Viewing the New England Patriots 2012 opponents through the lens of their 2011 success is a mistake. Parity knows no bounds within the NFL and wins are earned on a game-to-game basis; it matters not what happened last year, or even last week.
With that said, there's still some room for careful analysis and sound predictions.
Overall, New England's defense will not be up against a lot of elite quarterback play in 2012. Peyton Manning, whose health and long-term outlook in Denver remain a huge question mark, is arguably one of only three top-tier passers this team will face. Along with Joe Flacco of the Ravens and Matt Schaub of the Texans, the Patriots only play one other 2011 playoff team: the San Francisco 49ers.
New England takes on three of those four playoff teams at home this season, making for a laughable road schedule. Even with Baltimore's 12 wins figured in, the Patriots' road opponents averaged fewer than seven wins in 2011.
But let's get into the nitty gritty specifics.