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NFL Power Rankings: Who had season's easiest, toughest schedules

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Final NFL Power Rankings reflect playoff shake-up (1:00)

The No. 1-seeded Patriots and Eagles enter the playoffs trending in opposite directions in the NFL Power Rankings. Meanwhile, the Bills ended their playoff drought and the Ravens ended their season in misery. (1:00)

The regular season is over. Twelve teams are headed to the playoffs, while the other 20 will get a jump-start on offseason business. Who had the easiest or toughest paths to their season-ending outcomes?

Here's a rundown of the final 2017 Power Rankings as voted on by the ESPN power panel -- a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities -- with a look at every team's strength of schedule based on opponents' winning percentage.

ESPN Stats & Information's John McTigue contributed the following information.

Methodology: These rankings are based on which teams voters think would win head-to-head matchups.

Previous rankings: Week 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | Preseason

1. New England Patriots

2017 record: 13-3
Week 17 ranking: No. 1

Opponent winning percentage: .484; 10th-easiest. There are plenty of fans who will point to the relative ease of New England's schedule for the Patriots' 13-3 season. But they went 6-2 against teams who finished with a winning record, which included wins over the playoff-bound Steelers, Saints and Falcons.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

2017 record: 13-3
Week 17 ranking: No. 2

Opponent winning percentage: .453; fourth-easiest. Don't attribute the Steelers' 13-3 season entirely to their relatively easy schedule. Pittsburgh went 6-2 against teams who finished with a winning record, tied for the most such wins in the NFL (Patriots).

3. Minnesota Vikings

2017 record: 13-3
Week 17 ranking: No. 3

Opponent winning percentage: .492; tied for the 12th-easiest. The Vikings' schedule trended on the easier side, but look at how other teams did with backup quarterbacks this season (see: Packers, Texans, Colts and Dolphins). The Minnesota defense allowed the fewest points, but Case Keenum also finished second in Total QBR.

4. New Orleans Saints

2017 record: 11-5
Week 17 ranking: No. 6

Opponent winning percentage: .535; eighth-hardest. The Saints played one of the toughest schedules in the NFL and held their own. Not only did they win the NFC South, but they posted a plus-57 point margin against winning teams, the second-best in the NFL.

5. Los Angeles Rams

2017 record: 11-5
Week 17 ranking: No. 4

Opponent winning percentage: .504; 15th-hardest. The Rams finished first in scoring after finishing last in 2016, becoming just the second team to complete that turnaround according to the Elias Sports Bureau (the first was the 1965 49ers). What makes that even more impressive is the Rams played a group of opponents who finished the season above .500.

6. Philadelphia Eagles

2017 record: 13-3
Week 17 ranking: No. 5

Opponent winning percentage: .461; sixth-easiest. The Eagles matched a franchise record with 13 wins and finished fourth in FPI. Playing the sixth-easiest schedule might have helped. The Eagles went 9-0 against teams who finished .500 or worse.

7. Carolina Panthers

2017 record: 11-5
Week 17 ranking: No. 7

Opponent winning percentage: .539; tied for the fifth-hardest. The 2017 Panthers proved that you don't need to be pass heavy to win. They went 11-5 while averaging 192 passing yards per game. That's the fewest passing yards by an 11-win team since the 2015 Vikings.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars

2017 record: 10-6
Week 17 ranking: No. 9

Opponent winning percentage: .434; tied for easiest. The Jaguars made the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and had a defense that finished second in points allowed, yards allowed and takeaways. It was a great season for Jacksonville, but the team also was aided a bit by the schedule. The Jaguars and Titans tied for the easiest schedules.

9. Atlanta Falcons

2017 record: 10-6
Week 17 ranking: No. 11

Opponent winning percentage: .543; tied for the third-hardest. The Falcons needed a Week 17 victory to return to the playoffs and saw a dip in offensive efficiency from 2016 to 2017 (first to eighth). But there's a reason things were a bit tougher for the Falcons this season. They played the third-hardest schedule in the NFL.

