Now that the dust has settled since the NFL revealed its 2016 schedule, we can see it is far from fair.
Some teams definitely hit the jackpot while others got the short straw. Long stretches of road games against last year’s better-performing clubs make for brutal schedules for certain unfortunate teams.
On the other side of the coin, the Green Bay Packers appear to have received a golden ticket.
These are the biggest winners and losers after the schedule release.
Note: For a full look at the schedule, please visit NFL.com.
Winner: Green Bay Packers don’t travel for weeks
After being assigned eight games against last season’s poor-performing NFC North and a AFC South, the Packers have this year’s “winner, winner, chicken dinner” schedule.
Based on opponent winning percentage in 2015, the easiest Strength of Schedule in 2016: Green Bay Packers pic.twitter.com/PkPdysSOqB
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 15, 2016
Once the Packers play the Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings in Weeks 1-2, the team won’t hit the road until Week 8 to face the Falcons on October 30. A Week 4 bye makes this all possible.
Between Weeks 3-7 the Packers host some of last year’s most suspect teams in the NFC including the Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears.
In weeks 10-12 the Packers are on the road. Though that particular challenge should be relatively easy, knowing games against the Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles are the opponents.
For the final five games of the season, the Packers leave Green Bay only twice, and host their most formidable opponent in the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14.
Double-digit wins should be the norm again for the Packers, who will hopefully welcome back a healthy Jordy Nelson.
Loser: San Francisco 49ers new coach and ? at quarterback
Building an early bank of wins won’t be easy for Chip Kelly’s new team.
After hosting the Los Angeles Rams in their opener, the 49ers receive a double whammy with back-to-back road games against the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks in Week 2-3. Fun stuff.
After playing at home against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 4, the 49ers have a quick turnaround for a Thursday Night Football meeting with the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5.
A bit of a breather comes when the team stays home between Weeks 7-9 to face the Buccaneers and Saints with a Week 8 bye sandwiched between. Though it all heats up again with games against Arizona and New England next on the agenda.
For the final six games, the 49ers play on the road four times including trips across the country to Miami, Chicago and Atlanta. And, the grand finale is a home meeting against Seattle.
All this, and we don’t even know who will be the quarterback this season.
Winner: Cincinnati Bengals playoff bound again?
The chances that the Bengals make it to the postseason again appear terrific when reviewing their upcoming schedule.
Fortunately, the team has the pleasure of playing against the NFC North as well as their usual four games against last season’s struggling Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
If the Bengals can get a jump start on the road in Weeks 1-2 in games against the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers, they will be off and running in the first half of the season.
The team’s most intimidating opponents come early when the Bengals host the Denver Broncos in Week 3 and travel to New England in Week 6. Beyond that, the Bengals face only three teams (Washington, Pittsburgh and Houston) that made the playoffs last season.
With a bye nicely positioned in Week 9 and a favorable schedule following, Cincinnati could be playoff bound once again.
Loser: New York Jets meet last year’s playoff gang
The Jets had better get out of the gate without a hitch, because they will face five teams that made it into the playoffs in their first six games.
Cincinnati, Kansas City, Seattle, Pittsburgh and Arizona kick off the season. Plus, four of the team’s first six games take place on the road.
If the Jets manage a successful start, their schedule does ease up a little with meetings against the Browns, Dolphins and Rams before their bye in Week 11.
Though, it is worth noting that during the first 10 weeks of the season, the Jets have only four home games. They also will make two trips to the west coast during this time.
Weeks 12-17 fortunately keep the Jets at home in four of six games. However, another west coast trip to face the San Francisco 49ers and two games against their AFC East rival Patriots are on tap.
Getting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick locked up to start is definitely the best scenario with a challenging schedule lying ahead.
Winner: New York Giants pose a legit threat
The Giants made some key enhancements to their defense that could potentially see the team securing wins against Dallas, New Orleans and Washington right off the bat.
If so, the Giants will be better prepared hit the road for back-to-back games against Minnesota and Green Bay in Weeks 4-5.
A home game against Baltimore follows before the Giants travel to play in London in Week 7. With a jet-lagged rookie quarterback leading the L.A. Rams across the pond, the scale is tipped to favor the Giants, whose travel time is considerably shorter.
A bye in Week 8 should be refreshing along with the fact that the Giants travel no further than to Cleveland for the final nine games of the season. Other than meeting up with the Bengals, Steelers and Washington, the Giants face a slew of teams that won no more than seven games each in 2015.
Poised for a rebound, the Giants should be viewed as a bigger threat within the NFC East approaching the regular season.
Loser: Atlanta Falcons must build wins early
The Falcons didn’t exactly get the long straw when their schedule was revealed.
Early wins against Tampa Bay, Oakland and New Orleans will be key to set the scene for an upcoming list of daunting opponents.
Week 4 presents a revenge match when Carolina will be looking to beat the only team that it lost to in the regular season last year. Then the Falcons hit the road to play Denver and Seattle back-to-back.
In Week 7 the Falcons look to get a breather against San Diego, though the Packers await in Week 8.
Road games at Tampa Bay and Philadelphia lead Atlanta to a Week 11 bye, to prepare to host last year’s playoff Cardinals and Chiefs.
The Falcons complete the season with games at Los Angeles and Carolina and two home meetings against San Francisco and New Orleans.
After witnessing the Panthers finish 15-1 last year, the Falcons definitely have their work cut out to remain competitive in the NFC South.
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars have nowhere to go but up
To compliment a young offense that improved greatly last season, Jacksonville acquired some sweet additions on defense that should make their AFC South competition uncomfortable.
A pleasant schedule that begins with three of four home games and includes meetings against the Chargers, Ravens and Colts makes for a dandy kickoff to the Jags season.
The team takes a bye and then will look to notch wins on the road at Chicago, at home versus Oakland, and at Tennessee in Week 8.
During the last half of the season, the Jaguars’ competition heats up some with a road game at Kansas City and two home matchups against Denver and Minnesota. Though, a beatable Lions, Bills, Texans, Titans and Colts are on the agenda as well.
Looking to build on their five wins from last year, the team also has eight picks in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Loser: Los Angeles Rams must embrace adversity
A cross-country move, new venue, new quarterback and a London game all await Jeff Fisher’s Rams, who are hoping in vain to build on their seven wins from 2015.
That’s no pressure for what we presume will be a rookie quarterback starting this season, right?
The Rams kick off 2016 with three of their first four games played on the road, and their home game is against the Seahawks. A little sigh of relief can be breathed when the Rams take on the Bills and Lions in Weeks 5-6.
Though, a long journey to London is next on the agenda against the Giants who upgraded their defense during the offseason.
After a bye, the Rams will have a feisty Panthers unit knocking at their door in Week 9. They will also make three long trips across the country to play the Jets, Saints and Patriots in the following four weeks.
Fortunately, three of the Rams final four games will be played at home. Though a quick turn-around trip in Week 15 to Seattle for a Thursday Night Football, and a season finale versus the Cardinals won’t exactly be a cake walk.
However the Rams fare, it should still be an exciting season for a team facing so many changes in one year.