Their bonus point 56-19 win over Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday night, which has given them a slender two point advantage over England, who saw off Wales yesterday.
"If you'd said to me a fortnight ago we would have nine points and a points differential of plus 39, I would have bitten your hand off", said Schmidt.
Leinster star Garry Ringrose could yet be back from ankle trouble just in time to slot in for Henshaw in Ireland's clash with Wales, while Munster's Chris Farrell could also partner Aki against Warren Gatland's men.
"The Italians eagerness to play and the line speed they brought provoked some of that and caught us a bit by surprise", said the 52-year-old New Zealander.
"Ireland play much better rugby than England - it's more hard to defend". "You know that your next two games are at home, we haven't lost a home Six Nations game in the five years that I've been involved so there's a real benchmark and pride that we can hopefully defend".
"I think it's always nice when you get a compliment from an opposing captain", said Best, who scored one of Ireland's eight tries against Italy.
"They are better than England."." .
"He felt a tightening on deceleration", explained Schmidt.
Italy captain Sergio Parisse - one of the most capped players in rugby history - rates Ireland stronger than England.
'We're very happy with the result but we've got a lot to work on next week; our execution, myself included, simple things, holding onto the ball and building phases'.
Ireland's confidence is growing.
Asked to assess Ireland's tile chances, Schmidt replied: "You do feel that you've a chance when you can get those first two wins, especially with an away win first up".
The next round of the Six Nations sees Wales travel to Ireland, Scotland host England at Murrayfield in the Calcutta Cup and France face Italy in a Friday night match.
"Experience-wise, it's a lot less", said the Ireland boss. "He could be another option if Robbie Henshaw is unavailable, as we suspect he potentially will be". Since then, the Azzurri had gone 13 games in the Championship without scoring more than two.
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