Toughest NFL Schedule Gauntlets: Bills, Cowboys, Chiefs Face Daunting Stretches

With the 2024 NFL schedule finally out, let's look at which teams will face some of the toughest gauntlets during the regular season.

Some NFL schedules are tough, others are relatively light. But none are either difficult or easy from start to finish. There are brutal and forgiving stretches in each team’s schedule.

Often, the regular season success of a team comes down to how they perform in these stretches. Do they win the games they’re supposed to or slip up? Do they outperform expectations in a hard stretch or get put in their place?

With the 2024 NFL schedule now out, and with our strength-of-schedule rankings in place, we decided to explore 10 of the roughest gauntlets that teams will face in 2024.

Toughest 2024 NFL Schedule Gauntlets

Note: We emphasized the projected strength of opponents but also looked at potential logistical issues, such as short weeks and difficult travel. We focused on teams that are expected to be playoff contenders.

Buffalo Bills (Weeks 11-15)

Games

  • vs. Chiefs (Sunday afternoon)
  • Week 12 BYE
  • vs. 49ers (Sunday night)
  • at Rams (Sunday afternoon)
  • at Lions (Sunday afternoon)

The Bills get a chance to catch their breath with the Week 12 BYE, but that’s the only glimmer of hope in this stretch. In the span of five weeks, Buffalo will face both of last year’s Super Bowl participants and two other top NFC contenders in the Lions and Rams.

Buffalo should be good enough to win any of those games, but even the best team in the NFL would be capable of losing all four matchups. This gauntlet could determine the Bills’ playoff fate.

Baltimore Ravens (Weeks 1-5)

Games

  • at Chiefs (Thursday night opener)
  • vs. Raiders (Sunday afternoon)
  • at Cowboys (Sunday afternoon)
  • vs. Bills (Sunday night)
  • at Bengals (Sunday afternoon)

The Raiders are the only potential layup in this stretch, and even they could be a tough matchup. This is an absolutely brutal start to the season for the Ravens, who easily could open the campaign by going 1-4 or 2-3.

They’ll be good enough to recover, but a sluggish start could mean the difference between finishing with the No. 1 seed and playing on Wild Card Weekend.

Dallas Cowboys (Weeks 6-11)

Games

  • vs. Lions (Sunday afternoon)
  • Week 7 BYE
  • at 49ers (Sunday night)
  • at Falcons (Sunday afternoon)
  • vs. Eagles (Sunday afternoon)
  • vs. Texans (Monday night)

Oof. If the Falcons prove to be overrated, this stretch might not be that bad, especially with the Week 7 BYE. But if Atlanta meets preseason expectations, this will be a season-defining gauntlet for Dallas.

You could argue that the Lions, 49ers, Eagles, and Texans all will be favored over the Cowboys. Some jobs could be on the line during that Monday night game against Houston.

Cleveland Browns (Weeks 15-18)

Games

  • vs. Chiefs (Sunday afternoon)
  • at Bengals (Thursday night)
  • vs. Dolphins (Sunday night)
  • at Ravens (Sunday, time TBD)

The Browns are loaded on both sides of the ball, and it’s easy to envision them entering Week 15 in control of a playoff spot. But this stretch, which includes back-to-back prime-time games against likely AFC contenders, could undermine their season. Oh, and those games are bookended by matchups with last season’s AFC Championship Game teams.

Browns fans should be happy with a 2-2 record in these four games. Anything better would be gravy.

Green Bay Packers (Weeks 7-14)

Games

  • vs. Texans (Sunday afternoon)
  • at Jaguars (Sunday afternoon)
  • vs. Lions (Sunday afternoon)
  • Week 10 BYE
  • at Bears (Sunday afternoon)
  • vs. 49ers (Sunday afternoon)
  • vs. Dolphins (Thursday night, Thanksgiving)
  • at Lions (Thursday night)

This one is tricky, as it’s dependent on whether the Texans, Jaguars, and Bears justify their inevitable preseason hype. If those teams are any good, this could be the toughest stretch on any NFL schedule.

The Packers are good enough to win any of these games. But they also could lose five of seven while sending Green Bay fans into a panic.

Jacksonville Jaguars (Weeks 1-4)

Games

  • at Dolphins (Sunday afternoon)
  • vs. Browns (Sunday afternoon)
  • at Bills (Monday night
  • at Texans (Sunday afternoon)

Will the Jaguars reestablish themselves as contenders in the AFC? We won’t need to wait long to learn the answer.

Jacksonville likely will be an underdog in the first three games and possibly the fourth. There’s nothing close to a cupcake, as all four opponents are too talented to be overlooked. An 0-4 start isn’t out of the question for the Jaguars.

Kansas City Chiefs (Weeks 12-17)

Games

  • at Panthers (Sunday afternoon)
  • vs. Raiders (Black Friday afternoon)
  • vs. Chargers (Sunday night)
  • at Browns (Sunday afternoon)
  • vs. Texans (Saturday afternoon)
  • at Steelers (Wednesday afternoon, Christmas)

Being the NFL’s best team is a double-edged sword. When you’re a two-time defending Super Bowl champion, the NFL is looking for ways to put you in front of as many eyeballs as possible, logistics be damned. The Chiefs will learn that the hard way this season.

Thanks to three short weeks, the Chiefs will play six games from Nov. 24 through Dec. 25. The stretch includes games on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and features matchups against potentially tough opponents such as the Chargers, Browns, and Texans. Kansas City is built for this, but it won’t be easy.

Los Angeles Rams (Weeks 11-16)

Games

  • at Patriots (Sunday afternoon)
  • vs. Eagles (Sunday night)
  • at Saints (Sunday afternoon)
  • vs. Bills (Sunday afternoon)
  • at 49ers (Thursday night)
  • at Jets (Sunday afternoon)

Yeah, the games in New England and New Orleans are winnable, but both are tough places to play. The other four opponents are brutal, as the Rams could be underdogs against the Eagles, Bills, 49ers, and Jets.

Really, this is about the Bills-49ers-Jets trifecta. If the Rams win all three, we’ll know they’re for real.

Miami Dolphins (Weeks 13-18)

Games

  • at Packers (Thursday night, Thanksgiving)
  • vs. Jets (Sunday afternoon)
  • at Texans (Sunday afternoon)
  • vs. 49ers (Sunday afternoon)
  • at Browns (Sunday night)
  • at Jets (Sunday, time TBD)

Buckle up, Dolphins fans. Your season will come down to this six-game stretch.

We’ll see about the Jets, as Aaron Rodgers remains one of the NFL’s great wild cards. But New York’s defense makes any game difficult, and divisional games always are tough. Add in the Packers, Texans, 49ers, and Browns, and you have arguably the most brutal gauntlet in the NFL. Miami will be lucky to go 3-3.

Pittsburgh Steelers (Weeks 11-18)

Games

  • vs. Ravens (Sunday afternoon)
  • at Browns (Thursday night)
  • at Bengals (Sunday afternoon)
  • vs. Browns (Sunday afternoon)
  • at Eagles (Sunday afternoon)
  • at Ravens (Saturday afternoon)
  • vs. Chiefs (Wednesday afternoon, Christmas)
  • vs. Bengals (Sunday, time TBD)

It’s hard to look at the Steelers’ second-half schedule and believe they have any chance of making the playoffs. They legitimately could go 1-7 in this stretch despite being a decent team.

And how about that Christmas present? After visiting the Ravens on Saturday, Pittsburgh will head home to face the Chiefs on Christmas afternoon. Not even Billy Bob Thornton’s Santa would bring that package down the chimney.

Good luck, Steelers. You’re gonna need it.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles