Is the New England Patriots' schedule as hard as it seems?

New England Patriots v New York Jets
New England Patriots v New York Jets / Elsa/GettyImages

At first glance it may appear that the Patriots have a daunting schedule in front of them after last week's schedule release. According to CBS Sports, the Pats have the third-most difficult schedule in the league, behind the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins. Ironically the Patriots will take on both of these franchises in their first two games of 2023, both at Gillette Stadium. The team will also have a matchup against the defending Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs later on in the season as well as two division games against the Buffalo Bills and the new-look New York Jets.

As difficult as that schedule may appear, things can change quickly in the NFL. Between the schedule release in May and the start of the season in September, teams can look much different due to a litany of reasons including key players being cut for salary cap reasons, injuries, or players not being as productive as the season before. The NFL strength of schedule is based on last season's results and with that being said it's almost impossible to predict if a schedule is going to be easy or hard because teams can change from year to year.

While it is true that some teams may not be as good as they were last season, some teams may improve which makes those games on the schedule more challenging. For example, the Patriots will be playing the Jets twice and the New Orleans Saints once which are two teams that drastically improved their quarterback position and could be more challenging teams to play against than they were the year before. This isn't to say that Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr are unbeatable because the Patriots very nearly beat both of them last season but both of them are drastic improvements from the quarterbacks that each team had last season.

Speaking of drastically improving at key positions, this does bring up another interesting point. Offseason improvements don't always turn out the way that people think. For example, last offseason two teams in the AFC West seemed to drastically improve, with the Raiders getting Davante Adams and the Broncos trading for Russell Wilson. Neither team qualified for the playoffs, meaning that improvements to the roster don't necessarily carry over to on-field performance. So it could be entirely possible that it does not work out for the Jets and Saints and those matchups could potentially be not as difficult as it seems.

The Patriots will not have an easy schedule next year but it won't be an impossible schedule as some seem to think it could be. While it is true that other teams have gotten better, the Pats have also made huge improvements to their roster and coaching staff, bringing in some playmakers on the offensive side and hiring some new offensive coaches that should be able to get more out of Mac Jones. It will certainly be a difficult task for the Patriots to beat the Eagles in Week One but crazier things have happened. Despite the Patriots opponents having a combined winning percentage of .549 this season, it is entirely possible that this team could still make the playoffs.