By Eric Schmidt

The NFL unveiled their 2012 schedule this week and statistically speaking, the New England Patriots have the easiest schedule based on teams they face off against in 2012. How did this happen and are the New England Patriots now the favorites for the 2013 Super Bowl? It is easy to look at a schedule formulated in April and try to predict wins and losses, but as the regular season unfolds and games are played, April predictions become a different story.

Conspiracy theorists in certain NFL circles are trying to make the claim that the NFL simply loves the Patriots and rewarded them with the easiest strength of schedule for the 2012 season. Is it odd that the Patriots, coming off a Super Bowl appearance are rewarded with the easiest schedule on paper heading into the 2012 season? Yes, it’s odd, but the NFL didn’t hand the Patriots this schedule, it’s predetermined.

This season, every team in the AFC East plays every team in the NFC West as well as the AFC South. Teams also play respective teams from the AFC North and AFC West, based on their respective finish from the 2011 season. There was no favoritism handed out to Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots. Under the current format, NFL teams play the same divisions every four years, alternating home and away games.

However, it is unusual that a reigning Super Bowl participant draws the least competitive schedule right out of the gate. The Patriots have been highly active in the free agency period by signing 21 free agents which were either with the team last year or players which were with other teams. New England also is once again stockpiled with draft selections this season.

New England will once again be right in the mix in the AFC playoff race with QB Tom Brady at the helm. However, according to ESPN Stats, the last five teams to enter a season with the “easiest” schedule, all failed to qualify for the playoffs. Honestly, I can’t see that happening to the Patriots unless Brady goes down with an injury early on.

Let’s temper the discussion of who has the easiest schedule. It’s April. Fans of teams which faced the San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions and the Cincinnati Bengals thought they had automatic wins in April of 2011.





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