How Do the 4-Win Patriots Have PFN’s Hardest Strength of Schedule in the NFL?

Despite taking home only four wins last season, the New England Patriots face the hardest strength of schedule in the NFL in 2024.

The 2024 NFL schedule went live on May 15, and while we were already aware of each team’s opponents, we now know when they’ll be playing them this upcoming season.

Despite finishing in fourth place in the AFC East last season, the New England Patriots face the toughest schedule for 2024. We break down why they face such a challenging slate despite coming off a four-win season in 2023.

Patriots Face Hardest Schedule for 2024

In Pro Football Network’s strength of schedule rankings for this upcoming season, the Patriots were identified as the team with the most difficult slate of opponents.

After their full schedule was released on Wednesday night, it provided even more confirmation that they’ll have an extremely difficult road ahead of them this season.

How did a four-win team with a last-place schedule get the NFL‘s hardest schedule?

Well, finishing in last place really only affects three games. Outside of a team’s six division games, each division plays one other full division within conference and one outside the conference.

The other three games are determined by what place you finish. And the three last-place teams on New England’s slate — the Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears, and Los Angeles Chargers — are projected to be significantly better this season.

New England’s home opponents include its AFC East rivals — the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins — as well as the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, and Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile, their road opponents, in addition to their division counterparts, are the Bengals, Bears, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, and Arizona Cardinals.

While conventional wisdom is that last-place teams get afforded an easier schedule the following season, that’s not always the case, and it most certainly isn’t for New England.

One disadvantage for the Patriots is that they play in a very competitive division. In the AFC East this season, three of the four teams (with New England being the lone exception) are projected to make the playoffs. Furthermore, the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets each rank in the top 14 in shortest Super Bowl odds.

To put that into perspective, no other division has more than two teams.

Additionally, the AFC East is playing against the NFC West and AFC South this season — two divisions that feature formidable opponents such as the 49ers, Rams, Texans, and Jaguars, to name a few.

Replacing Bill Belichick is already a daunting task, but doing so against an overwhelming schedule while working in rookie quarterback Drake Maye won’t be easy for first-year Pats head coach Jerod Mayo. The Patriots’ daunting schedule may force Mayo to start veteran Jacoby Brissett over Maye to begin the year.

With a very uninspiring roster and a difficult schedule, expectations are very low for the Patriots this season. They’re tied with the Carolina Panthers for the lowest win total (4.5) at the sportsbooks, and currently at DraftKings, they’re underdogs in every game this season.

MORE: 2024 NFL Season and Playoff Predictor

New England had several key losses this offseason, including running back Ezekiel Elliott, wide receiver DeVante Parker, right tackle Trent Brown, and tight end Mike Gesicki. And of course, they’ll have a new head coach for the first time in 24 years.

Overall, the Patriots’ season is shaping up to be another challenging one, and it will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure with a new coach and quarterback.

Pro Football Network’s 2024 NFL Strength of Schedule rankings take into account our internal rankings, the opinion of sportsbooks, and advanced metrics. Check out all 32 teams’ strength of schedule and where they rank league-wide.

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