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Why the New England Patriots will take advantage of their easy 2012 schedule

February 5, 2012: Patriots quarterback #12 Tom Brady throws a pass during the New York Giants game versus the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Giants defeated the Patriots, 21-17. Photo by: Anthony J. Causi/Icon SMI

 The New England Patriots have already achieved a victory in the 2012 season – their schedule.

The God's of NFL schedule making have clearly smiled on the Pats. The defending AFC East champs and 2011 Super Bowl runner-ups have been awarded a schedule that is ranked 32nd in strength rankings. That means that the Tom Brady led squad has the easiest schedule in the league (at least according to the rankings).

The Pats play in the AFC East which is considered a weak conference. on top of that the team plays just four games against playoff teams from 2011 and three of those are home games. I think the AFC East will be stronger than expected this year, (the New York Jets are poised for a bounce back season, the Buffalo Bills might just come to life this year and the Miami Dolphins.....while sorry Fins fans but I just don't see any light at the end of the tunnel for you) but even if the Jets and Bills improve this year the Patriots schedule is still easy. The Pats should be a shoe in for another AFC East division win. Barring a major injury Brady and company will be able to sleep walk their way to at least 11 wins.

The Pats players are probably salivating over a Sept. 16 match-up against the Arizona Cardinals, an October 14 game against the Seattle Seahawks, two match-ups against the Dolphins (Dec. 2 and Dec. 30) a Nov. 18 game against the Indianapolis Colts and Dec. 23 game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The biggest challenges for the Pats this year (other than over coming boredom and not getting rusty against bad teams) will come against the Baltimore Ravens, Sept. 16, the Denver Broncos, Oct. 7, Houston Texans, Dec. 10, and the San Francisco 49ers Dec. 16. Even if they lose all four games and split their series with the Jets and Bills that's still only 6 games in the loss column.

2012 prediction: given the ease of their schedule Bill Belichick's squad will win at least 11 games and will hold onto their title as the AFC East champs without breaking much of sweat.

What do you think? What are the hardest games on the Patriots schedule? Will they win the AFC East again this year?

Here's the Pats full 2012 schedule:

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, Arizona, 1:00 PM

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, at Baltimore, 8:20 PM

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, Denver, 4:15 PM

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, at Seattle, 4:05 PM

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, NY Jets, 4:15 PM

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, at St. Louis, 1:00 PM

Week 9: BYE

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, Buffalo, 1:00 PM

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, Indianapolis, 1:00 PM

Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 22, at NY Jets, 8:20 PM

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, at Miami, 1:00 PM

Week 14: Monday, Dec. 10, Houston, 8:30 PM

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, San Francisco, 8:20 PM

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, Miami, 1:00 PM