It’s funny how the two Super Bowl participants get the two edges of the stick when it comes to the hardest projected schedule in the 2012 NFL Season, based on the 2011 records of all 32 NFL teams. The champions, the New York Giants, have the most difficult road ahead of them while the New England Patriots get the easiest.
How? Well, easy. First of all, their own divisions. The Giants play the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys four times this season, both 8-8 teams. Not quality opponents (9 wins or more), but still at that .500 line. The Patriots play the New York Jets, who finished 8-8 last season, but also the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins, both finished 6-10 last year. Dominating your division, which the Patriots have, winning the AFC East title eight times out of the last nine seasons, is the first step towards a good season.
The Patriots got the NFC West as their partner division this year, meaning they do play a quality opponent in the 49ers, but also the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks and the 2-14 St. Louis Rams. Getting the AFC South, with someone like the Indianapolis Colts (who’ll be much better this season) that went 2-14 last year and the Jacksonville Jaguars, with a 5-11 and probably same or worse this year doesn’t hurt.
For the Giants? A combined W-L record of 140-116 and 7 teams that have won at least nine games last season: They play in San Francisco as well against the 49ers but the big hit is playing two AFC North teams – The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, both 12-4 last season, while being paired with the NFC South, meaning the Saints and the Falcons, both winning more than 10 games last season.
The Patriots and the Falcons are the only two teams with only 4 quality opponents listed on their schedule. A couple of teams, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jacksonville Jaguars, have 8 such games to deal with this season. For the Jaguars, this means no hope of making it through the AFC South once again. For the Eagles, it simply means it’s time to prove this team really is as good as the roster lists suggest.
The Green Bay Packers, despite the tough NFC North, have the second easiest schedule in the NFL with a .469 W-L ratio from their opponents, while the Houston Texans also enjoy a rather easy, projected schedule. The Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens are two playoff teams with quite a difficult road ahead of them, ranked 2nd and 4th respectively when it comes to the most difficult schedule.