The Seattle Seahawks finished with the worst record in the NFC West last season, which gave them a slightly different schedule than the first place Los Angeles Rams. Whether or not the NFL’s scheduling rules guarantees parity is undeniable: It doesn’t. Last season’s bad team could be this season’s good team.
Or in the case of the Rams, last season’s Super Bowl could be this season’s worst team.
For the Seahawks and Rams there are only three schedule differences:
The Seahawks played the Lions (W), while the Rams get the Packers (Week 15).
The Seahawks played the Giants (W), while the Rams got the Cowboys (L).
The Seahawks play the Jets (Week 17), while the Rams got the Bills (L).
It seems as though the difference is that Seattle is 2-0 and L.A. is 0-2, but the Giants and Cowboys have identical 7-3 records and the Lions actually have a slightly better record (4-6) than the Packers (4-7). In the AFC East, the Bills are 7-3 and the Jets are 6-4.
The scheduling perks are only as perky as the teams are consistent, and as is the NFL’s mission for parity, this is sort of a double edged sword when it comes to attempting to give worse teams easier schedules. If the teams are meant to get better through advantages for sucking, like the draft, cap space, and scheduling advantages, then scheduling advantages are not so advantageous.
That being said, if the Rams finish in last place this year, perhaps they will run into one or two more teams next season that are in the early stages of a rebuild. How is L.A.’s 2023 schedule of opponents looking through 11 weeks of 2022?
NFC West - 49ers, Seahawks, Cardinals
As usual, the Rams play all three NFC West teams two times. None of these teams seem to be rebuilding and in fact L.A. might have the furthest to climb next year.
NFC East - Eagles, Commanders
Every team in the NFC West has to play every team in the NFC East. The Rams won’t have to travel to Philadelphia or Washington, but is SoFi a homefield advantage? I assume that Eagles fans will travel well for that one.
Every team in the NFC West has to play every team in the AFC North. The Rams won’t have to travel to Cleveland or Pittsburgh. Will Deshaun Watson make the Browns a Super Bowl contender? Will the Steelers be back on their usual perch next season?
NFC South - Last Place Team? (Panthers)
The Rams are one game behind the Cardinals for last place in the NFC West. If this holds, then L.A. will face the last place team in the NFC South. For now that is Carolina, one game behind the 4-7 Saints, and it seems like the Panthers would be more okay with losing than the average team. It doesn’t seem that the Rams will face the Falcons or Bucs next season. It will be either Carolina or Atlanta.
NFC West - 49ers, Seahawks, Cardinals
NFC East - Cowboys, Giants
Is the NFC East the NFL’s best division? It would appear so, as all four teams are 6-5 or better and the Eagles have the best record in the NFL.
AFC North - Ravens, Bengals
The Rams have to go on the road next season to face the two best teams in the AFC North. Baltimore is 7-3, Cincinnati is 6-4. The Bengals have won six of their last eight. The Ravens have won their last four.
NFC North - Last Place Team? (Bears)
For the time being, Chicago (3-8) is one game behind the Packers in the NFC North. If the Bears get a little hotter than the Packers or Lions (4-6), this could change, but the one team in the division that we know the Rams aren’t facing next season is the Vikings.
AFC South - Last Place Team? (Texans)
The Jaguars are 3-7 and the Texans are 1-8-1, but there seems to be no question that Houston will finish in last place. If the Rams finish in last place, they should get the Texans, which probably means a date with number one overall pick Bryce Young.
If the Rams finish in last place, these could be the three different teams that they face: Panthers at home, Bears and Texans on the road.
If the 49ers finish in first place, these could be the three different teams that they face: Bucs or Falcons at home (Tampa is 5-5, Atlanta is 5-6), Vikings and Titans (both have huge division leads) on the road.
The NFC West’s second place schedule could end up with the Bucs or Falcons, then the Colts (4-6-1) or Jaguars (3-7) and the Lions (4-6) or Packers (4-7).
The first and last place schedules in the NFC West are looking pretty clear. The middle teams are unsurprisingly a little more gray.