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Which teams got the most fortunate schedules?

It's not good business to call yourself an NFL analyst and suggest a team's schedule is easy. There are no easy games in the NFL even if some teams have a gentle stretch here and there. Good teams are going to reach the playoffs. Bad teams, with few exceptions, are not.

That being said, strength of schedule exists in a theoretical fashion, and that is what we're here to analyze. For the purpose of this exercise, we're considering teams who have some soft spots or chances to make up some ground. Last year, for example, the Redskins finished the season against the Giants, Bears, Bills, Eagles and Cowboys. That is fortuitous. The Panthers began their schedule with the Jaguars, Texans, Saints and Buccaneers -- not bad either.

So what about 2016? Here are five teams with a friendly path ...

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys start the season at home against the New York Giants before traveling to Washington. They then host the Bears at home before a road game against the 49ers. There is a legitimate chance to open the season 4-0 before games against the Bengals and Packers. They also end the season at the Giants, at home against the Bucs and Lions and on the road against the Eagles. Assuming Tampa Bay is still a year away from being an above .500 team, and assuming the Eagles take a year to develop under new coach Doug Pederson, it doesn't break much better to start and end the season than this.

Carolina Panthers

Even though the final year of Peyton Manning's career was a bit of a mess, we're assuming the Broncos will be slightly worse this season, if not markedly worse than they were in 2015. That being said, the Panthers should have the edge in a Super Bowl rematch to start the season before games against the 49ers, Vikings, Falcons, Buccaneers and Saints. Obviously, we don't expect the NFC South to be as bad as it was last season, but there is a legitimate chance Cam Newton and Co. could head into their bye week (following the Saints game) with only one or two losses.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks have relatively smooth sailing to begin their season assuming they don't hit a roadblock or sustain a major injury. A home game against the Dolphins, a short road trip to Los Angeles to possibly face a rookie quarterback, a home game against the 49ers and a road game against the Jets isn't the worst way kick off 2016. We're assuming the Jets maintain status quo and re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick, but that is really their best-case scenario. In fact, the Seahawks really don't have a premier matchup until their Oct. 23 game against the Cardinals. After that? It's a Nov. 13 game against the Patriots. Things are lining up well for coach Pete Carroll, who gets the tough teams atop the NFC East and NFC South, but also gets the bottom-feeders.

Green Bay Packers

Most of the teams on this list are good teams, which means they should be better than a majority of the opponents they face. In the Packers' case, opening the season at Jacksonville will not be as easy as it used to be, though they should come out on top. Then, they have a game at Minnesota on Sunday Night Football, which isn't a cakewalk, either. Thankfully, the schedule eases up a bit with games against Detroit, a bye week, the Giants on Sunday Night Football, the Cowboys, Bears and Falcons. Green Bay also closes the season against the Lions and has a four-game stretch toward the end of their season -- Titans, Redskins, Eagles, Texans -- where they could make up some wins.

Indianapolis Colts

The travel aspect of their early schedule is brutal and a game against the Jaguars in London on Oct. 2 has the potential for loss written all over it. There are some friendly stretches, though. Assuming the Broncos are a little more beatable than they were a year ago, starting the season at home against the Lions, at Denver, vs. San Diego, at Jacksonville (London), vs. Chicago, at Houston and at Tennessee has potential. The Colts also close the season against Oakland and Jacksonville.

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