Stacking the Patriots’ remaining schedule against other contenders
The Patriots have been on a roll lately, winning their last five games to not only go above 0.500 at 7-4, but also enter the AFC playoff table. New England entered Week 11 as the AFC’s sixth seed, although they now hold fifth place following Thursday’s victory.
As the NFL season approaches Thanksgiving, the Patriots’ schedule gets tougher. However, the good news for them is that some of their toughest competitions for playoff sport have the toughest remaining schedules in the league.
The Patriots have home games against the Titans (Week 12), Bills (Week 16) and Jaguars (Week 17) and have road games against the Bills (Week 13), Colts (Week 15) and the remaining dolphins (week 18). With one game against the Titans 8-2 and two games against the Bills 6-3 on their schedule, the Patriots have the ninth hardest schedule remaining in terms of percentage of opposite gains (0.526).
While the Patriots have some tough clashes ahead, they have a little extra rest time. By playing Thursday night, they get three more days off before their game against the AFC’s top Titans. New England also has their week off in Week 14, which gives them extra rest between their first game against the Bills and the Week 15 road game against the Colts.
The teams around the Patriots in the standings will start to cannibalize themselves in the coming weeks, however. For example, the Steelers – which the Patriots topped in the standings on Thursday – have games against the Titans, Ravens (twice), Chiefs, Chargers, Bengals and Browns. All of these teams currently hold the division lead, one of the wild card spots, or are within one game of a wild card spot in the standings, giving Pittsburgh the remaining toughest schedule in the league. .
Just behind Pittsburgh for the league’s toughest remaining schedules are the Ravens (second), Chiefs (third) and Browns (fourth). The Ravens – who lead the Steelers by half a game for AFC North – have five more division games to play (Steelers twice, Browns twice, Bengals once) as all four teams in the division have at least 0.500. .
The Chiefs, who currently hold a half-game lead over the Chargers for the AFC West lead, have a big game against the Cowboys 7-2 on Sunday. All of Kansas City’s remaining opponents are currently .500 or better as they have yet to face the Steelers, Chargers, Raiders, Bengals and Broncos (twice). The 5-5 Browns can play the Lions without a win, but their other six games are also against teams of .500 or better (Packers, Ravens, Steelers, Raiders and Bengals).
The Bengals and Raiders, who are both tied with the Patriots in the loss column with four losses, have the toughest fifth and sixth schedules remaining. Cincinnati still has one game against each of its division rivals plus games against the Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders. The Bengals’ easiest opponent are the 49ers, who just crushed the Rams in Week 10. The Raiders still have games against the Cowboys, Chiefs, Chargers, Bengals, Browns and Colts.
Indianapolis, which has crept through the standings in recent weeks with a 4-1 in its last five games, has the eighth toughest schedule remaining. The Colts have two games against two of the NFC’s top teams, the Cardinals and the Buccaneers. They also face the Patriots, Bills and Raiders, but have two relatively easy clashes against the Texans and Jaguars.
The only two teams looking for a wild card spot for the AFC that have relatively easy schedules are the Broncos and Chargers. The Broncos have the 15th toughest schedule as they still have five games against their rivals AFC West, but can face the Lions as well. The Chargers have the 22nd toughest schedule in the league as they have yet to face the Broncos twice as well as the Steelers, Chiefs, Raiders and Bengals. Their schedule is loosening up a bit as they still have games against the Texans and Giants.
With the Patriots just half a game away from the Bills for the AFC East lead, it’s reasonable to think they have a solid chance of winning the division. The Bills have an easier schedule, but not by much. Buffalo has the 12th toughest schedule in the league. Obviously, the Bills have two games against the Patriots – which could decide the division – but they also have to face the Buccaneers, Saints, Colts and Panthers, who are all 0.500 or better. They have games left against the Jets and Falcons, which the Patriots have handled with ease this season.
So, as the Thanksgiving season approaches, the Patriots are in a relatively good position. Not only are they currently in the playoffs, but the teams around them still have games against each other to play while the team ahead of them in the standings have yet to play them twice.
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