How strong is the Washington Commanders' regular-season schedule ahead of the big 2023 campaign reveal this week?
Now that the 2023 NFL Draft and free agency are firmly in the rearview mirror, the excitement continues to grow ahead of the season. One that represents a new era dawning for the Washington Commanders with the promise of new ownership becoming finalized way before the campaign begins.
This is exciting news, obviously. But for head coach Ron Rivera and his staff, it raises the stakes exponentially in pursuit of maintaining their respective job statuses moving forward.
Much will depend on how discussions between Rivera and the ownership group led by Josh Harris progress. However, the biggest feather in the coach's cap will be attaining playoff football within a highly competitive NFC East next time around.
We'll find out more about whether or not that's possible when the NFL officially releases its schedule later today. The Commanders don't have any European games, but just how tough will things get for Rivera's men during a make-or-break 17-game slate?
A recent study from John Breech of CBS Sports ranked the strength of schedule among all NFL teams. Although as the writer suggested, it's hard to give a concrete projection given how rosters will fluctuate before and during the season.
"The one thing about strength of schedule is that there's no perfect way to measure schedule difficulty before the season kicks off. Thanks to injuries, free agency and trades, rosters are changing all the time and they will continue to change between now and the start of the season in September. That being said, strength of schedule does give you a good idea of what your favorite team will be facing in the upcoming season. "- John Breech, CBS Sports
Despite propping up the NFC East last season, Washington ranks No. 8 on the list. Their opponents combined for an average win percentage of .535 in 2022, which is slightly higher than the No. 1 ranked Philadelphia Eagles (.566), who have the projected toughest set of fixtures in football.
If there was one solace for the Commanders, it's that things don't look any better for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, either. They sit at joint-fourth on the list, which in theory indicates Washington has the easiest schedule compared to each of their division adversaries.
This is all well and good, but football isn't played on paper. Any given Sunday sees shocks, comebacks, and everything in between transpire, so nothing can be ruled out one way or another.
What's important for the Commanders is putting the right foundations in place throughout the preparation period. Players must also familiarize themselves with Eric Bieniemy's complex new system and the team's revamped offensive line has to get on the same page as a matter of extreme urgency.
Washington's fortunes will largely depend on Sam Howell and whether the second-year quarterback can capitalize on a major starting opportunity. If not, then the chances of Rivera seeing another season are remote at best.
The strength of Washington's schedule might play a part. If this analysis proves accurate, the Commanders have their work cut out.