The NFL released the schedule for the 2012 regular season last night and the Patriots’ schedule shapes up for them to win another AFC East Championship without much of a problem. Outside of the division their toughest games on paper seem to be a trip to Baltimore on September 23rd and when they host the 49er’s on December 16th.
People may point to the game at the Jets on Thanksgiving night as a tough game, but I see the Jets taking another step back this year. Their biggest issue at times was the mental toughness of quarterback Mark Sanchez, and they just added fuel to the fire by adding Tim Tebow to look over his shoulder.
The game most people will look forward to has to be on October 7th when Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos come to Foxboro. Manning and Brady will renew their rivalry after a one-year hiatus. However, the Patriots put 40 on the Broncos both times they played last season. Outside of Manning keeping the Patriot offense off the field a lot more, I do not see the Broncos being strong enough to knock off New England with the addition of Manning alone. It will no doubt be an entertaining game though.
An under the radar game that could be interesting is the Colts game on November 18th. Chuck Pagano will bring a Raven-style attacking defense to Indianapolis to join likely quarterback Andrew Luck. Not that this will be a game the Patriots will be in danger of losing, but stranger things have happened. More and more rookie quarterbacks are having success in the league and many view Luck as a once-in-a-generation prospect. If he is able to be successful, and Pagano transforms that Colt defense, they could be an interesting team this season.
Looking up and down the schedule, it is difficult for me to envision the Patriots losing more than three games this year. It really is a friendly schedule. My official prediction for them at this point would be a 14-2 record, which Bill Belichick had led them to three other times. (2003, 2004, 2010)