Have the Patriots tended to benefit from playing the league’s easiest schedules year in and year out? That’s not what the numbers suggest.
It seems like New England might get an edge from playing six games each year against the Jets, Dolphins and Dolphins, but that hasn’t really been the case. There are other bad teams, and some of whatever edge the Patriots might get is erased by having to play two extra games against first-place teams each season.
Ultimately, you can simply count up the numbers. Each team plays 16 games each year. Take each one of those teams, and then look at what its win-loss record was in its other 15 games. Such a process gives each team some combination of 240 wins and losses over a season.
Over the last 10 years, New England’s opponents have a combined record of 1,195 wins and 1,196 losses, with 9 ties – just short of a .500 record.
The Colts, Jaguars and Titans have tended to play the easiest schedules. The Rams, Panthers and Broncos have tended to play the hardest.
|STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE (last 10 years)|
If you prefer to go all the way back to 2002 – the start of the 32-team era – the Patriots in those 17 years have only twice played a schedule that I would describe as easy. In 2016, their opponents went a combined 109-128-3 in their other 240 games. And in 2011, they went 112-128 against other teams.
Since 2002, New England’s opponents are actually 36 games over .500.
|PATRIOTS SCHEDULES (2002-18)|
The Patriots aren’t winning because they’re playing easy schedules. They’re winning because they have they have the best coach-quarterback combo in the history of the game. (And it helps a lot that their quarterback is playing for a lot less than he’s worth, freeing them up to sign other good players.)