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Chargers: L.A. welcome will be tough behind No. 3 strength of schedule

Oct 13, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers tight end Hunter Henry (86) looks down field after making a catch as Denver Broncos inside linebacker Brandon Marshall (54) defends during the first quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 13, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers tight end Hunter Henry (86) looks down field after making a catch as Denver Broncos inside linebacker Brandon Marshall (54) defends during the first quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
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The Chargers’ L.A. homecoming will be tested, as the team has the third-toughest schedule in the league based on their strength of schedule.

We already know the Chargers will be playing in the NFL’s smallest venue before the smallest crowd. We also already know that this is due to the team moving to L.A., in the process alienating their San Diego fan base while courting a new one via their “Fight for L.A.” campaign.

And now we know that the team’s L.A. homecoming will be a tough one, the third-toughest actually, based on strength of schedule (SOS).

What is strength of schedule?

A team’s strength of schedule is calculated based on the opponent’s previous season record. Wins and losses are added up and sorted based on percentage. However, there are factors to consider when looking at how the NFL uses this. The strength of schedule matters because in case of a tie, it is used to determine which team advances to the playoffs. 

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The NFL differs from other leagues because there are 32 teams but only 16 games. Additionally, the NFL dictates that each team play against teams in their conference for both a home game and an away game. Therefore, regardless of conference strength, teams are mainly positioned against teams in their own division.

It is this reason why the West is the best, or perhaps better worded, the strongest. All four teams in the NFC West poses tough schedules, based strongly on the success of the three teams in front of the Bolts.

2017 SOS

Here is how the strength of schedule looks for all teams (the W/L/T columns are the combined total of their 2016 opponents):

2017 NFL Strength of Schedule

The table shows that by division, the AFC West is tough. The Chargers have the third-toughest SOS behind only Kansas City and Denver. Oakland follows the Chargers in fourth place.

Tough schedule equals good football

Sep 11, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) is sacked by San Diego Chargers linebacker Jerry Attaochu (97) during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) is sacked by San Diego Chargers linebacker Jerry Attaochu (97) during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

A tough SOS is not to be feared. Strong conferences make for great football games and strong teams. The recent resurgence of the NFC East (a division the Chargers will be also facing) has showcased epic games between Dallas and the N.Y. Giants, as well as great games by the newly-empowered air attack (No. 2 in passing yards, No. 3 in total yardage) of Washington.

That bodes well, in respects to quality games, for the AFC West. Sadly, the Chargers were the only team without a winning record in the division last season, going a paltry 5-11.

However, the record does not tell the whole story, especially when considering the Chargers. The injury-riddled team was competitive but horrible at closing out games and blowing leads. So bad in fact that the statistical analysis site, FIveThirtyEight.com, called them “unprecedented late-game failures.”

Competitive football is fun to watch, but wins are even better.

Does it matter?

No. So let’s move on. But really, what matters even more than strength of schedule is the strength of the division the team plays in. In this respect, the Chargers do indeed have a tough 2017 in store.

Oakland and K.C. both went 12-4, while the 2015 Super Bowl champion Broncos just missed the playoffs by going 9-7. The Chargers went 1-6 in the division, managing the single win against Denver.

The performances by the division will matter heavily. Any team wanting to make the playoffs will need to do better than a 9-7 record, as this will not earn a playoff spot in the AFC West. In contrast, Houston not only made the playoffs with a 9-7 regular-season campaign, they also won its division.

We know who the team will be playing in 2017. How well do you think the team will perform?

Personally, I think they’re winning it all. ?

Now go get ’em, Chargers!

New @Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn had a firm answer when asked how he would sell to sell the #Chargers to the LA market pic.twitter.com/9vH0yuSpAD

— NFL GameDay (@NFLGameDay) January 18, 2017

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