The New England Patriots are set to begin the post-Tom Brady era in 2020. And it's not going to be easy for the team to replace the NFL's greatest quarterback of all time.
While the Patriots seem to be confident in Jarrett Stidham, the second-year passer will have to face a lot of tough opponents if he does start this season, as expected. The Patriots will be taking on six teams that made the playoffs last year and will be playing a total of seven games against playoff squads (they play the Buffalo Bills twice).
Thus, it's no surprise that the Patriots are facing one of the toughest schedules in the NFL.
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According to NFL writer Dov Kleiman, the Patriots are set to have the hardest schedule of 2020 based on the records of their opponents in 2019. Here's a look at the full list, per Kleiman.
The 2020 #NFL schedule will be released tonight.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) May 7, 2020
Attached is a look at the strength of schedule for all 32 Teams - it is based on opponents’ win percentage in 2019 - the #Ravens will have the "easiest" schedule and the #Patriots will have the "hardest" pic.twitter.com/EvkDTwsfUy
Of course, projecting strength of schedule based on records in the previous season is largely an exercise in futility. NFL teams simply have so much roster turnover and all it takes is one key departure or injury to turn a potential playoff team into one that is rebuilding for the next season.
That said, the Patriots' schedule still does look tough on paper. They have to face many of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, like Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), 2019 regular-season MVP Lamar Jackson (Ravens), Russell Wilson (Seahawks), and Deshaun Watson (Texans). They'll face three of those opponents on the road with the Ravens being the only team to visit Foxboro.
The Patriots also will have to take on the previous two NFC Super Bowl representatives in the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams. Both have strong defenses and could find a way to make life difficult for Stidham with pressure.
Things obviously can and will change. And the rest of the AFC East is in a similar boat as the Patriots, as the Jets and Dolphins have the second and third-most difficult schedules respectively and the Bills come in at No. 7. Other rankings of note include the Chiefs (18th), the Steelers (31st), and the Ravens, who check in with the league's easiest schedule.
But needless to say, the Patriots will have to hope that their team is ready for the limelight without Brady in the fold to lead the offense. Especially considering that the other AFC contenders have much better-looking schedules at this point in time.