Before we even get to the schedule, three things to remember: 1) They went 14-2 last year, and one of those losses was without Tom Brady; 2) They just won the Super Bowl without star tight end Rob Gronkowski; 3) They just added a Top 20 receiver in Brandin Cooks and a top 15 cornerback in Stephon Gilmore.
The thing I always look for in schedules: How many elite QBs do you have to face?
Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Derek Carr and Ben Roethlisberger. There’s also a meeting with Cam Newton, though he’s not currently elite.
The next level question: How many elite QBs do you have to face … on the road?
Two. Drew Brees in week two, but the good news there is the Patriots open the season on Thursday night, so they get extra rest before playing an average team. The other is Ben Roethlisberger in December. Making his showdown even more challenging – it’s the final game of three straight road games.
The toughest games for the Patriots, in order next season:
at Pittsburgh, Week 15
vs Oakland, Week 11, in Mexico City (the week after playing in Denver)
at Tampa Bay, Week 5 (Thursday night, so short week after facing the Panthers)
vs Miami, Week 14 (Pats have lost three of their last four in Miami)