Which NFL Team Has the Toughest Schedule in 2017?

The Falcons won the NFC despite having the league’s second-most difficult schedule in 2016 | Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The scheduling gods of the NFL have spoken. We now know all 16 opponents that each of the 32 NFL franchises will face in 2017. As usual, there were a handful of winners and a handful of losers. To put it in simpler terms, the winning franchises get to play a schedule full of teams that struggled last season. The losers, on the other hand, are stuck with a schedule full of opponents that were playoff-caliber squads the year prior.

One of the speediest ways for a struggling franchise to turn things around is by landing a favorable schedule for the upcoming season; one of the quickest ways for a franchise on the cusp of greatness to nosedive is by having the NFL “reward” them a schedule full of opponents with similarly talented rosters.

So we look at the teams that lost when the NFL released their 2017 schedule. There will be some surprises in here, and after an offseason full of wheeling and dealing, every team in the league will have somewhat of a different look this year. With that being said, these are the 15 teams facing the most difficult 2017 schedules (based on their opponents’ combined winning percentage from the 2016 season).

*A list of teams with the easiest schedules in 2017 can be found here.

15. New Orleans Saints

The Saints have their work cut out for them in 2017 | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Saints have missed the postseason in each of the last three seasons. And with a somewhat unfavorable schedule in 2017, their playoff drought could very easily extend to four years this fall. In addition to their standard two games against the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans will also have to deal with home games against the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions, and road games against the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins (in London).

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis Winston probably wasn’t smiling when he saw the Buccaneers 2017 schedule | Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Buccaneers are a team that is very much on the rise, but for them to reach the NFC Playoffs for the first time since 2007, they will have to battle through a difficult schedule. All six of their NFC South divisional games will be tough, and they also have to deal with home games against the New England Patriots and New York Giants, and road games against the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins.

13. Atlanta Falcons

Winning a second-straight NFC title will be no easy task for Matt Ryan | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Repeating as NFC champions will be no easy task for the Falcons. They play in one of the better divisions in the league (the NFC South), and will also have to contend with a non-divisional schedule that features home games against the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, and Miami Dolphins, and road games against the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.

12. New England Patriots

Tom Brady smiles while standing on the Super Bowl 51 grandstand.

Tom Brady and the Patriots are in good shape to defend their Super Bowl 51 title in 2017 | Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Patriots may have a difficult schedule, but when it comes down to it, they are unquestionably the best team in the National Football League (by a fairly wide margin). Nonetheless, the Pats will be tested multiple times in 2017. Their schedule features two games against the Miami Dolphins, home games against the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, and Kansas City Chiefs, and road games against the Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, and Pittsburgh Steelers.

10. (tie) Philadelphia Eagles

Carson Wentz looks for a target in the backfield.

The Philadelphia Eagles won’t have an easy road in 2017 | Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Opponents’ combined 2016 overall record: 134-118-4
Opponents’ combined 2016 winning percentage: .531

Simply put: The Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz will be tested in his second NFL season. On top of playing in one of the toughest divisions in the league, the Eagles also drew a schedule that includes matchups with each of the four teams in the AFC West (who combined to go 38-26 in 2016); road games against the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers; and a home game against the Arizona Cardinals.

10. (tie) Dallas Cowboys

Dak prescott pauses before a play and looks at his offense.

The Cowboys will have a hard time repeating their 2016 performance | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Opponents’ combined 2016 overall record: 134-118-4
Opponents’ combined 2016 winning percentage: .531

The Cowboys’ immense success was one of the biggest stories of the 2016 NFL season. However, repeating their 13-3 regular-season record from last season will be no easy task in 2017. They have the mandatory six games against their rivals from the NFC East; four games against the members of the AFC West; road games against the Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons; and home games against the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. Needless to say, we wouldn’t be surprised if Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott go through a minor sophomore slump.

8. (tie) New York Jets

Jets head coach Todd Bowles looks serious as he stands on the sideline.

The last thing the Jets needed was a difficult schedule in 2017 | Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Opponents’ combined 2016 overall record: 137-119-0
Opponents’ combined 2016 winning percentage: .535

The last thing the Jets needed as they attempt to bounce back from a disastrous 2016 campaign is a tough schedule for the upcoming season. But a difficult slate of games is exactly what the league handed the Gang Green for 2017. The Jets will square off with the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins twice a piece; they have home games against the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and Kansas City Chiefs; and they have road games against the Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints, and Oakland Raiders.

8. (tie) New York Giants

Eli Manning considers his options as the sideline.

The Giants have their work cut out for them in 2017 | Al Bello/Getty Images

Opponents’ combined 2016 overall record: 135-117-4
Opponents’ combined 2016 winning percentage: .535

Both NFL teams that play their home games at MetLife Stadium will have difficult schedules next season. While the Jets are in the midst of a mini rebuild, the Giants have their sights set on contending for a Super Bowl title in 2017. Thanks to a schedule featuring their usual slate of NFC East contests; home games against the Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions, and Seattle Seahawks; and road games against the Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, and Arizona Cardinals, the G-Men will undoubtedly be battle-tested when the NFC Playoffs come around next January.

