Patriots schedule 2023: Ranking New England's toughest opponents
Ranking the Patriots' toughest opponents for the 2023 season originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The New England Patriots have their work cut out for them as they look to bounce back in 2023.
They'll enter the season with the fourth-toughest schedule in the NFL based on opponents' 2022 win percentage. Nine of their 17 games will come against playoff teams, including home games against the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and the runner-up Philadelphia Eagles.
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The Patriots also will play one of their games in Germany as part of the NFL International Series. Altogether, that makes for a challenging season for a team looking for better results after missing the playoffs.
We should get the full NFL schedule sometime in May. For now, we have the full list of New England's home and road opponents. Here are all 14 teams the Patriots will face next season, ranked in order of difficulty from easiest to toughest.
14. Indianapolis Colts
2022 record: 4-12-1, third in AFC South
The Colts will come to Gillette Stadium for the second straight year. In Week 9, the Patriots defense had a field day against Indy's rookie signal-caller Sam Ehlinger, resulting in a 26-3 win.
Much can change ahead of their 2023 rematch, but right now this looks like arguably the easiest game on the schedule. Indianapolis desperately needs to address its quarterback and offensive line situation, otherwise it will be another disastrous day in Foxboro. Expect the Colts to be in the mix to trade up for Bryce Young ahead of the draft.
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The Patriots sacked Sam Ehlinger nine times in their 26-3 win over the Colts.
13. Washington Commanders
2022 record: 8-8-1, fourth in NFC East
The Patriots will welcome the Commanders to Gillette Stadium in 2023. If Washington doesn't fix its QB and o-line issues, New England's defense should feast. As of today, it's up to 2022 fifth-rounder Sam Howell to lead the offense and Taylor Heinicke could also make some starts under center. It's hard to imagine either option getting the better of Bill Belichick in Foxboro.
12. Denver Broncos
2022 record: 5-12, fourth in AFC West
To call the 2022 Broncos a dumpster fire would be a massive understatement. They were the laughingstock of the NFL with Russell Wilson looking like a shell of himself and since-fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett looking overmatched. Perhaps Sean Payton will be able to get Denver back on the right path, but we'll believe it when we see it.
The one caveat here is this will be a road game for the Patriots. Even if the Broncos offense remains dysfunctional, it could be a weird game at Mile High against a tough Denver defense. I wouldn't chalk this one down as a win just yet.
11. Las Vegas Raiders
2022 record: 6-11, third in AFC West
This ranking could totally change depending on what transpires this offseason. The Raiders don't currently have a starting quarterback following their release of Derek Carr and with ex-Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham hitting free agency. An Aaron Rodgers trade, for instance, could move Josh McDaniels' group up a few spots on this list.
For now though, the Raiders at home appears to be one of the easier matchups on the Patriots' schedule. Just don't throw it to Chandler Jones and they should be in good shape.
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Jakobi Meyers' lateral landed in the hands of Chandler Jones, who returned it for the Raiders' game-winning TD.
10. New York Jets
2022 record: 7-10, fourth in AFC East
This Jets ranking is tentative. We still need to see how they address their quarterback position as they're reportedly in the Aaron Rodgers sweepstakes. Acquiring the veteran signal-caller or another competent QB will move them up a spot or two in these rankings. Until then, they look like the last-place team in the AFC East and their losing streak against New England should continue.
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The Patriots haven't lost to the Jets since 2015.
9. New Orleans Saints
2022 record: 7-10, third in NFC South
Another winnable home game for the Patriots. The Saints improved by signing ex-Raiders QB Derek Carr to a four-year deal, but they're still a mess. They're currently over the salary cap by approximately $55 million and don't have a first-round draft pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Building around Carr this offseason, especially via free agency, will be a near-impossible task.
8. New York Giants
2022 record: 9-7-1, third in NFC East
The Giants will host the Patriots in 2023. It's difficult to determine how tough the matchup will be for New England as two of the Giants' most important players, quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley, are slated to become free agents. Assuming they return and the Giants improve their wide receiver room, this could be a challenging trip for the Patriots. New York took a significant step forward under head coach Brian Daboll last season.
7. Los Angeles Chargers
2022 record: 10-7, second in AFC West
The Chargers will come to Foxboro for the first time since 2019 and they'll aim to earn their first win at Gillette Stadium since 2005. New England has won seven straight games against the Chargers dating back to 2010. Justin Herbert is capable of ending that streak, but L.A. has no shortage of holes to fix on its roster. If this matchup took place today, Rhamondre Stevenson would have the time of his life against the Chargers' horrendous run defense.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
2022 record: 9-8, third in AFC North
The Patriots will travel to Pittsburgh for the second consecutive season, and they can expect a tougher matchup than last year's 17-14 win. The Steelers will get a full season of the Kenny Pickett/George Pickens connection that propelled them to seven wins over their last nine games. A healthy T.J. Watt is also a major factor as he could make it a long day for New England's offensive line. This will be a sneaky tough game.
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Mitch Trubisky was under center for the Steelers when the Patriots won last year's matchup, 17-14.
5. Miami Dolphins
2022 record: 9-8, second in AFC East
The Patriots split their season series with the Dolphins last season, though their win was a narrow one against third-string QB Skylar Thompson. A healthy Tua Tagovailoa could continue to make life difficult for Belichick and Co. He's 4-0 against the Patriots in his career and if he carries his 2022 success into 2023, Miami's offense will be a problem. The Buffalo Bills are the class of the AFC East, but the Dolphins could also once again stand in the Patriots' way of a playoff spot in 2023.
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The Patriots split the 2022 season series vs. Miami, but Tua Tagovailoa is 4-0 against New England in his career.
4. Dallas Cowboys
2022 record: 12-5, second in NFC East
A trip to Dallas is on the schedule for the Patriots next season. The Cowboys have several key players hitting free agency -- Tony Pollard, Dalton Schultz, and Leighton Vander Esch to name a few -- but this still looks like one of the toughest 2023 matchups. If the Patriots don't fix their offensive line woes ahead of the new campaign, Micah Parsons and the Dallas defense will dominate.
3. Philadelphia Eagles
2022 record: 14-3, first in NFC East
Jalen Hurts and the Eagles will visit the Patriots in 2023 after coming up just short of a Super Bowl title. It could be a much different looking Philly team as Miles Sanders, Javon Hargrave, James Bradberry, CJ Gardner-Johnson, and TJ Edwards are among those set to hit free agency. Their departures would make this a slightly easier matchup for New England, but it'll still be a challenge as long as Hurts is playing at an MVP level with A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith as his top weapons.
2. Buffalo Bills
2022 record: 13-3, first in AFC East
The tables have turned in the Patriots-Bills rivalry. After dominating the Bills throughout the Tom Brady era, the Patriots have lost six of their last seven games against their AFC East foe. Their one win was the Dec. 2021 matchup in which Mac Jones completed two passes in wind that gusted up to 50 miles per hour. As long as Josh Allen is the guy under center for Buffalo, the Patriots will face an uphill battle trying to reclaim the top spot in the division.
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The Bills have beaten the Patriots in four straight matchups.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
2022 record: 14-3, first in AFC West
The reigning Super Bowl champions will travel to Foxboro in 2023. Putting them in the No. 1 spot doesn't require much explanation. No matter the moves New England makes this offseason, it's hard to picture Jones and the offense having enough firepower to keep up with Patrick Mahomes. This game will show just how far away the Patriots still are from competing with the top dogs in the AFC.