With the NFL Schedule release coming on Tuesday, April 21, let's take an early look at ranking the Patriots 2015 opponents.
Under the NFL's rotating schedule format, the Patriots will play six games against the AFC East, four games against the AFC South, four against the NFC East, as well as single games against the winners of the AFC West and AFC North.
2015 Home Opponents:
2015 Road Opponents:
We'll start with the toughest opponent and work our way down:
1. Indianapolis Colts
The free agent additions of RB Frank Gore and WR Andre Johnson will be a big boost to Andrew Luck and the Colts offense. Adding veteran DE Trent Cole, who can still get to the quarterback with 6.5 sacks last season, will help make the Colts the Patriots biggest competition in the AFC.
2. Dallas Cowboys
Sure, the loss of DeMarco Murray will hurt, but the Cowboys should be able to plug in a running back (potentially from April's draft) and have him produce behind one of the best offensive lines in football.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
With Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bellleading the offense, the Steelers will always be in contention. There could also be a big second-year jump for WR Martavis Bryant, who scored 8 touchdowns in only 10 games last season.
4. Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning is back, but can he stay healthy? The departures of Julius Thomas and Terrance Knighton will also hurt. New head coach Gary Kubiak still has a lot of talent to work with, though.
5. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have had a wild offseason, adding high-profile players such as DeMarco Murray, Ryan Matthews, Sam Bradford andKiko Alonso. Chip Kelly's team should be fun to watch.
6. Houston Texans
The Texans have former-Patriots Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer atop their quarterback depth chart, but the free agent additions of Rahim Moore, Vince Wilfork and Cecil Shorts look nice on paper.
7. Buffalo Bills
Will the Bills be the Patriots biggest competition in an improved AFC East this season? Rex Ryan has a new toy in RB LeSean McCoy, and re-signing DE Jerry Hughes was big.
8. Miami Dolphins
The addition of Ndamukong Suh will highlight their offseason, but can the Dolphins really be a contender in 2015? April's draft will be big to help fill holes at linebacker and in the secondary.
9. New York Giants
The Giants need a safety and some help on the defensive and offensive line, but they could be a sleeper in 2015. Shane Vereen should add some nice versatility to their offense.
10. New York Jets
Jets fans have reason to be optimistic heading into the 2015 season. Head coach Todd Bowles now has Brandon Marshall paired with Eric Decker at wideout, which was a nice move. Oh, and that Darrelle Revis guy will help too. But the bad news for Gang Green is that their quarterback will likely either be Geno Smithor Ryan Fitzpatrick.
11. Washington Redskins
The Redskins are trying to fix their front seven, and the free agent signing of Terrance Knighton is a solid start. Chris Culliver will also help their secondary. Head Coach Jay Gruden likely won't hesitate to turn to Kirk Cousins or Colt McCoy should QB Robert Griffin III continue to struggle in 2015.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags made some splashes this offseason by signing TE Julius Thomas and DT Jared Odrick. Don't sleep on their young wideouts either. If they can find a pass rusher in this year's draft, they could be on the verge of being relevant in 2015.
13. Tennessee Titans
Will they or won't they take QB Marcus Mariota with the second overall pick? They might be better off trading out of that spot to grab more players for their roster. The free agent addition of CB Perrish Cox will be an upgrade for the Titans opposite Jason McCourty.