Although the New England Patriots have a sub-.500 strength of schedule heading into 2015, their schedule projects as much more difficult than that SOS number would indicate. There are several difficult stretches ahead. Here are a few that stood out:
In some ways, the Patriots could actually benefit from the insanely early bye, as weeks 5-8 constitute what is arguably the most difficult stretch of the season. The Patriots play only four 2014 playoff teams next year, and will face two of them back to back on the road following the bye. In week five, they will travel to Dallas for a late afternoon contest. In week six, they travel to Indianapolis to take on the rival Colts on Sunday Night Football. Things don’t let up from there. While they do return home for the next two weeks, they face two division opponents who are projected to be much better this season: the New York Jets in week seven and the Miami Dolphins in week 8.
This stretch of games has a 2-2 home-away split, but some difficult opponents. Week 10, they travel to New York to take on the Giants. I don’t think much more needs to be said about that. Week 11, the Patriots host the Bills in a Monday Night match-up. Week 12, we have Brady-Manning XXXII (or something like that) when the Patriots travel to Denver for a primetime game on a short week. Then, week 13, the Patriots get Chip Kelly and the 10-win Eagles. Fun.
The Patriots have a pretty difficult stretch to finish the season as well. Three of their final four games are on the road. Week 14, they travel to Houston to take on Bill O’Brien and the Texans. They finished 9-7 a year ago, have an improving young core, and Vince Wilfork’s defection should make a good storyline. After a home game with the Titans, the Patriots close the year with back to back road games against the Jets and Dolphins. That could make for a very interesting, and very difficult finish for the Patriots.