The NFL announced the 2017 regular-season schedule on Thursday night and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots learned they will play all three teams they faced in the 2016 playoffs — the Houston Texans, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday Night Football — with a stretch of five road games during Weeks 10 through 15, including a game against the defending AFC West champion Oakland Raiders in Mexico City.
That may sound daunting, but according to 2017 win forecasts based on Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, the Patriots will have the easiest schedule for the upcoming season.
Their opponents are expected to win between seven and eight games, on average, with just one, the Steelers in Week 15, projected to win 10 or more games during the season. Football Outsiders also ranks the Patriots’ schedule as the easiest in football based on average projected DVOA of next season’s 16 opponents due to the overall weakness of the AFC East and pending decline of the Patriots out-of-division opponents.
Five of the Patriots’ first-half opponents failed to make the playoffs last season and they are, as a group, expected to finish below .500 in 2017. And the same is true for the second half of the season.
The oddsmakers in Las Vegas are certainly taking notice. The reigning champions are the clear favorites to win another Super Bowl ring next February and are the only team not being offered at double-digit odds.
Expect the Patriots to steamroll their way to an eighth consecutive AFC East division title and 15th straight double-digit win season in 2017. And perhaps even a sixth Super Bowl title.