You're right, Marc; "plus" figures indicate that the team has an easier schedule next year than they had this year and "minus" figures denote a more difficult 2002 schedule.
In most years the "plusses" and "minuses" will balance out exactly; that is not the case this time around due to the addition of the Texans as an expansion team. If you total up all the figures in the "Differential" column on my original post, you will arrive at a figure of +113  and note that Houston's 2002 strength of schedule is also 113 (a game against the Texans counts as zero for each team playing them; after all, they didn't win any games this season, now did they?)
And in case you're skeptical about how important all of this is, consider these facts: On last year's chart the Vikings had the worst differential (22) and they fell from 115 last season to 511 this year; by contrast, the Bears had the secondbest differential (+24) and look what they did (San Diego had the top figure a year ago at +26). The year before that, the Eagles took the biggest drop in strength of schedule, and did what this year's Vikings did in reverse  they went from 511 in 1999 to 115 in 2000.
As for Chicago's schedule next year being only marginally tougher than this year's, one reason is that the NFC North (the current NFC Central less Tampa Bay) plays the NFC South next year  and the four teams making up the latter division finished a combined 2440 this year. Also keep in mind that because of the aforementioned "Houston factor," the average strength of schedule for 2002 is only 124 (3968 divided by 32), versus 128 (3968 divided by 31 from 1999 to 2001) in a normal year (in future years it will be 128 based on 4096 divided by 32), so the average "differential" on this year's chart is +4 instead of 0.
The divisional rotation assignments also figure in why the Chiefs and Broncos will have tougher schedules next year: The two divisions the AFC West will be paired against in 2002 are the AFC East (combined 2001 record: 3529 not counting the Colts) and the new NFC West (4222!).
Last edited by Anthony; 01112002 at 06:37 AM.
