The Patriots are going to win the AFC East again this year. They will be one of the top 5 Super Bowl Contenders. The sun will rise in the East tomorrow. Some things are facts of life.
But, as we learned the hard way last season — which we should have known all along — the Patriots’ playoff seeding is incredibly important, especially with a trip to Mile High in Denver on the line. The Pats have always struggled in Denver, and ensuring that the AFC Championship would be in Foxboro was an important aspect of the Pats’ 2015 season. Of course, Bill Belichick made one of his rare mistakes and rested the team in Week 17 (and didn’t go for 2 on the tying touchdown in the Jets game in Week 16).
In the 2016 season, the Patriots, Broncos, and Steelers/Bengals will likely experience another all out war for the number 1 seed. Here’s the problem: The NFL gifted the Broncos with a very advantageous schedule.
I’m not saying that the Broncos have an easy schedule in terms of opponents, mainly because it’s near impossible to predict how teams will be playing in half a year. In terms of the timing of several significant games couldn’t be much better for the defending champs. Let’s take note of the Broncos’ schedule perks:
- The NFL Twitterverse commented on the Broncos schedule by exclaiming, “Look how tough the Broncos’ first 3 games are!” But here’s the thing, if the Broncos are gonna have to face the Panthers this season, the best time to play them is opening night. Since 2003, only the 2012 Giants and 2013 Ravens lost the kickoff game. The 2013 Ravens had to travel to Denver for the opener because the Orioles were playing at the time and the two teams’ stadiums are too close to have both teams play at once (seriously), and the Eli Manning era Giants have been an all time enigma, so I don’t put much stock into them losing, either. Given the Broncos’ home field advantage at Mile High, they’ll probably continue the streak with the added motivation of the night, and then they get the Colts at home with 3 extra days’ rest. That’s a fantastic way to face the Colts, as well.
- Denver’s other Thursday night game and Monday night game. couldn’t have worked out better. It seems like a Thursday night on the road after facing the Falcons would be a tough game, but the Broncos only have to play the Chargers. Philip Rivers might have one of his random 500 yard days, but it’s more likely that an all time QB statue will get pummeled by DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. Then the Broncos don’t play the Texans for another 11 days and it’s in Denver. The game after a Monday night game also have high trap game potential… but not so much when those same Chargers come to town for the Broncos’ 2nd home game in a row.
- Then the Broncos have to go on the road for 2 games in a row, but they get rewarded with a bye week. That bye comes in Week 11, and a late bye seems to be much better for a team with a front-heavy schedule who’s already expected to easily make the playoffs, right?
- The Broncos’s bye week gives them an extra week of rest before they face the Chiefs at home.
- Finally, the most important game of the year from our perspective is the Pats-Broncos game in Week 15 on Sunday Night Football. We already knew that the Pats would travel to Denver for the game, but we didn’t know that New England would host Baltimore on Monday Night Football only 6 days before. The Ravens do anything possible to beat the Pats up every time they play, which is part of what makes those games so awesome. The thin air of Denver on a short week after facing the Ravens? The Pats couldn’t have had a worse draw for that game.
Looks like we might have to get used to the idea of the Pats going back to Denver in the playoffs. Let’s hope Philip Rivers has a few more random 500 yard games in him.