Last night, the NFL released the 2011 schedules of its 32 teams, provided there is a season. All of the schedules are ranked in difficulty according to their opponents’ combined records from 2010. Looking at the AFC East, the Patriots’ have the easiest schedule based on their opponents’ combined 2010 records. Here is the strength of schedule ranking for the AFC East:
1. Buffalo Bills – 2nd toughest overall – opponents’ 2010 record: 137-119
2. New York Jets – 8th toughest overall – opponents’ 2010 record: 133-123
3. Miami Dolphins – 11th toughest overall – opponents’ 2010 record: 132-124
4. New England Patriots – 16th toughest overall – opponents’ 2010 record: 129-127
One thing to keep in mind is that all of the AFC East teams that aren’t the Pats have to face the Pats twice, and the Patriots won 14 games last season, so that skews the figures somewhat. The Carolina Panthers, last season’s worst team (2-14), have the NFL’s toughest schedule, with their opponents’ a combined 142-114. Ouch. The Panthers are going to have a tough climb out the basement, and being in the NFC South with the Saints, Bucs, and Falcons doesn’t help things. The Cardinals, on the other end of the spectrum, have the NFL’s easiest schedule, with their opponents’ a combined 113-143. Like the Panthers, the Cards’ schedule is a product of their division. The Cardinals’ NFC West is home to the 8-8 division champion Seahawks, Rams, and 49ers.