Patriots

NFL strength of schedule rankings 2019: Did the Patriots get a gift?

NFL strength of schedule rankings 2019: Did the Patriots get a gift?

The NFL strives for parity. So, there's no way they'd give the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots one of the easiest schedules in the league this season, right?

Well...

The NFL's full 2019 schedule came out Wednesday night, and if you use opponents' 2018 win percentage as your gauge, the Patriots actually have the second-easiest schedule in the league this year.

Here's the full list, ranked from hardest (highest opponent win percentage) to easiest (lowest opponent win percentage) schedule:

1. Oakland Raiders (.539)
2. Denver Broncos (.537)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (.531)
4. Houston Texans (.527)
T-5. Chicago Bears (.520)
T-5. Kansas City Chiefs (.520)
T-7. Indianapolis Colts (.518)
T-7. Atlanta Falcons (.518)
9. Tennessee Titans (.514)
10. Minnesota Vikings (.512)
11. San Francisco 49ers (.510)
T-12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (.508)
T-12. Arizona Cardinals (.508)
T-14. Green Bay Packers (.504)
T-14. Dallas Cowboys (.504)
T-16. Carolina Panthers (.502)
T-16. Los Angeles Chargers (.502)
18. Miami Dolphins (.500)
T-19. Pittsburgh Steelers (.496)
T-19. Baltimore Ravens (.496)
T-19. Detroit Lions (.496)
22. New Orleans Saints (.488)
23. Cleveland Browns (.484)
24. Buffalo Bills (.480)
25. Seattle Seahawks (.479)
26. Philadelphia Eagles (.477)
T-27. Cincinnati Bengals (.473)
T-27. New York Jets (.473)
T-27. New York Giants (473)
T-27. Los Angeles Rams (.473)
T-27. New England Patriots (.473)
32. Washington Redskins (.469)

Before Patriots haters accuse the NFL of playing favorites, New England's cushy schedule is mostly the product of good fortune. Each NFL division matches up with a full AFC and NFC division every year, and the AFC East drew the AFC North and NFC East this season, meaning the Patriots get to face models of futility like the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals.

It also helps that New England plays in one of the worst divisions in football; the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills all had sub-.500 records in 2018 and show no real signs of improvement.

Of course, past results don't necessarily predict future performance, as the revamped Cleveland Browns won't be the 7-8-1 club it was last year.

It's still a pretty good barometer, though, so Patriots fans can take extra pleasure in seeing the AFC rival Kansas City Chiefs in the top five of hardest schedules.

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Tom Brady laughs off Patriots injury report designation: 'I'm feeling really good'

Tom Brady laughs off Patriots injury report designation: 'I'm feeling really good'

The New England Patriots' Thursday injury report raised some eyebrows as Tom Brady was downgraded to limited in practice. But per usual, the injury designation doesn't seem to be a cause for concern.

In fact, Brady couldn't help but laugh when asked about being listed with elbow and toe ailments. During his Thursday night appearance on Westwood One with Jim Gray, Brady assured Patriots fans he'll be good to go vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.

“That might be the first time my toe’s been on the injury report,” Brady said. “So, you know us Patriots. We’re pretty diligent about listing everything. So, I guess you have to make mention of my toe now, as well.”

As for the elbow issue, Brady dealt with it during last week's game in Houston and is ready to do the same at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

“Isn’t there some HIPAA violation or something like that when I start talking about all of my injuries?” Brady joked. “I’m doing pretty good. I’m doing pretty good. At this time of the year, I’ll take it. I’ll take anything if I’m still able to go out there and feel like I can play my best. I’m feeling really good, really positive about this weekend.”

Kickoff for the much-anticipated Patriots-Chiefs matchup is set for 4:25 p.m., and it sounds like Brady's more than ready for the AFC Championship Game rematch.

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Patriots Talk Podcast: A detailed look at why Tom Brady's time in NE is winding down

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Patriots Talk Podcast: A detailed look at why Tom Brady's time in NE is winding down

For 19 seasons, Tom Brady has been the unquestioned starter at quarterback for the New England Patriots. And for 19 years, he has started every game that he has been healthy for.

But ahead of the 2020 offseason, Brady's status with the organization remains as questionable as ever.

For the first time in his career, the 42-year-old Brady will be set to hit unrestricted free agency. He agreed to a restructured contract with the team this offseason, but it only gave him a pay raise this season and guaranteed that the team couldn't slap him with the franchise tag.

While Brady could return to the Patriots, it's possible that he could choose to go elsewhere if the team doesn't commit to him financially or surround him with better weaponry.

On the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discussed the possibility of Brady leaving. And as Curran pointed out, that topic hasn't been broached with much seriousness despite the fact that free agency is closer than some may realize.

We're talking about a seismic occurrence in the arc of the dynasty that is basically 90 days away. They could come to some kind of conclusion and rectify it and he might finish his career here, but it doesn't smell that way.

It's important to note that nothing is set in stone, and the Brady-Patriots relationship has endured for two decades for a reason. Despite some strain in the relationship at times, things have always been smoothed over. 

That said, there are some quarterback-needy teams that could attempt to lure Brady away from New England in an attempt to put their team over the top. Curran and Perry identified a few different options on the podcast, one of which was the Los Angeles Chargers.

Hear more from Curran and Perry on the latest episode of "The Patriots Talk Podcast," which drops every Tuesday and Thursday as a part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

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