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Toughest 2019 NFL schedules: Eagles, Broncos have hard roads

The true toughness of an NFL team's schedule, like many things in life, comes down to timing and luck. Is this a particularly bad year to face the NFC South? Did your team face the Aaron RodgersPackers in 2017 or the Brett HundleyPackers? Do the toughest games come at home or on the road?

While this exercise is essentially a fool's errand because no one really knows which teams are actually going to be good (sports! life is temporary!), here's my best guess at which teams have the toughest 2019 NFL schedules now that every team's slate has been released.

New Orleans Saints

There aren't any easy outs in the NFC South. The same holds true for the Saints' non-conference slate against the similarly balanced AFC South. New Orleans' start to the season is especially challenging with a Monday night opener (against Houston) before back-to-back West Coast games against the Rams and Seahawks. The Saints have to face the Falcons in Atlanta on a short Thanksgiving week and they finish the season with two straight road games (Tennessee and Carolina).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs will have to balance a brutal division schedule with an even more brutal stretch away from home surrounding the team's London trip. The Bucs go seven weeks between games in Tampa with road games against the NFC's two best teams from a year ago (the Rams and Saints) before a trip overseas to play the division-rival Panthers, then tests in Tennessee and Seattle after the team's bye. The run starts in Week 4, making early games like the Week 2 Thursday nighter in Carolina all the more crucial as Bruce Arians' crew tries to get out to a fast start to build a cushion. On paper, this might be my least favorite schedule in the league.

Indianapolis Colts

Starting the season with back-to-back road games is always a bummer. The Colts have to do it against the Chargers and Titans, two teams they could be battling with for playoff positioning. The Colts' schedule is imbalanced because they'll face so many of their toughest opponents -- the Chargers, Chiefs, Steelers and Saints -- on the road.

Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos

AFC West teams have a difficult schedule this year out of division, with matchups against the NFC North and AFC South. The Broncos and Raiders' lives are made more difficult by also having to play the Chiefs and Chargers two times each.

The Raiders, like the Bucs, go six straight weeks without a true home game. Giving up one of their last home games in Oakland to play the Bears in London is a competitive disadvantage, as is sandwiching that contest between road games in Minnesota, Indianapolis, Green Bay and Houston.

Philadelphia Eagles

I don't really mind the Eagles' schedule, but they are the only team required to play three straight true road games (Vikings-Cowboys-Bills in October) at any point, which seems unfair.

Cincinnati Bengals

It almost goes without saying, but the AFC North division schedule is unfriendly. The Bengals have it particularly rough because they start in Seattle, with three of new head coach Zac Taylor's first four games on the road. This is a squad that needs some early wins or the fan base could grow apathetic quickly.

Green Bay Packers

I could have listed the entire NFC North here. It's a balanced division, and the matchups against the AFC West teams look tough, especially with Green Bay visiting Kansas City and Los Angeles in consecutive weeks. The Packers get the nod here over their division rivals because they close with two road games, including the always-irritating final Monday Night Football game before the holidays (in Minnesota), creating a short week before finishing the regular season in Detroit. However, as you can see here, my colleague Marc Sessler does not agree that Green Bay belongs on this list.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.


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