10. Kansas City Chiefs

2017 record: 10-6
Week 17 ranking: No. 8

Opponent winning percentage: .477; eighth-easiest. When the Chiefs beat the Patriots and Eagles to start their season, who knew they'd be beating the 1-seeds from the AFC and NFC? Kansas City's schedule was a lot easier the rest of the season, which makes that 1-6 stretch midway through even more perplexing.

11. Los Angeles Chargers

2017 record: 9-7
Week 17 ranking: No. 12

Opponent winning percentage: .457; fifth-easiest. The Chargers came up just short of the playoffs despite playing a relatively easy schedule. In the end, L.A. just couldn't break through against the top teams, finishing 2-5 against opponents with a winning record versus 7-2 against teams .500 or worse.

12. Tennessee Titans

2017 record: 9-7
Week 17 ranking: No. 17

Opponent winning percentage: .434; tied for easiest. Marcus Mariota regressed in 2017, throwing the third-most interceptions and finishing as one of five qualified quarterbacks with more picks than touchdowns. But thanks in part to having the easiest schedule (along with the Jags), Tennessee is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

13. Seattle Seahawks

2017 record: 9-7
Week 17 ranking: No. 13

Opponent winning percentage: .492; tied 12th-easiest. The Seahawks missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and lost some of that home mystique in the process, going 4-4 in Seattle. They had the fourth-hardest home slate this season though, with a .570 opponent winning percentage, despite the rest of the schedule being relatively easy.

14. Buffalo Bills

2017 record: 9-7
Week 17 ranking: No. 15

Opponent winning percentage: .492; tied for 12th-easiest. The Bills made the playoffs? Checks notes. The Bills made the playoffs! Sure, they had a relatively light schedule, but they still had to win those games. Their 7-2 record against teams who finished .500 or worse was their best since 2008.

15. San Francisco 49ers

2017 record: 6-10
Week 17 ranking: No. 19

Opponent winning percentage: .512; tied for the 13th-hardest. No team had ever won more than three games following an 0-9 start until the Niners did it behind Jimmy Garoppolo, finishing with six wins after losing nine straight to open the year. It wasn't an easy homestretch, either, with a relatively difficult schedule.

16. Baltimore Ravens

2017 record: 9-7
Week 17 ranking: No. 10

Opponent winning percentage: .441; third-easiest. The Ravens squandered a chance at the playoffs by allowing a 49-yard touchdown in the final minute of regulation in Week 17. The Ravens were in that position, though, thanks to the third-easiest schedule this season, which featured an NFL-high 10 games against teams that finished with a losing record (8-2).

17. Dallas Cowboys

2017 record: 9-7
Week 17 ranking: No. 16

Opponent winning percentage: .496; tied for 16th overall. The Cowboys finished with the 15th-best point differential and in the middle of the pack, which is nothing new for Jason Garrett: He has finished 8-8 or 9-7 in four of his seven full seasons as head coach.

18. Detroit Lions

2017 record: 9-7
Week 17 ranking: No. 14

Opponent winning percentage: .496; tied for 16th overall. The Lions were middle of the pack (pride?) in terms of strength of schedule and pretty much won every game they were supposed to. They went 8-1 against teams that finished .500 or worse this season. The one loss came in Week 16 to the Bengals -- the game that knocked them out of the playoffs.

19. Green Bay Packers

2017 record: 7-9
Week 17 ranking: No. 21

Opponent winning percentage: .539; tied fifth-hardest. Even with Aaron Rodgers, the Packers would have had a tough path to the postseason. Only four teams played a harder slate than Green Bay, which went 2-9 against teams that finished .500 or better.

20. Washington Redskins

2017 record: 7-9
Week 17 ranking: No. 18

Opponent winning percentage: .539; tied for the fifth-hardest. The Redskins might just be playing on the wrong coast. They went 6-2 against the NFC West and AFC West this season and 1-7 against all other divisions.

