To end a 16-year playoff drought, the Buffalo Bills will face teams next season that compiled a .520 winning percentage in 2015, going 133-123.
That ranks as the 10th-hardest schedule in the NFL. Buffalo will face six teams that qualified for the 2015 playoffs, and has eight games against teams that went .500 or better in 2015.
The other three teams in the AFC East – New England, Miami and the New York Jets – will play a league-high 10 games against teams that went at least .500 in 2015, with the difference being that each of those teams faces the eight-win Bills, while Buffalo gets the six-win Dolphins.
The Bills' complete list of opponents for 2016 is as follows:
Home: New England, Miami, New York Jets, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Arizona, San Francisco.
Away: New England, Miami, New York Jets, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Oakland, Seattle, St. Louis.
The Patriots, Steelers, Cardinals, Bengals and Seahawks are currently in the postseason.
Buffalo's 2016 opponents outscored teams by 316 points this past season, which ranks fifth in the NFL. The crossover games against the AFC North and NFC West are, on paper, more challenging than this season, when the Bills played woeful AFC South and NFC East (but went just 4-4 in those games).
Both San Francisco and Atlanta face teams in 2016 that have winning percentages of .555, tied for the most difficult schedule in the league. The easiest schedule belongs to the Green Bay Packers, who face teams with a 2015 winning percentage of .457.
Of course, strength of schedule is just one very small tool to use when projecting the Bills' 2016 season. Free agency and the draft are still months away. Things can change in a big way.
The Cowboys, for example, became a completely different team when quarterback Tony Romo suffered a broken collarbone and missed most of the season. Dallas went from a 12-4 team in 2014 to a 4-12 team in 2015.
The Jets, meanwhile, increased their win total from four to 10 after changing head coaches, and adding key pieces in free agency (or via trades) like quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, receiver Brandon Marshall and cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.
For Bills fans hoping that 2016 is finally the year their team breaks its playoff drought, there is hope to be found in that at least four teams in every season since 1990 – when the league went to its current 12-team postseason format – qualified for the playoffs a year after missing them. This year, Kansas City (11-5), Minnesota (11-5), Houston (9-7) and Washington (9-7) were able to do that.