With the conclusion of Week 17, we now know every NFL teams' final ranking in their respective divisions. In addition to 2018 playoff seeding, this is important because it gives us a complete picture of which opponents the Patriots will face in the 2019 regular season.
By virtue of the league's rotating schedule formula, we already knew 14 of the 16 foes long before today. As always, six games remain constant. The Patriots will host their three AFC East rivals – the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets – and travel to Buffalo, Miami, and New York to take them on in their hometowns.
Eight of the other 10 contests are subject to the NFL's rotating schedule formula, which is designed to ensure that every club in both conferences plays one another at least once every four years, with the venues alternating between home and road games.
In 2019, New England is scheduled to take on all four members of the NFC East, just as the Patriots did four years prior in 2015. Next season, the teams that visited New England in 2015 – the Eagles and Redskins – will welcome the Patriots to Philadelphia and Washington, respectively, while the Cowboys and Giants (who both hosted the Patriots in 2015) will journey to Foxborough.
Like the NFC East, the AFC North quartet is also next up on the Patriots' rotating schedule. Three seasons earlier in 2016, New England played the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette Stadium, and the Steelers and Browns in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, respectively. This coming autumn, those venues will be reversed. The Browns and Steelers will travel to New England, while the Patriots must visit Baltimore and Cincinnati.
As noted at the top of this post, the final two Patriots foes next season are determined based on the final standings in each division this season. Those spots are always filled by one team in each of the remaining two AFC divisions that aren't fully included in the triennial rotation. One is a road game, the other a home game, and both teams must finish in the same place in their respective divisions as the Patriots did in theirs in the previous season.
Because the Patriots will be defending AFC East Champions in 2019 (for an NFL record tenth straight season), they will face the 2018 winners of the AFC South and West, the Texans and Chiefs. Again, the locations are determined by the rotating system. Three years ago, New England hosted the then-AFC South champions (coincidentally, also Houston) and visited the reigning AFC West-winning Broncos in Denver.
The venues will flip-flop in 2019, meaning the Patriots will once again host the 2018 West winners, Kansas City, as they did this past season due to the NFL schedule formula, and pay a visit to Houston, the 2018 South champs.
The complete schedule of precise dates and times for all 2019 regular season contests will not be announced by the NFL until mid-April, prior to the 2019 NFL Draft. Stay tuned at that time for a thorough analysis of the Patriots' 2019 regular season schedule.