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Samsonite Make Your Case: Ranking the schedule

The Patriots are prohibitive favorites in the AFC once again, but which team on their schedule might pose the most difficult challenge?

There are a lot of factors that come into play when trying to determine the strength of an individual team's schedule. Knowing the opponents is only part of the equation. When and where a game is played in relation to the rest of the slate often makes a difference, and that's why people often refer to "the spot" when explaining why a particular game may or may not be difficult.

For example, a road trip for the Patriots to Tampa Bay to open the season would likely be viewed pretty confidently as a win for New England. But the Patriots will be traveling to take on the Bucs on a Thursday night, and the short week might make an otherwise routine game tougher to predict.

So with that in mind we thought we'd take a look at the schedule and try to determine which game would be the most difficult for the Patriots, even with the knowledge that New England will be favored in all 16 games this season.

Andy Hart went a step further and fashioned his power rankings for the schedule earlier this week.

This week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is: Which game will be the toughest for the Patriots this season?


PFW's Andy Hart says ...


The Steelers have an electric offense with three of the best in the game at their respective positions: Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. They also could dangerous deep threat Martavis Bryant back this year after he missed 2016 while suspended. That kind of firepower is tough for any defense to deal with, and this time the Patriots will be in Pittsburgh trying to contain those weapons.

Dec. 17 in Pittsburgh doesn't figure to be a warm and sunny day, but that's not what concerns me. Instead, the fact that the Steelers game will be the fifth on the road for New England in a six-week span does, and dealing with that kind of wear and tear at that stage of the season against such a potent attack worries me.

The Patriots are the best team in football but Pittsburgh has plenty of talent to put a scare in anyone. Given the spot and the venue, the Steelers will be the Patriots biggest hurdle in 2017.


PFW's Paul Perillo says ...


Looking at the schedule I automatically cut it in half and eliminated the home games for obvious reasons. That leaves eight roadies, and of those I narrowed it down to Oakland, Pittsburgh, Miami and Denver, with the Raiders coming out on top.

The Patriots own the Steelers, the Broncos have no threat at quarterback and I just don't believe in the Dolphins just yet despite their recent success in Miami against New England. That leaves the Raiders, and I admit I'm intrigued to see if Derek Carr and their young core of talent is for real.

Add in the fact that the game will take place in Mexico City on the second of back-to-back games played in high altitude (Denver) and Oakland could create some issues. The Patriots might be worn down and even if they aren't the Raiders attack has the potential to dominate. The Raiders worry me most.


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