rams and 49ers in back-to-back games, which should give them a boost mentally as they enter a difficult stretch run. While the Giants did well to add receiving pieces this offseason, they face a significantly more difficult schedule of pass defenses (7th hardest, up from 27th last year), so the more rushing they can do the better.

The G-Men are only one spot behind the Eagles.

There’s a bigger drop off when you look at the Cowboys.

25 - It always interests me more when a bad team faces a tough schedule or a good team faces an easy schedule than when a good team like the Cowboys faces a tougher schedule. Dallas should be balanced even against their toughest opponents (Seahawks, Packers, Raiders). The biggest concerns I have for Dallas are their start and finish. Playing a tough Giants squad followed by back-to-back road games in difficult environments (at Broncos, at Cardinals) isn’t easy in Weeks 1-3. To end the season, those same Giants kick off back-to-back road games, with the second being out in Oakland followed by a home game against the Seahawks in fantasy title week.

I’m real interested to see how the Cowboys fare this season. I can’t help but feel they overachieved last season. They have some legitimately good things going for then, no doubt, but I want to see if Dak Prescott is for real. He’ll get a more difficult test this year.

The most difficult schedule in the division goes to ... Washington.

27 - The Redskins’ overall schedule of top-10 games is league average, but their trouble is they only play three bottom-10 teams, the fewest in the NFL. Another problem for Washington is they face the No. 1 toughest schedule of pass defenses and the No. 2 schedule of run defenses. So, they’ll be balanced, but nothing will be particularly easy.

Yikes. Washington seems poised to take a step back this year after winning nine games in 2015 and eight games last season.

It’s obviously too early to take strength of schedule too seriously. There’s still a lot that can change before the season starts. There will be injuries. Some players will come out of nowhere and play better than anyone would have expected (like Prescott). Other players who are supposed to be good will struggle. And so on.

Still, it’s at least a little nice to see the Eagles might have an easier schedule than their foes. A factor like that could potentially end up being the difference in a close divisional playoff race.

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