Patriots' 2022 schedule is the most demanding in AFC by this metric

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Patriots have AFC's most demanding 2022 schedule by this metric originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots' path back to the postseason ain't gonna be easy.

For starters, the Patriots will face some tough opponents in 2022: They have the NFL's fourth-toughest schedule based on the projected win totals of their opponents and end their season with a brutal six-game stretch that includes matchups with the Buffalo Bills (twice), Arizona Cardinals, Las Vegas Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals.

Patriots Talk: Fred Gaudelli weighs in on Tom Brady's booth potential, plus reacting to the Patriots' 2022 schedule | Download & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

But there's another quirk that will make their 2022 slate more challenging than most: The Patriots will have up to five "short weeks," tied for the most in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, per ESPN's Rich Cimini:

Here are the periods in which New England will have fewer than seven days of rest between games:

  1. Week 7 vs. Chicago Bears / Week 8 vs. New York Jets

  2. Week 11 vs. New York Jets / Week 12 at Minnesota Vikings

  3. Week 14 at Arizona Cardinals / Week 15 at Las Vegas Raiders

  4. Week 15 at Las Vegas Raiders / Week 16 vs. Cincinnati Bengals

  5. Week 17 vs. Miami Dolphins / Week 18 at Buffalo Bills*

*Patriots-Bills could be played on either Saturday, Jan. 7 or Sunday, Jan. 8. If it's played on Saturday, this will be a short week.

The Patriots' plethora of short weeks is partly due to the fact that they have five primetime games, including Thursday night tilts in back-to-back weeks (the first on Thanksgiving) and two Monday night contests. They also have four primetime games in a row from Week 12 to Week 15.

Before fans complain about the NFL rigging the schedule against New England, though, it's worth noting the Patriots asked for part of this setup.

NFL broadcasting vice president Mike North told ESPN's Mike Reiss that the Patriots requested to play the Cardinals and Raiders in back-to-back weeks so they could stay on the West Coast between games, rather than make two separate trips to the Pacific time zone.

The league accommodated the Patriots' request, but the tradeoff was three games in 13 days: Monday, Dec. 12 at Arizona, Sunday, Dec. 18 at Las Vegas and Saturday, Dec. 24 vs. Cincinnati.

That two-week stretch and the team's three other short weeks may test New England's ability to stay healthy with fewer days of rest between games. The Patriots' coaching staff will also need to work overtime to prepare their game plans during those weeks.

That won't be an easy task -- but we'd imagine Bill Belichick is up to the challenge.