49ers' 2023 strength of schedule is surprisingly low (ish)

San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23)
San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

Having won the NFC West last season, one would figure the 49ers would play a difficult schedule in 2023. But that's not exactly the case.

For two years in a row, the San Francisco 49ers have been a final-four team, only being eliminated in the NFC Championship game in each of those last two seasons.

In 2022, the Niners managed to pull off an NFC West title, too, which means they'd get a first-place schedule the following year. Tack on the fact San Francisco would be on the road for the 17th "extra" game on the regular-season schedule, as they alternate from home to away each year, and one might figure the 49ers schedule in 2023 would be notably harder.

At least in the top five, in terms of difficulty. Heck, even within the top 10.

Except that's not the case.

49ers schedule in 2023 is exceptionally 'mid,' in terms of strength of schedule

Each year, CBS Sports' John Breech dices up teams' opponents for the upcoming season and hashes out their strength of schedule (SOS) based on last year's win-loss records.

Having been a first-place squad and also making it to the NFC Championship, one would figure the Niners' SOS for the upcoming year would be in the top five or top 10, right? Except it's not.

In fact, San Francisco's SOS for its 2023 schedule is rather average. Or "mid," as the kids say today.

The 49ers' opponents for the upcoming season had a combined record of 147-142-0 and a win-loss percentage of .514, which is precisely 15th toughest out of all 32 teams' schedules.

There are a few things to admit here. For starters, parity in football is perhaps greater than any of the other major American spots, and anyone who has watched the NFL even for a short amount of time can know how teams can go from "worst to first" or vice-versa in a single season. So, last year's record isn't exactly an automatic indicator of success or failure for the following year.

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On top of that, the Niners no longer play in a gauntlet of a division in the NFC West. Sure, the Seattle Seahawks made the playoffs last season as a Wild Card team at 9-8, but both the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals boasted five and four wins, respectively, to round out the rest of the division.

San Francisco also plays the NFC East, which boasted the Philadelphia Eagles' 14 wins and the Dallas Cowboys' 12 wins last year, while the New York Giants and Washington Commanders had nine and eight wins, respectively, but that division is somewhat offset by playing the AFC South in which no team reached 10 wins.

So, while any team's strength of schedule can be important in helping predict the outcome of a season, it's not the end-all, be-all.

The Atlanta Falcons have the easiest SOS (.417) this year, while the Eagles have the toughest SOS at .566.

Next. Too-early win/loss predictions for 49ers 2023 schedule. dark