The narrative at the start of this Vikings season was that their schedule during the first half of the season was considerably easier than their schedule during the second half of the season. For a number of reasons, it sure looked that way — the most notable of which was that the Vikings got to play five of their first eight games at U.S. Bank Stadium, while one of their three away from home in that stretch, where they were technically the road team, was really a neutral site game in London against the awful Browns. Conventional wisdom was that the Vikings needed to take advantage of the early schedule before things got harder. That still seems to be the prevailing sentiment now that Minnesota has arrived comfortably and happily — albeit with hiccups, of course — with a 6-2 record at the midpoint, which coincides with their bye week. But a stat from Pro Football Focus caught my attention earlier this week. Per PFF’s metrics, the Vikings have had the 4th-toughest schedule in the NFL so far this season. And their second-half schedule only ranks as the 11th-toughest. So PFF is saying things actually get easier? They are. Here’s what was written in the accompanying text: “They have also had the league’s fourth-toughest strength of schedule so far, and that eases off a little down the stretch.” Are they nuts? Well, let’s go back and look at the teams played in the first half of the season. Here was their first-half schedule, with results: New Orleans (W), Pittsburgh (L), Tampa Bay (W), Detroit (L), Chicago (W), Green Bay (W), Baltimore (W), Cleveland (W). New Orleans has turned out to be much better than most people thought. After starting 0-2, the Saints have rattled off five wins in a row. Pittsburgh is a Super Bowl contender. The Packers at least had Aaron Rodgers at the start of the game against the Vikings before he was injured. All three teams are still in the top 10 of FiveThirtyEight’s ELO strength rankings (as are the Vikings, at No. 9). That said, Cleveland, Chicago and Tampa Bay are all in the bottom five. Detroit and Baltimore (14th and 16th, respectively) are middle of the pack.
Is Vikings' second-half schedule actually easier than the first-half schedule?
Minneapolis Star Tribune | Nov 4