Advanced analytics show Falcons have a tougher schedule than their opponents’ winning percentages indicate


Many analysts and members of the media see an NFL schedule and immediately start making predictions based on the statistics from the previous season – usually the opponents’ winning percentage. Naively following this trend would tell you the Falcons have one of the easiest schedules in the league as their 2021 opponents finished with an overall winning percentage of 45.4% – the fourth easiest schedule by this metric. .

I never understood how to assess a team in terms of wins and losses from one season to the next. The NFL is a much more complex system than that, and while there is no perfect strength of timing measures, the use of future win totals provided by Vegas and other advanced measures such as the opponents’ offensive and defensive efficiency are much better indicators of future results. . Vegas win totals more accurately describe what teams might look like going forward rather than seasons past.

Based on those win totals, the Falcons have the 12th easiest schedule, according to SharpFootballStats. Atlanta has nine clashes next year against teams expected to win nine or more games – better than a record 0.500. By itself, there are eight games where the clashes are against teams expected to win eight games or less – below a record 0.500. Calendar strength jumps eight slots when using an opponent’s future win totals from the previous year’s record.

There are other ways to analyze how difficult or easy a team’s schedule will be, such as the opponent’s effectiveness. Based on the effectiveness of the opposing Falcons team, Atlanta has the 20th easiest schedule in the league – much different from the fourth easiest based on last year’s winning percentages. You can further break down opponents into offensive and defensive efficiency. Based on the opponent’s offensive efficiency, the Falcons defense has the 11th easiest schedule. This means the Falcons will play more below-par than above-average offenses. By changing sides of the ball, the Falcons’ offense will have the easiest 24th schedule depending on the opponent’s defensive effectiveness.

Warren Sharp is an analytical football pioneer and has looked at the other limits on each team’s schedule. Although Falcons fans are made worse by the lack of home games – only seven games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta doesn’t have much downsides in terms of the team’s days off. Actually, there is a slight downside, but the timing is not as bad as it looks. When ranked by cumulative net rest, the Falcons placed 20th with a -3 net rest advantage.

Sharp also used readiness variables in combination with the rest variables to illustrate how much rest teams score versus opponents on a weekly basis. The Falcons sit 12th in the pre-break standings.

Basically, I’m saying all of this because there are thousands of ways to analyze a team’s schedule, but the moving parts of an NFL team are incomprehensible to ordinary people like you and me. There are more factors than the winning percentage from the previous year. But no one can know how the teams are really going to behave; these are all projections.

The NFL rosters have more turnover than any other in professional sports – coaches, players and front office members included. The change of scheme, the change of personnel, the regression of players all play a role. The only thing that can be agreed with confidence is the time and place of the match. An example of what I mean by this is that the Falcons face the Bills at Highmark Stadium at the end of the season, which obviously has the potential to suffer from inclement weather. That can be certain, but not how well the bills will fare at that point. Sure, we’d expect Buffalo to be a Super Bowl contender, but that’s if all goes well, which it rarely does.

I keep fuming, but I’m almost done. No one knows if the schedule will be tough or not until we are done with the season. The early bye is unfortunate, and the home game in London is unlucky, but other than that it’s all speculative.




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