The New England Patriots went to the Super Bowl last season and will play a tough schedule during the upcoming campaign, but that doesn’t mean the reigning AFC champs are going to be tested as much as the other championship contenders.

Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, in a piece written on ESPN Insider (paywall warning), ranked the strength of schedule for all 32 NFL teams using the well-respected stat DVOA.

The Patriots ranked 32nd, meaning they have the easiest schedule in the league. Here’s what Schatz wrote for the Patriots:

“Patriots haters are probably asking themselves, “This again?” New England ranked 32nd in schedule strength in 2016, then 28th last year. Now we have the Patriots projected with the easiest schedule yet again. It helps to have six games against the rest of the AFC East, four of which come after New England’s Week 11 bye. New England also gets to play the two tougher NFC North teams, Green Bay and Minnesota, at home.”

The Patriots also play just three playoff teams from last season on the road in 2018, and one of them is the Pittsburgh Steelers, an opponent New England has dominated (even at Heinz Field) during the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era.

New England will be playing against a lot of bad or inexperienced quarterbacks, too, including Patrick Mahomes (rookie), Mitchell Trubisky (second-year), Blake Bortles, Sam Darnold (rookie), Ryan Tannehill and Nathan Peterman.

Ironically, the two teams with the easiest schedules will meet at Gillette Stadium in Week 1 when the Patriots host the Houston Texans.

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Thumbnail photo via Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports Images