Which NFL teams are going to see a big shift in schedule strength in the second half of the season?

Jason Pauley
3 min readNov 11, 2023

by Jason Pauley

The 4–5 Raiders started off this season facing quite a few crap teams like the Giants, the Bears and the Patriots. They didn’t have the easiest schedule per opponent DVOA, but they did have the 7th easiest with an average opponent of -5.5% DVOA. But after the Jets this week they face the Dolphins, the Chiefs, and a few weeks later, the Chiefs again. Their average opponent for the 2nd half of the season has a DVOA of 7.8%, giving them the third most difficult schedule per DVOA in the 2nd half.

Rather than a focus directly on their 2H schedule difficulty, I was more interested in the gap between the first half and second half of the season. Because we know their record, and we can get their avg opp DVOA thus far, I thought it’s more useful to see how much better or worse things are going to get as compared to what they’ve already been up against. For the Raiders that means, that their opponents in the second have will average 13.4% points more in DVOA than their first half opponents. In terms of the shift between 1H and 2H, they have the largest increase in opponent DVOA.

Conversely, things should get a lot easier for the 4–5 Colts. They’ve faced a gauntlet of tough teams like the Ravens, the Jaguars (twice), and the Browns, giving them the 5th toughest schedule (8.0% DVOA) in the first half of the season. But with the Patriots, Falcons and Raiders on their schedule, they have the theoretical 3rd easiest schedule remaining (-5.2%). Comparing the first half to the second half shows a difference of -13.2% DVOA per opp, giving the Colts the biggest drop in opponent quality from the first half to the second half.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean the Raiders have the toughest schedule in the 2nd half, that is the Bengals at 15.3% opp DVOA. And it doesn’t mean the Colts have the easiest schedule in the second half, that’s the Saints (avg opp -13.6% DVOA). It means the Raiders and Colts have the biggest shifts in terms of opponent quality when comparing 1H to 2H.

Where did I pull all the data?

FTN Fantasy has some really good DVOA data (offense, defense, ST, opponents, etc). More on DVOA here, from Aaron Schatz the creator of the metric.

How to interpret the charts:

On the scatterplot, the horizontal X-axis represents each team’s average opponent DVOA in the first half of the season. Further left and below zero, means their opponents were easier, further right and above zero, means their opponents were harder. (WAS easiest, PIT hardest). The vertical Y-axis represents the DVOA of each team’s average opponent in the 2nd half of the season. Higher on the chart and above xero, means more harder teams, lower on the chart and below zero means easier teams…in the seconf half. As mentioned earlier, CIN has the toughest, and NO has the easiest.

  • Teams in the top-left had an easy first half, but things are about to get difficult.
  • Teams in the bottom-right had a tough first half, and now it will ease up.
  • Those unlucky teams in the top-right, have a difficult first half AND a difficult 2nd half.
  • The lucky teams in the bottom-left have it easy all season.

The bar chart below subtracts the teams’ 2nd half of the season opponent DVOA from the first half of the season opponent DVOA. Positive means their schedule is going to be more difficult relative to the first half, and negative means it will be easier relative to the first half.

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Jason Pauley

Passionate about Analytics (Football, Sports, Marketing, Sales, Demographics)