If I were to look at every game in isolation, I would think the Patriots should be favored in every match-up. They're the reigning champion and no team on the schedule has improved so greatly to think they would win in a vacuum.
What is slightly more interesting is to see how other teams perceive the Patriots. Do the Colts have their match against the Patriots penciled in as a loss? What about the whole NFC East?
ESPN asked their beat writers to predict the upcoming season, so I scrubbed all of their projections to come up with a season's worth of games, from the opposite side of the box score. Here are the results:
Week 1 - Steelers; Patriots win 38-20; 1-0
Week 2 - at Bills; Patriots lose 28-24; 1-1
Week 3 - Jaguars; Patriots win 31-12; 2-1
Week 4 - BYE WEEK; 2-1
Week 5 - at Cowboys; Patriots win 31-27; 3-1
Week 6 - at Colts; Patriots win 35-30; 4-1
Week 7 - Jets; Patriots win 24-21; 5-1
Week 8 - Dolphins; Patriots win 34-17; 6-1
Week 9 - Washington; Patriots win 27-14; 7-1
Week 10 - at Giants; Patriots win 27-20; 8-1
Week 11 - Bills; Patriots win 34-24; 9-1
Week 12 - at Broncos; Patriots lose 28-27; 9-2
Week 13 - Eagles; Patriots win 34-23; 10-2
Week 14 - at Texans; Patriots win 35-27; 11-2
Week 15 - Titans; Patriots win 38-13; 12-2
Week 16 - at Jets; Patriots win 20-16; 13-2
Week 17 - at Dolphins; Patriots lose 23-21; 13-3
The Patriots score 480 points, which is 109 points fewer than the 2007 season, just to put that year in crazy context. New England scored 468 points last season, with a slow start and resting during Week 17, so 480 sounds reasonable, if not pretty favorable.
On the defensive side, though, the Patriots are expected to be a disaster. The other teams clearly don't respect New England's current defense and project 343 points against. This would be the second worst Patriots defense under Bill Belichick, just a hair better than the 2002 defense that allowed 346 points.
Hopefully the offense plays to projections, and hopefully the defense exceeds expectations. I'd like to think that the Patriots are resting in Week 17 against the Dolphins, having clinched homefield advantage after beating the Jets in Week 16.
What do you think?