Every week is precious. Each NFL game is the equivalent of 10 games of a Major League Baseball season. A stumble out of the gate can quickly turn deadly.
With that in mind, here are four teams who appear to be set up well for early-season success thanks to the league's schedule makers.
New England Patriots
Nobody knows how to get off to a fast start like the Patriots. The team hasn't posted a losing record in September since 2001. That includes a 4-0 run to start 2013. Can they pull that feat off again? Winning in Arrowhead will be a challenge, but New England's first three opponents had a combined record of 17-30-1 a season ago.
No team has ever repeated as NFC South champions since the division came into existence in 2002. The Panthers are trying to make history and they have a decent shot of getting out of the box nicely. Road challenges against the Bucs and Ravens are sandwiched by winnable home games against a pair of non-playoff teams from a season ago.
The Texans were an outlier last season, winning their first two games and still managing to end up as the worst team in football (14-game losing streaks are strange like that.) We hesitate to do too much prognostication for a team whose starting QB might not be the roster right now, but Houston starts the season against four teams that were out of playoff contention by Thanksgiving last year.
St. Louis Rams
Playing in the rugged NFC West is no treat, making a fast start for the Rams' especially important. Home matchups against the middling Vikings and Cowboys sandwich a road trip to the retooled but unproven Bucs. The Rams stand a decent chance of getting to their early bye with at least two wins. If they don't ... look out.