21. Arizona Cardinals

2017 record: 8-8
Week 17 ranking: No. 23

Opponent winning percentage: .488; 11th-easiest. The lone 8-8 team in the NFL had the 11th-easiest schedule. Interestingly, the Cardinals went 5-4 after Carson Palmer's injury, beating a pair of playoff teams -- the Titans and Jaguars -- and helping to spoil the Seahawks' playoff chances.

22. Oakland Raiders

2017 record: 6-10
Week 17 ranking: No. 20

Opponent winning percentage: .512; tied for 13th-hardest. A disappointing season cost Jack Del Rio his job. The schedule skewed on the more difficult side, but the Raiders still scored 115 fewer points this year compared to last, when Derek Carr played 15 of 16 games.

23. Cincinnati Bengals

2017 record: 7-9
Week 17 ranking: No. 22

Opponent winning percentage: .465; seventh-easiest. The Bengals had the easiest strength of schedule among teams that finished below .500. They were outscored by 97 points against teams not hailing from Cleveland (they outscored Browns by 38).

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2017 record: 5-11
Week 17 ranking: No. 27

Opponent winning percentage: .555; second-hardest. The preseason expectations in Tampa were much higher than 5-11, but playing 16 consecutive games against the second-toughest schedule put a damper on those postseason hopes. The Bucs went just 3-10 in games started by Jameis Winston.

25. Miami Dolphins

2017 record: 6-10
Week 17 ranking: No. 24

Opponent winning percentage: .543; tied for the third-hardest. Not only did the Dolphins play one of the hardest schedules, they did so playing 16 consecutive weeks. Miami played 11 games against teams that finished with a winning record, going 4-7 in those matchups (and 2-3 in all others).

26. New York Jets

2017 record: 5-11
Week 17 ranking: No. 26

Opponent winning percentage: .520; tied for the 10th-hardest. The Jets arguably overachieved this season, and they did it against one of the top-10 hardest schedules. Not only that, but three of their five wins were against teams that finished with winning records, their most in a season since 2009.

27. Houston Texans

2017 record: 4-12
Week 17 ranking: No. 25

Opponent winning percentage: .516; 12th-hardest. This probably can't be stated enough: The Texans averaged 21.7 more points per game with Deshaun Watson starting than with Tom Savage and T.J. Yates. With Watson all season, who knows where they would have ended up.

28. Chicago Bears

2017 record: 5-11
Week 17 ranking: No. 28

Opponent winning percentage: .559; hardest. The Bears fired John Fox after a third straight losing season. He was the first coach in franchise history to lose 10 or more games in three consecutive seasons, but this year was a bit understandable given the Bears played the hardest schedule in 2017.

29. Denver Broncos

2017 record: 5-11
Week 17 ranking: No. 29

Opponent winning percentage: .492; tied for the 12th-easiest. The Broncos were expected to be in the playoff race, and it was thought their defense would still be one of the best in the league. Despite playing a relatively easy schedule, though, they finished tied with the Jets and Buccaneers for 22nd in points allowed.

30. Indianapolis Colts

2017 record: 4-12
Week 17 ranking: No. 31

Opponent winning percentage: .480; ninth-easiest. The Colts beat the 4-12 Texans (twice), the 0-16 Browns and the 49ers, who were 0-5 at the time. They had one of the easier schedules, but without Andrew Luck were able to win only the easiest of games.

31. New York Giants

2017 record: 3-13
Week 17 ranking: No. 30

Opponent winning percentage: .531; ninth-hardest. The Giants' season, aided by a difficult schedule, will see them picking second overall in the 2018 NFL draft (barring a trade). The only other time the Giants picked that high? In 1981, when they took Lawrence Taylor.

32. Cleveland Browns

2017 record: 0-16
Week 17 ranking: No. 32

Opponent winning percentage: .520; tied for the 10th-hardest. Finishing 0-16 will skew strength of schedule a bit, but the Browns weren't a good team to begin with. FPI favored Cleveland in only three games, and to the Browns' credit, they lost two of those games by only three points.