7. Washington Redskins

Kirk Cousins grips the football and looks for a receiver.

The Redskins have a bumpy road to the 2017 NFC Playoffs | Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Opponents’ combined 2016 overall record: 138-116-2
Opponents’ combined 2016 winning percentage: .543

If you haven’t picked up on it yet, it appears as though the NFL took out some of their anger on the NFC East. Like each of their division rivals, the Washington Redskins will be tested early and often during the 2017 season. In addition to their six divisional games, the Redskins also have home games against the Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, and Oakland Raiders, as well as road games against the Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, and New Orleans Saints.

6. Miami Dolphins

Ryan Tannehill looks concerned on the sideline.

The Dolphins will be out to prove that 2016 was no fluke | Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Opponents’ combined 2016 overall record: 140-116-0
Opponents’ combined 2016 winning percentage: .547

The Dolphins caught fire during the second half of the 2016 season and made a surprise run into the AFC Playoffs. As a direct result, expectations are sky-high for the Fins heading into the 2017 offseason. Finding their way into the postseason for the second consecutive season will be no easy task, though.

Miami will have their customary two games against the New England Patriots; home games against the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders; and road games against the Kansas City Chiefs, Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens, and Atlanta Falcons. On top of that, the Dolphins also face tough tests with two of the fastest-rising young teams in the league, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans.

5. Buffalo Bills

Tyrod Taylor jogs across the field with the football.

The Bills have several holes to fill this offseason | Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Opponents’ combined 2016 overall record: 143-112-1
Opponents’ combined 2016 winning percentage: .561

The Bills will be breaking in a new head coach (Sean McDermott) and possibly a new starting quarterback in 2017. Unfortunately for Buffalo, they will do so while playing the league’s fifth most difficult schedule. Buffalo’s 2017 schedule includes two games against both the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins; home games against the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints, and Oakland Raiders; and road games against the Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, Carolina Panthers, and Cincinnati Bengals.

4. Oakland Raiders

Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders celebrates a touchdown with Amari Cooper.

Opponents will no longer overlook the Raiders | Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Opponents’ combined 2016 overall record: 144-111-1
Opponents’ combined 2016 winning percentage: .564

The days of the Raiders being viewed as a guaranteed win on their opponents’ schedule are officially a thing of the past. They’ve drafted well and built a roster that is now only two or three players from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender. That said, given their schedule, having a repeat 12-win season will be a difficult task for the Raiders in 2017.

Oakland will have four extremely tough divisional games against the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs (the Los Angeles Chargers always give them fits as well). They will have home games against the Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots (in Mexico City), and New York Giants; and they’ll have road games against the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, and Tennessee Titans.

3. Los Angeles Chargers

philip Rivers clenches his fists after throwing a touchdown pass.

The Chargers’ first season in Los Angeles could be rough | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Opponents’ combined 2016 overall record: 145-110-1
Opponents’ combined 2016 winning percentage: .568

The Chargers’ first season in Los Angeles could be rough. Not only will they compete in a new stadium with a new coaching staff, they will also play one of the toughest schedules in the league in 2017. In addition to a brutal divisional schedule, the Chargers also face home games against the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins, as well as road games against the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, and New York Giants.

2. Kansas City Chiefs

A Chiefs celebrate a touchdown in front of their home crowd.

The Chiefs will be battle-tested in 2017 | Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

Opponents’ combined 2016 overall record: 147-108-1
Opponents’ combined 2016 winning percentage: .576

The Chiefs have been one of the most consistent teams in the AFC for most of the last four seasons. However, despite their regular-season success, Kansas City has made early playoff exits in three of the last four seasons. Unfortunately for Andy Reid, Alex Smith, Justin Houston, and the rest of the Chiefs, their road to a repeat AFC West title and third straight postseason appearance projects to be rough and bumpy.

They will have six tough tests against their AFC West foes; home games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins; and road games against the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, New England Patriots, and New York Giants.

1. Denver Broncos

Von Miller happily runs across the field after scoring a touchdown.

The NFL didn’t do the Broncos any favors with their 2017 schedule | Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Opponents’ combined 2016 overall record: 147-107-2
Opponents’ combined 2016 winning percentage: .578

Bottom line: If the Broncos can regain their standing as king of the AFC West and reestablish themselves as the New England Patriots chief competition in the AFC in 2017, they will have earned it.

After missing the postseason altogether and failing to even come close to defending their Super Bowl 50 title in 2016, the NFL slapped Denver with the most difficult schedule in the league for 2017. In addition to their brutally tough divisional schedule, the Broncos have home games against the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, and New York Giants, as well as road games against the Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, and Miami Dolphins.

Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference. Strength of schedule data courtesy of CBS