The NFL’s 2020 schedule has been released, and that means we have an idea about the roadmap for each franchise. The league has considered adjusting the schedule to eliminate bye weeks and could end up starting in October this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we break down the effect bye weeks could have on each team on a normal schedule here.
Week 5: Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers
The Lions could come out of Week 4 reeling from having to face two of the best wideouts in the NFL after building their secondary over the offseason. Desmond Trufant and Jeffery Okudah will get a break after facing DeAndre Hopkins with the Arizona Cardinals and Michael Thomas with the New Orleans Saints in back-to-back weeks. We’ll see if Detroit’s pass defense has really improved ahead of a matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Packers will also come into Week 5 having faced the Saints and Atlanta Falcons in the previous two weeks. Like the Lions, they won’t be far removed from facing Thomas. But they’ll also be fresh off dealing with Julio Jones and Todd Gurley. Aaron Rodgers’ lack of weapons will be very evident after facing the Saints and Falcons, but his disadvantage will be even more obvious against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6.
Week 6: Las Vegas Raiders, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks
Derek Carr and the Raiders will be up against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs’ high-octane offense in Week 5 before getting a break in Week 6. The Buccaneers will be waiting on them in Week 7 though. Keeping up with teams this talented on offense so close together could expose Las Vegas’ limitations.
The Patriots face a big question in 2020 without Tom Brady in the saddle, and the first five weeks include tests at Seattle and at Kansas City. They’ll be further tested coming out of the bye, facing the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills in Weeks 7 and 8. The Patriots could start trending in the wrong direction heading into a divisional matchup against the New York Jets before facing the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans in Weeks 10 and 11.
The Saints will face the Lions, Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina Panthers, and Chicago Bears between Weeks 4 and 8. They have a good chance to win all those games before an important Week 9 matchup with the Buccaneers. Drew Brees and company gaining momentum before facing a dangerous division rival is important.
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have won six straight games against the Minnesota Vikings, who they’ll face in Week 5. Seattle will then get a revenge game against the Cardinals in Week 7 before battling a divisional game against San Francisco 49ers in Week 8. It’ll be important for the Seahawks to get off to a strong start against their toughest NFC West rivals.
Week 7: Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans
Philip Rivers and the Colts get a chance to pick up some steam against the weaker defenses of the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6 before getting rest for a Week 8 matchup against the Lions. Those should be tune up games for a Week 9 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, who have Lamar Jackson and one of the better all-around defenses in the league.
Gardner Minshew will have a chance to take advantage of several weak secondaries ahead of Jacksonville’s bye week. The Jaguars will face the Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, and Detroit Lions ahead of Week 7. They’ll really be tested against the Chargers in Week 8. Only Deshaun Watson and the Texans have proven to have an above average offense in this group, so this could be a nice stretch for Jacksonville.
Kirk Cousins and the Vikings have a tough first half of the season. The Packers, Tennessee Titans, Texans, Seahawks, and Falcons are all on the schedule before Week 7, and the Packers are on the docket for Week 8. Will Minnesota be able to stay afloat without Stefon Diggs and be able to count on Dalvin Cook in the backfield?
Three of the Titans’ first six games will be against teams that had .500 records last season. Seven of the 10 games they’ll play after Week 7 will be against teams who were below .500 in 2019. If Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry can conjure last year’s magic early on, Tennessee could have a big year.
Week 8: Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington
Arizona will play the Dallas Cowboys and division rival Seahawks in the games leading up to Week 8 before facing a duo of AFC East teams (Dolphins and Bills). The Cardinals have improved their offense on paper and have a real shot at winning four of their first seven games. Building confidence for the second half of the season will be key for Murray.
Baltimore is expected to have a strong year after posting the best record in the NFL last season. Its toughest game will be against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first half of the season, and matchups with the Colts, Patriots, and Titans will follow the break. The Ravens’ schedule and the addition of J.K. Dobbins could help Jackson compete for a second straight MVP, if he plays his cards right early on.
The Broncos have built their receiving corps by drafting Jerry Jeudy to play alongside. Courtland Sutton. They’ll face teams with dynamic pass catchers immediately before and after their bye week. First will be the Chiefs, and the Falcons will follow. Drew Lock will be put to the test against these squads.
Houston will have matchups against the Chiefs, Ravens, Vikings, and Packers before the midpoint of the season. New wideouts like Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks will be essential to helping Watson get off to a strong start.
