NY Jets: this year any way you break it down the Jets have one of the easier slates in the NFL as far as their opponents go. They also get their bye week right in the middle of the season, week 9, which gives them 8 games before and 8 games after. Four of their first six are at home, along with five of their first eight before the bye week. What is a little troubling for the NYJ however is they will play 4 of their 6 divisional games before their bye week, split evenly between home and road. Outside those 4 divisional matchups they play @ PIT in Week 2, then face a three week home stand Weeks 4-6 vs. SF, HOU and IND. Things ease up somewhat after the bye week as they face the three weaker NFC West teams – and get a break having a west coast trip to SEA following the bye week – travelling to the West Coast is a spot they have traditionally struggled in. They finish with 3 of 4 on the road, none vs. likely playoff teams, with a visit from SD squeezed between in Week 16. As far as game time’s go, they will play three 4pm games, a pair of MNF contests, one SNF and one TNF. They are not overly impacted by short weeks or their road games as far as travelling goes – regular rest till Sunday for games following both MNF contests (one of those is a SNF game in Wk16 hosting SD following their last MNF @ TEN), and their short week for their one TNF game comes after a trip to STL. Overall, this appears to be one of the better schedules in the NFL.
Miami Dolphins: the Dolphins have not only the easiest schedule according to my metrics this coming season as far as opponents go, the layout of their games is extremely manageable for the most part. Their bye week also comes towards the middle of the season in Week 7, while they have two instances a piece of playing back to back home or road games during the season. They play only one set of back to back division games, the final two weeks of the season where they host BUF then travel to NE to close the season out. They also play four of their last six games at home, meaning their only likely cold weather game will be the aforementioned Patriots game – they do have road games with TEN & BUF back to back in Weeks 10 & 11 which could potentially be chilly, but frigid temps and/or nasty weather for those games are unlikely. One interesting point is the pure mileage MIA will have to travel this year for road games – their closest road game is likely HOU, with every other trip either to the Pacific Time zone, or north of the Mason Dixon line. They will only have 3 games as of now that will not start at 1pm: Wk4 @ ARI, Wk14 @ SF will both be 4pm kickoffs, while Wk11 they travel to BUF to face the Bills on TNF. Their lone non-Sunday game follows a home date vs. TEN, which seems to be somewhat favorable.
Buffalo Bills: like their AFC East brethren, the Bills are a little light on opponents this season as the AFC East matches up with the AFC South and the NFC West – which are likely the worst divisions in each conference. BUF also gets their bye week in a nice spot, Week 8, which means a manageable 7/9 games split before and after. The other piece of good news for the Bills is they get a nice 3 game home stand Weeks 13-15 in likely chilly conditions at Ralph Wilson – and they are three games they will be favored to win vs. JAC, STL, SEA. Also, they close the year with 4 of 5 at home, the last two of which are back to back divisional games @ MIA and hosting NYJ – whom they also open with. In between BUF does play divisional matchups back to back in two instances, but none are a pair of road games. One negative for the Bills is the fact they twice play a team that is coming off their bye week, which is a pretty significant disadvantage. Only PHI and ATL face more team’s off their bye week than BUF (CLE, DAL, DET, OAK & GB are all tied with BUF with two instances). The Bills only have 25% of their games currently scheduled to kickoff at a time other than 1pm: three 4pm contests Wks 5-6 @ SF & ARI respectively, and Wk15 hosting SEA. Their lone TNF matchup is vs. MIA, in Ralph Wilson Stadium Wk11. That lone TNF game isn’t situated in the best of spots as it immediately follows a pair of tough road games vs. AFC favorites HOU & NE. On a good note, that game really starts a run to close the season that will be very favorable for BUF to potentially make a late season push towards a Wild Card berth. If BUF can perform well from Weeks 1-10, their last 7 games are extremely manageable – five are at home, and none are vs. playoff teams from a year ago. Look out for the Bills if they can start the 2012 campaign like they did last season.
New England Patriots: like the Jets, NE’s bye comes in Week 9, perfecting slicing their season in two nice and even pieces. Although they project to face the toughest schedule of AFC East teams, it is far from a juggernaut as DEN, HOU and SF all travel to NE – the only tough non-divisional road game is @ BAL in Wk3, and possibly a trip to the Pacific Northwest to face the Seahawks in Wk6. Sans the closing game vs. MIA in Foxboro (each game in Week 17 is between division rivals), their other five divisional games come in a 9 game stretch midseason which will not be easy. They also “luck out” in that they only play one game in the Mountain or Pacific Time zones – even though they are facing the NFC West! In somewhat of a surprise, the Patriots only play one MNF game all year, hosting HOU in Wk14 in what could potentially be an AFC Championship Game preview late in the season. They do have a pair of SNF matchups, both coming against potential SB teams @ BAL Wk3 & hosting SF Wk15. NE has their TNF game in Wk12 @ NYJ, which is Thanksgiving night. Lastly, they currently are slated to kickoff three games @ 4pm – and they all come in a row Wks 5-7 vs. DEN, @ SEA, vs. NYJ. Time wise there doesn’t seem to be much measurable impact of being at a disadvantage this season. Overall it seems another nice slate for the Patriots to perform well, and secure a playoff spot.
I will be back later in the week with the next installment, the AFC North. And will be posting 2 entries per week, on Tuesday's and Thursday's till the entire NFL is posted.
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