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Patriots’ 2023 schedule becomes even more challenging with Aaron Rodgers in the mix

Rodgers was traded from Green Bay to New York on Monday.

Syndication: Journal Sentinel Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

The NFL will not release its 2023 schedule until next month, but based on last year’s standings and annual rotations we already know the opponents for each of the 32 teams. That means, we can already tell that the New England Patriots, straight off an 8-9 season, will have their work cut out for them this coming fall.

New England, after all, will play nine of its 17 games against teams that made the playoffs last year — including both Super Bowl contestants. But even the non-postseason participants will be no automatic pushovers.

One team in particular made sure of that on Monday: the New York Jets completed a trade with the Green Bay Packers to acquire future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers is one of the best passers in league history and even at the age of 39 should be a significant upgrade over last year’s Jets starter, Zach Wilson. Even though he did not look particularly good in 2022, the move — especially with New York already having a solid overall roster in place — elevates the team into realistic contender status, at least on paper: the Jets now have the sixth-best odds in the league to win next year’s Super Bowl, per DraftKings Sportsbook.

They also have positioned themselves well to end a 14-game losing streak against the Patriots that started in 2016.

As for New England, it now can add a four-time league MVP to a list of opposing quarterbacks that already featured some serious talent. Even before Rodgers joined the division, and therefore the Patriots’ schedule on two occasions, the list included some of the best QBs the NFL currently has to offer:

(H: Home opponents, R: Road opponents)

Buffalo Bills (H+R): Josh Allen. Buffalo has won four straight games against the Patriots in large part because of Allen. A true dual-threat at the quarterback position, he combines one of the NFL’s best arms with impressive athleticism.

Miami Dolphins (H+R): Tua Tagovailoa. When he was not dealing with concussion issues in 2022, Tagovailoa played at a very high level under first-year head coach Mike McDaniel. With the team only adding to its supporting cast, the Alabama product should be pick up right where he left off.

New York Jets (H+R): Aaron Rodgers. We already spoke about Rodgers before. Super Bowl winner. Four-time league MVP. Future Hall of Famer. Not much more to be said about him.

Kansas City Chiefs (H): Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL right now and well on his way to becoming an all-time great. He is coming off his second Super Bowl win and MVP award, and together with head coach Andy Reid forms one of the league’s most productive partnerships.

Los Angeles Chargers (H): Justin Herbert. Herbert may not have earned the same accolades as other players on this list, but make no mistake. The fourth-year man has all the tools to challenge defenses, especially with his cannon of a right arm.

Indianapolis Colts (H): TBD. Indianapolis is a realistic candidate to draft a quarterback high this year. At the moment, the team’s QB room is led by Nick Foles, Gardner Minshew and Sam Ehlinger.

Philadelphia Eagles (H): Jalen Hurts. Despite the Eagles losing the Super Bowl to the Chiefs, Hurts was awarded with a record contract extension earlier this month. It is not hard to see why: he looked very good in his second full season as a starter, both throwing and running the football.

Washington Commanders (H): TBD. Together with the Colts, the Commanders also have no set starter for the 2023 season yet. Their depth chart is currently made out of Jacoby Brissett, Sam Howell and Jake Fromm, meaning that an early-round QB being added to the mix makes sense.

New Orleans Saints (H): Derek Carr. The Saints picked Carr up after Las Vegas released him earlier this offseason, and the expectation is that he will serve as the team’s QB1 at least in 2023. Time will tell how quickly he can adapt to his new team.

Las Vegas Raiders (R): Jimmy Garoppolo. Another quarterback changing teams this offseason, ex-Patriots quarterback Garoppolo reunited with ex-Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas. Garoppolo is coming off season-ending injury, but did look solid for San Francisco in 2022 before going down.

Denver Broncos (R): Russell Wilson. The Broncos were a dumpster fire in 2022, in part because of Russell Wilson simply not meeting expectations. Now with a new head coach in town — former Saints HC Sean Payton — the hope is that he will get back on track.

Pittsburgh Steelers (R): Kenny Pickett. The Patriots did not play against Pickett last year; the then-rookie saw no snaps while serving as Mitchell Trubisky’s backup. Entering his sophomore campaign, however, there is no question: he is the Steelers’ starter.

Dallas Cowboys (R): Dak Prescott. With Rodgers leaving Green Bay, Prescott is now the NFL’s longest-tenured starting quarterback. A capable player who is better than he oftentimes gets credit for, he actually is one of the top QBs in the NFC right now.

New York Giants (R): Daniel Jones. Jones will need to prove that his 2022 season was no outlier; he signed a massive four-year, $160 million contract extension this offseason. Will he live up to the expectations of officially being New York’s franchise quarterback now? The Patriots will find out first-hand.

While not every name on this list falls into the “elite” category, the Patriots will have their hands full against the passers on their schedule in 2023 — Aaron Rodgers now among them. Their defense was very good last year, so that is obviously a positive, but the offense remains a question mark even with new coordinator Bill O’Brien brought in.

If the unit cannot show proper and quick improvement compared to its lackluster 2022 campaign, a good defense alone might not be enough to hang with many of the players on this list. New England needs to be able to play that famous complementary football next year.

Of course, with it only being April there is a long way to go until the team has to do that. Likewise, there is no guarantee that the Rodgers trade will pay the dividends New York is hoping for.

Time will tell.