The Denver Broncos aren't going anywhere.
John Fox's crew may have been eliminated early from the 2012 NFL playoffs after a dominant regular season, but according to NFL.com's strength of schedule for next season, they have the cushiest road back to the promised land.
All three other AFC West teams join Denver in having one of the five easiest schedules, while the Indianapolis Colts round out the top five.
Cam Newton, meanwhile, will have the unfortunate task of leading the Carolina Panthers against the most brutal schedule in the league. The Panthers' opponents in 2013 combined for a 138-116-2 record this season.
While much will change between now and the start of the 2013 regular season, it's still intriguing to evaluate how each team stacks up against other. Here's a look.
|Team||SOS||Opponent Combined 2012 record|
|New Orleans Saints||.539||137-117-2|
|St. Louis Rams||.539||137-117-2|
|Green Bay Packers||.533||136-119-1|
|San Francisco 49ers||.520||132-122-2|
|New England Patriots||.508||130-126-0|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||.500||127-127-2|
|New York Jets||.496||127-129-0|
|New York Giants||.480||123-133-0|
|Kansas City Chiefs||.473||121-135-0|
|San Diego Chargers||.457||117-139-0|
Other Teams of Note
A repeat won't be easy for the Baltimore Ravens. The Super Bowl champs not only have to face the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals twice each, but they also have the fifth-most difficult schedule overall.
The young 'Hawks, who surged at the end of 2012, are a popular "under-the-radar" Super Bowl pick for next year, but getting to the playoffs won't be an easy task. They are in a dangerous, still-improving NFC West division and have the 11th-toughest schedule in the league.
Chip Kelly's first NFL season will be placed under a microscope, and he'll go up against an average schedule. The Eagles' 2013 opponents went a combined 127-129 in 2012. Anything is possible in the NFC East, and Philadelphia has a level playing field to make its case next year.
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