NFL strength of schedule 2020: 49ers face toughest run in entire NFC


The 2020 NFL regular-season schedule was released Thursday, and now the 49ers know the path they will have to take to get back to the Super Bowl.

Based on every team's performance last season, it's going to be one of the toughest paths in the league.

San Francisco's 2020 opponents had a combined winning percentage of .527 in 2019, which ranks as the fourth-toughest strength of schedule in the NFL this coming season. Only the Miami Dolphins (.529), New York Jets (.533) and New England Patriots (.537) have tougher upcoming schedules.

The NFC West is scheduled to face the AFC East and NFC East in 2020, so naturally, the Seattle Seahawks (.509), Los Angeles Rams (.516) and Arizona Cardinals (.518) all rank in the top half of the league's toughest strength of schedules, too. However, since the 49ers finished first in the division in 2019, they will also face the first-place teams from the NFC South and NFC North, meaning the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers. The Seahawks, who finished second in the NFC West in 2019, will face the second-place teams from those same divisions, and so on and so forth.

Those non-common opponents are basically all that distinguishes one NFC West team's set of opponents from another. In general, if 2019 performance is relatively maintained, the 49ers and their divisional foes will all be challenged quite a bit in 2020.

As for other teams San Francisco is likely to be contending with, the 49ers' 2020 strength of schedule comparatively is much tougher. The Saints (.490) and Philadelphia Eagles (.486) have the 24th- and 25th-toughest strength of schedules, respectively, while the Dallas Cowboys (.459) have the third-easiest strength of schedule of any team in the league. With the playoffs being expanded to include an additional team in each conference, the difference in schedule difficulty could have a significant influence as to which team claims the sole first-round bye.

[RELATED: Predicting 49ers' wins and losses for every game in 2020]

The entire strength-of-schedule discussion must be taken with several grains of salt, however. No team has the exact same roster it had in 2019, and many have undergone drastic overhauls. Every season, there are a couple teams that come out of nowhere to surprise, as well as a few who open with high expectations, but inevitably disappoint. 

The 49ers might have the toughest strength of schedule in the NFC right now, but that's not necessarily how it's going to play out.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

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