Power Ranking NFC West Strength of Schedule in 2015

Four of the six most difficult schedules this upcoming season reside in the NFC West. This just goes to show us how hard this division has been over the past few seasons.

In addition to beating up on one another throughout the year, the four teams in this division must play the AFC North, who sent three squads to the playoffs last year.

1. San Francisco 49ers

Opponent Winning Percentage: .561 (3rd) 

Games vs. Playoff Teams: 9

New head coach Jim Tomsula is going to be thrown to the wolves early. San Francisco plays playoff teams from a season ago in five of its first seven outings. Overall, the team has difficult road games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions as well as the three other teams in the ultra competitive NFC West.

Even if we look at teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year, outings against the Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams (twice), Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants are not going to be walks in the park.

The one good piece of information here is that five of the team’s nine games against playoff teams are at home, including a pretty awesome Week 15 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday Night Football.

2. Seattle Seahawks

Opponent Winning Percentage: .559 (4th) 

Games vs. Playoff Teams: 9

As the defending champs, it stands to reason that Seattle would have one of the most-difficult schedules in the NFL. In addition to difficult divisional matchups, Seattle must travel to take on the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens. Those could all potentially end up in the loss column.

The interesting dynamic here is that Seattle’s home schedule appears to be less daunting, with games against the Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns. Even if this team finishes under .500 on the road, it should find a way to put up 10-plus wins. It’s all about Pete Carroll and company maintaining the best home-field advantage in the NFL.

3. Arizona Cardinals

Opponent Winning Percentage: .557 (5th) 

Games vs. Playoff Teams: 7

Less daunting than the two division rivals listed before them, the Cardinals actually have a pretty difficult road slate. In addition to the three games against divisional opponents, Arizona will travel away from the desert to take on Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. It also hosts Baltimore, Cincinnati and Green Bay. That’s not an easy schedule by any stretch of the imagination.

As with every team in this division, head-to-head matchups are going to be the most important indicator of success and/or failure. Arizona does have a road game against the defending champion Seahawks on Sunday Night Football in Week 10. This difficult game proceeds the team’s bye week, which should give us an indication of where Arizona is at heading into the stretch run.

4. St. Louis Rams

Opponent Winning Percentage: .553 (6th) 

Games vs. Playoff Teams: 9

Statistically, this may be the easiest schedule in the NFC West. In terms of reality, it might just be the most difficult. Four of St. Louis’ first five games come against playoff teams from a season ago. That stretch includes the season opener at home against Seattle and back-to-back road games against Arizona (Week 4) and Green Bay (Week 5).

The Rams also have an early bye (Week 6), which might be needed considering the team’s first five games. After that, the Rams have four consecutive games against squads that didn’t make the second season last year. However, the 49ers are one of those teams.

Photo: USA Today Sports