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These NFL teams got it 'easy' for the 2018 season

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The Green Bay Packers couldn’t catch a break in 2017. Their once-promising season went down the drain after All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers went out with a broken collarbone in October.

After struggling through a 7-9 campaign, the Packers have been awarded with the toughest schedule in the NFL in 2018 — based on the combined records of their opponents last season.

Aside from having to play the Vikings twice, they have to travel to play the Rams, Patriots and Seahawks. They also host the Falcons and 49ers.

Overall, teams on their schedule were 138-118 last year.

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There is some justice in that the Houston Texans have easiest schedule, based on last year’s records. The teams they are playing went 116-140 last year. However, the Texans, who finished 4-12 last year, do have to travel to New England and Philadelphia, and play the Jaguars twice — those games aren’t likely to be easy.

But Houston will be on everyone’s radar next year as promising young quarterback Deshaun Watson returns from an injury that shelved him most of last year. In six starts before he tore his ACL, Watson threw for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was on pace to break the rookie touchdown pass record. All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt will also be back.

Do you think this year's NFL schedule is fair?

Along with the Packers, the toughest schedules belong to the Lions and Saints (opponents were 137-119 last year), Buccaneers (opponents were 136-120), and the Browns, Rams and Seahawks (opponents were 134-122).

Woe is the Browns — talk about a team that can’t catch a break. They went 0-16 last year, but with the first and fourth picks in the draft, perhaps they will finally land a franchise quarterback. Early talk was that they’d take USC’s Sam Darnold at No. 1, but now it seems the sentiment has shifted toward them taking Wyoming’s Josh Allen with the top pick. Don’t mess it up, Browns.

Along with the Texans, the easiest schedules belong to the Titans (opponents were 118-137), the Bengals and the Raiders (opponents were 121-135), and the Broncos, Jags, Steelers and Jets (opponents were 122-134).

Then there are the two best teams in the league last year, Philadelphia and New England.

The Super Bowl champion Eagles have the 13th-easiest record as opponents were a combined 126-130. Among their toughest games, they have to travel to New Orleans and Los Angeles and host the Vikings and Falcons.

The Patriots have the 11th-easiest schedule, with opponents going 124-132 last year. Four of their toughest games — Texans, Chiefs, Packers and Vikings — are played at home. The toughest road games are Pittsburgh and Jacksonville.

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In fact, an analysis by Neil Greenberg at The Washington Post has New England with the easiest schedule in 2018. His model is more forward looking, basing the strength of schedule on the odds each team has of winning the Super Bowl in 2018. By this measure, the Pats have it easier than anyone.

The NFL season is difficult to predict, so take these strength of schedule calculations with a grain of salt. Last year at this time, few would have predicted the Eagles, Jaguars and Rams would be among the league’s best teams and the Raiders, Buccaneers and Giants would be among the worst.

But there have been a few constants: The Browns are always bad and the Pats are always good.

We’ll see if that plays out again in 2018.

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Dave is a lifelong sports fan who has been writing for The Wildcard since 2017. He has been a writer for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.
Dave has been writing about sports for The Wildcard since 2017. He's been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, covering everything from sports to financial news. In addition to writing for The Wildcard, Dave has covered mutual funds for Pensions and Investments, meetings and conventions, money market funds, personal finance, associations, and he currently covers financial regulations and the energy sector for Macallan Communications. He has won awards for both news and sports reporting.
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