Visits from Peyton Manning, Randy Moss Raise Patriots Odds to Win Super Bowl

Visits from Peyton Manning, Randy Moss Raise Patriots Odds to Win Super BowlThe 2012 NFL schedule was released Tuesday night and it seems to be a positive slate for the New England Patriots.

They are currently 8-1 AFC favorites at Bovada to win Super Bowl XLVII next February in New Orleans. The new projections are a slight rise from the 7-1 odds the Pats were right after this year's Super Bowl.

Green Bay remains the favorite to win it all next year at 13-2.

Going by their opponents' 2011 schedule, the Patriots ended up with the league's easiest schedule at .453 and face only four teams with nine or more victories last season. None of this was a surprise, of course, as the Pats knew who their opponents would be at the end of last season. Now they know when. Last season, the Patriots went 13-3 against the second-easiest schedule.

The fact that the Pats have the easiest schedule isn't necessarily a good thing. The team with the easiest schedule has missed the playoffs in each of the last five seasons. That includes the Patriots in 2008, when they finished 11-5 without Tom Brady, who was injured in the season opener against the Chiefs and missed the entire season.

Also not in the Patriots' favor is that they lost last season's Super Bowl. Since the Buffalo Bills completed their run of four straight Super Bowl losses following the 1993 season, eight of the following 17 teams that lost the big game didn't make the postseason the next year. That includes those '08 Pats. Of the nine teams who did get back, only four won a playoff game. And none won two. Last year's Steelers, the runner-up in Super Bowl XLV to Green Bay, got into the playoffs as a wild card team but were upset in the first round by the Broncos.

New England opens the 2012 season at Tennessee, likely as a near-touchdown favorite, and has three of its first four games on the road (the home opener is Week 2 vs. Arizona). But the Pats also close with three of the final four at home, culminating on Dec. 30 vs. Miami.

The full NFL schedule features regular-season rematches of seven of the 11 playoff games from a year ago, including New England's divisional-round matchup against Denver – but these Broncos of course have Peyton Manning under center and not Tim Tebow.

Brady and Manning will renew their rivalry on Oct. 7 in Foxboro. Since Manning's signing, Denver has skyrocketed to 12-1 to win the Super Bowl. New England also faces the Ravens (16-1 to win it all this year) in a rematch from the AFC Championship Game, this time in Baltimore on Sunday, Sept. 23 in prime-time.

The Patriots won't get a regular-season shot at the Super Bowl champion Giants. New York is listed at 16-1 to repeat, but the Giants play the NFL's most difficult schedule, a first for a defending Super Bowl champion.

New England faces two other 2011 playoff teams this year: home against San Francisco (10-1 to win Super Bowl) and old friend Randy Moss on Dec. 16 in prime time and home to the reigning AFC South champion Houston Texans (12-1) on Monday Night Football on Dec. 10.

New England also faces the two worst teams of 2011 in the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams, who each finished 2-14 last season. The Colts and likely No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck of Stanford visit Foxboro on Nov. 18. The Patriots then, of course, face the Rams and 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Sam Bradford on Oct. 28. That game is in London in Week 8 (technically a Pats road game), with New England on a bye after that.

The Patriots will see the archrival Jets on Thanksgiving night in New York, with Tebow in tow. The Jets will also visit New England on Oct. 21.

The 2012 NFL season kicks off Wednesday, Sept. 5, when the Giants host the Dallas Cowboys. The league's normal Thursday opener was moved to Wednesday because President Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention is scheduled for that Thursday night. The Giants likely will open around -3.5 points for that game.

Look for an NFL draft odds preview story next week, followed by week-by-week opponent previews for the Patriots.

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