These four NFL teams have the toughest starts to the 2017 season

Apr 21, 2017 |

Strength of schedule is one quick way to gauge a team’s chances of success, and with the 2017 NFL schedule dropping like it’s hot this week, SOS is all the rage as football bettors size up which teams could rise and fall.

One great way to gain an edge in the early workings of the NFL season is to figure out which teams have the hardest battle out of the blocks. If a team stumbles to get off to a strong start, it can be tough to climb out of that hole. Before you know it, morale is on the decline, coaches start to sweat, and fans begin to grumble. Bad things happen.

Last year we profiled three teams with rough sledding to opening the season (Buffalo, Tampa Bay and San Francisco) and that trio went a combined 4-8 SU and ATS in the opening four weeks.

We do you one better this year, with four teams facing the toughest starts through the first four weeks of the 2017 NFL season.

Chicago Bears

Week 1: vs. Atlanta, Week 2: @ Tampa Bay, Week 3: vs. Pittsburgh, Week 4: @ Green Bay

Chicago is basically bringing a knife to a gunfight in the first four weeks of sked, facing three of the most explosive offensive teams in the NFL – the Falcons, Steelers and Packers – after averaging only 17.4 points per game last year. Oh, and that Packers game is at Lambeau on a Thursday night, so only a few days to ready the troops for that.

The other opponent, which happens to be QB Mike Glennon’s former club (with plenty of tape on him), is no slouch either. Many have high hopes for the Bucs, who blasted the Bears 36-10 in Tampa Bay in Week 10 last November. Chicago was a putrid 2-6 ATS away from the Windy City in 2016.

Minnesota Vikings

Week 1: vs. New Orleans, Week 2: @ Pittsburgh, Week 3: vs. Tampa Bay, Week 4: vs. Detroit

As if the Vikings’ offseason wasn’t filled with enough uncertainty already, what with Teddy Bridgewater’s status in the air and Adrian Peterson long gone, the Vikings could have fuel thrown on the fire thanks to a nasty four-game start. But they do catch a break with three of these games at home, where Minny went 6-2 ATS in 2016.

Minnesota’s vaunted defense works off the rust against the high-powered Saints (Monday Night Football) and Steelers in the opening two games, before hosting the up-and-coming Bucs and rival Lions in the first month. Detroit dinged the Vikes twice last season, leaving Minnesota to go 2-4 SU and ATS versus NFC North opponents.

New Orleans Saints

Week 1: @ Minnesota, Week 2: vs. New England, Week 3: @ Carolina, Week 4: @ Miami

As mentioned before, New Orleans is in Minnesota on Monday night to crack the schedule, going against one of the best defenses in the league in Week 1. That leaves a short prep week for a home date against the Super Bowl champs – the lone home stand for the Saints in this four-week span.

New Orleans closes this uphill climb with a trip to Carolina to play the rival Panthers, and a swing to South Beach on a Sunday night to play the Dolphins, who let’s not forget are a playoff team. The Saints have struggled with AFC foes in recent years, going 4-8 SU and 4-7-1 ATS in non-conference games the past three seasons.

Oakland Raiders

Week 1: @ Tennessee, Week 2: vs. N.Y. Jets, Week 3: @Washington, Week 4: @ Denver

Even Beast Mode may not be able to carry the Raiders through this opening slate unscathed. With or without Marshawn Lynch, Oakland is expected to excel and build upon a strong 2016 that had the club racing for the AFC’s top seed before Derek Carr broke his leg. That tone could change by October.

The Silver and Black open the season at Tennessee against a Titans team that looked damn good to finish 2016, going 4-1 in its final four contests. The Raiders are home to the Jets in Week 2 – the solo home game in this stretch – before flying cross country to play the Redskins in DC on Sunday Night Football. The real doozy is the third road game in four weeks – on top of a lot of travel – in Mile High, where that thin air makes the legs feel extra heavy.

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