Half the Steelers’ games before Week 8 will be against teams that were at least .500 last season. This could be tough for Ben Roethlisberger, who missed almost all of 2019 with an elbow injury. Luckily for JuJu Smith-Schuster, most of the teams Pittsburgh will face don’t have top-notch cornerbacks.
Washington’s future doesn’t look bright, as it will face a slew of talented offensive teams and didn’t make any major acquisitions on the offensive end this offseason. Chase Young will get to chase mobile quarterbacks like Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, and Dak Prescott in the first half of the season though. Washington will play five games against teams that were at least .500 last season after its bye week.
Week 9: Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia Eagles
Joe Burrow and the Bengals don’t have an extremely challenging schedule before their bye week. They’ll play six of their last eight games against teams who didn’t have winning records in 2019.
Baker Mayfield and the Browns will also get a bye in Week 9 and have a weaker schedule than Cincinnati. Their strength of schedule ranks near the bottom of the NFL in 2020. Four games against team that had winning records last year will happen from Week 10 forward. That gives Cleveland a good chance to make the playoffs.
The Rams should get an easy win against the Dolphins in Week 8, but will have the Seahawks, Buccaneers, and 49ers from Weeks 10 through 12. That could be a tough stretch for a team that’s moved on from Todd Gurley and traded Brandin Cooks after a down year from Jared Goff.
Philadelphia will face the Ravens in Week 6 before divisional matchups against the Giants and Cowboys before a bye. The Eagles will play the Giants after that bye, so this stretch is a crucial one for Carson Wentz and company. It can’t afford to lost more than one NFC East game during this span in a division that’s often very close.
Week 10: Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers
The Falcons have three easier games in a row before their bye week. Then Atlanta will face the Saints and Buccaneers twice, as well as the Chiefs once in the final seven weeks of the season. The Falcons could fall by the wayside at the end of the year if it doesn’t handle business early.
The Cowboys are riding high after drafting CeeDee Lamb and their strength of schedule ranks in the bottom third of the NFL. Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Dak Prescott will have to be at their best in matchups against the Vikings, Ravens, 49ers, and Eagles following Week 10.
Mahomes and the Chiefs have a strength of schedule near the bottom of the league, and face the Raiders, Broncos, and Dolphins after their bye week. The odds are in the favor of the reigning champs, so Kansas City should be building steam for another deep postseason run in the back half of the season.
The Chargers have a divisional game against the Raiders before their bye and have another one against the Broncos in Week 11. Four divisional games in the last seven weeks will be tough for whoever Los Angeles starts under center — whether it be Tyrod Taylor or Justin Herbert.
Week 11: Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers
The Bills could dethrone the Patriots in the AFC East but has one of the five toughest schedules in the league. Their difficult games are pretty spread out, but a Week 16 matchup against New England could be the most important contest of the year for them.
It’s unclear whether Nick Foles or Mitchell Trubisky will start under center for Chicago after last year’s .500 finish, but tough games against the Texans, Vikings, and Packers after its bye week will likely play a large part in how it finishes the season.
The Dolphins have the third most difficult schedule and likely won’t have much success at this point in the season. We should expect Tua Tagovailoa to get some playing time if things start going down the drain. If he starting by this point in the year, he’ll have a chance to win some games against teams like the Jets, Bengals, and Raiders before his rookie year is up.
The Jets’ strength of schedule ranks fourth in win totals and sixth in Super Bowl odds. They likely won’t be a significant contender for the Super Bowl, but Sam Darnold and Le’Veon Bell should have a chance to get some wins with their improved offensive line.
The Giants have divisional games against Washington and the Eagles before their bye week and have a challenging stretch to close out the year. The Giants will face the Seahawks, Ravens, and Cowboys after Week 11, which hurts their chances at a division title.
The 49ers’ strength of schedule ranks in the middle of the pack, but they’ll only face six teams that made the playoff last season. A string of games against the Seahawks, Packers, and Saints before the bye week could be tough, but San Francisco’s schedule eases up some after that. It’ll still face the Bills, Cowboys, and Seahawks after its bye and could need a key win against Seattle to win its division for a second year in a row.
Week 13: Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Panthers and Buccaneers are the only two teams with byes in Week 13. The Panthers appear to be approaching a rebuild following the departure of Cam Newton and face most of the tough competition before their bye week. Matchups against the Packers and Saints will be challenging toward the end of the year, but Carolina’s fate will likely be sealed by then. Tampa Bay on the other hand looks like a contender. Three of its four last opponents had loosing record last year. The Buccaneers’ most challenging game in the back half of the year should be their game against the Chiefs in Week 12.