Most forgiving 2019 NFL schedules: Packers, Pats, Jets well-off

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Only a fool would stare at the NFL's schedule in April and deem it a wise time to draw conclusions. Consider me your fool.

How your favorite club's dance card shakes out depends widely on factors we can't forecast today. Who would have known that last year's 49ers -- a playoff hopeful slated for half a million prime-time games -- would shuffle through understudies all season after losing Jimmy Garoppolo three weeks into the campaign?

Who knew the Browns would become a tough out down the stretch? Who knew the Colts would morph into a warhorse that went 9-1 to close the year? Who foresaw the feisty Jaguars and always-lauded Packers swirling off a cliff?

Take my list of the most-forgiving schedules with a spoonful of suspicion. After all, if I could faithfully predict the future, I wouldn't be sitting here typing this.

Green Bay Packers

The league's deep-state elite absolutely want to see the Packers in the playoff picture until the bitter end. Fresh off a rudderless 6-9-1 campaign that led to a string of firings, Green Bay has been given a home-heavy schedule out of the gate with just two road dates -- at Chicago in Week 1 and Dallas in Week 5 -- over the first seven games of the season. That leaves Rodgers and friends with a string of road games later on -- including a gnarly back-to-back clash with the Chiefs and Chargers beginning in Week 8 -- but the Packers have been given a chance to soar early, although Gregg Rosenthal doesn't think it outweighs the difficult finish. Keep in mind, Green Bay was given a home-heavy start in 2018 and fell to Earth in a hurry.

Minnesota Vikings

On the flip side, Vikings fans could argue their schedule fits more neatly with the conceit that "games don't really matter until after Thanksgiving." From that POV, I'd take Minnesota's final four tilts, which include home clashes with all three division foes -- including a season finale vs. the Bears -- sandwiched around a road fight against the Chargers.

The NFC East

In theory -- soon to be exploded, of course -- the AFC East still offers their NFC East dance partners the least troublesome draw on paper. The Bills and Jets are on their way up, but you'd rather take your chances with Buffalo, New York and a rebuilding Dolphins squad than anything you're pulling from the AFC North, South or West. Will 2019 be the year the rest of the division decides to make a dent? If not, the NFC East is sitting pretty.

New England Patriots

The Patriots close with two home games against the Bills and Dolphins, an appropriate time to iron out the kinks before rolling through January en route to Super Bowl glory. Tom Brady and friends also drew the Steelers, Browns and Chiefs at home, with only a smattering of nasty road dates featuring the Ravens and Eagles. With just one back-to-back road draw (Bills and Redskins in Weeks 4 and 5), New England's balanced schedule is hardly among the league's thorniest.

Carolina Panthers

Nestled in the rough-and-tumble South, Carolina's schedule offers a handful of positives. The Panthers open with two home dates against the Rams and Bucs (the latter on "Thursday Night Football") before earning 10 days to prepare for the new-look Cardinals in Arizona. With just one back-to-back road jaunt, the Panthers also draw Seattle at home in Week 15 -- no 12s! -- before closing in Carolina against the Saints.

New York Jets

Gang Green opens at home with the in-progress Bills before hosting Cleveland on Monday night in Week 2. With just two road dates before Week 8 and no consecutive road games from November on, the Jets have been handed a manageable to-do list -- assuming Sam Darnold and friends morph into a handful.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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