During July, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will be analyzing the schedules of every team in the NFL and ranking each game in order of difficulty (with one being the most difficult). This series will be split up into the eight most difficult games (ranked 1-8) and the eight easiest games (ranked 9-16) for each team. In this article, the New England Patriots easiest games are the focus.
New England Patriots Easiest Games of 2017
9. Week 12 vs. Miami Dolphins
The Patriots will return home after the two high-elevation road games to face the only team in the division that poses any real threat to the team. In the Ryan Tannehill era, the Patriots are undefeated against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough. Since 2012, the Patriots have beaten the Dolphins at home by an average of more than 20 points. New England should take this one handily.
10. Week 2 at New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees is one of the most prolific passers in history, especially at the Superdome. However, his most productive receiver in 2016 was Brandin Cooks. Cooks will return to the Superdome in 2017 as a New England Patriot. Even though Brees doesn’t have any shortage of targets to throw to, the addition of Stephon Gilmore to an already stacked defensive backfield of Malcolm Butler, Patrick Chung, and Devin McCourty will put a damper on the New Orleans Saints pass-heavy offensive attack. Complicating that look would be Saints newcomer Adrian Peterson, who saw a bounce-back year in 2015, but played in only three games in 2016.
11. Week 5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have begun to come into their own with Jameis Winston under center. Mike Evans has proven himself to be of Pro Bowl caliber, and the addition of veteran speedster DeSean Jackson and Alabama’s star tight end OJ Howard might prove dangerous for the Patriots. Regardless, the Buccaneers are upstarts in the age of the Patriots dynasty, and two star receivers and an unproven rookie do not a team make.
12. Week 13 at Buffalo Bills
Instability and unrest have plagued the Bills in recent seasons, and the whispers around the country about Tyrod Taylor moving on from the franchise didn’t help things. LeSean McCoy shined at home, scoring 11 of his 13 touchdowns last season at New Era Field, but coincidentally enough, it was Mike Gillislee who ran for 85 yards and a touchdown in Buffalo against the Patriots. Gillislee will now be in the running back rotation for New England.
13. Week 8 vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Philip Rivers throws a lot of interceptions, and the Patriots top scoring defense is mostly intact, with several new additions. The Los Angeles Chargers ended the 2016 season on a five game losing streak, even taking a loss at home (in San Diego) to the historically bad Cleveland Browns.
The Chargers lost Danny Woodhead to the Baltimore Ravens in the off-season, so their run game is reliant mostly on Melvin Gordon. Antonio Gates and Keenan Allen have had trouble staying healthy in recent years, and first-round draft pick Mike Williams has been diagnosed with a back injury that might take him out for the season. The Chargers will have to rely on a defense that allowed the fourth most points in the league last season.
14. Week 6 at New York Jets
The New York Jets still have no clear answer at quarterback, and all of their options are mediocre at best. NYJ fumbled thrice and had an abysmal time trying to run the ball at home against the Patriots in 2016, gaining only 64 yards through four quarters. The Jets will have to turn to younger talents like Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson to move the ball through the air.
15. Week 16 vs. Bills
The Bills capitalized on injury and suspension to pull out a victory in Foxborough last season, but it is unlikely that they’ll see the same kind of luck this year. This game appears in a tougher stretch during the Patriots season, having played on the road against the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders before returning home for a single home game against Miami. Despite the absence of points from the Patriots squad, third stringer Jacoby Brissett still threw for 205 yards in the contest last season. Look for Brady to heap on the yardage against the division foes.
16. Week 17 vs. Jets
The Jets have dumped several veteran players this off-season in what many have pegged as a “Suck for Sam” campaign to draft USC quarterback Sam Darnold. This late in the season, it is doubtful that the Patriots will still be fighting for a playoff spot, but they may need this game to position themselves better for the playoffs. The Jets, on the other hand, will likely have little to play for, aside from pride and an attempt to sour the Patriots seeding.
Be sure to check out the eight toughest games of the New England Patriots 2017 schedule.