Where the Patriots fall in the NFL’s updated 2021 strength of schedule rankings
The Patriots' 2021 schedule features a date with Tom Brady's Buccaneers in Foxborough and a revenge game for Cam Newton in Carolina.
Weeks after the New England Patriots spent massive money in free agency to revamp their team ahead of the 2021 season, the NFL’s scheduling gods showed them additional favor in their quest to return to the playoffs.
The NFL released its updated strength-of-schedule rankings on Wednesday, based on team records from last year, following the newly ratified 17-game regular season. A first glance at the list looks good for the Patriots.
New England will enter the 2021 season tied for the NFL’s 12th-easiest projected schedule, with its opponents for the upcoming season posting a combined record of 133-139 in 2020 for a winning percentage of .489. The Patriots share that mark with the San Francisco 49ers and the AFC East rival New York Jets. For reference, the Pittsburgh Steelers have the hardest upcoming schedule in football with a 2020 opponent winning percentage of .574 while the Philadelphia Eagles (.430 opponent win percentage in 2020) have the league’s easiest slate.
The Patriots, along with the Jets, do have tougher projected schedules than either the reigning AFC Champion Buffalo Bills (tied for ninth-easiest schedule) or the Miami Dolphins (tied for fifth-easiest), which could mean a tough road to reclaiming the division crown they’d won 11 times in a row until the 2020 season.
However, New England still currently has the sixth-easiest schedule in the AFC, putting them in a solid position (on paper at least) to earn a playoff spot. Also, the Patriots catch a break in that most of their toughest out-of-conference games, headlined by Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski’s return to Foxborough with the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are at home. Only one out-of-conference team they’ll play on the road this year (the Indianapolis Colts) was a winning team last year.
Other notable games from this year will include the newly added tilt with the Dallas Cowboys as the Patriots’ 17th game as well as Cam Newton’s possible revenge game against his old Carolina Panthers.
A lot can change for teams between now and the start of the season, from adding players via the NFL Draft or injuries changing a roster’s complexion entirely. But the Patriots’ upgrades on both sides of the ball this offseason could place them in good stead to take advantage of what looks like a relatively easy scheduling draw next year.
Here are the Patriots’ opponents for the 2021 season along with their record and location (home or away).
Home games: Buffalo Bills (13-3), Cleveland Browns (11-5), Dallas Cowboys (6-10), Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15), Miami Dolphins (10-6), New Orleans Saints (12-4), New York Jets (2-14), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5, **Super Bowl Champions), Tennessee Titans (11-5).
Away games: Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Atlanta Falcons (4-12), Carolina Panthers (5-11), Houston Texans (4-12), Los Angeles Chargers (7-9), Indianapolis Colts (11-5).
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