1. Before the start of the season Pats were projected to have one the easiest schedule. Revisiting the schedule now turns out to be almost the opposite: Pats played 9 games against top 15 teams in the league. 2. Most people now say this NE team is not likely to make significant playoff run. Patriots are #7 ranked team at the moment and could move up a place or two by the end of the season based on remaining schedule. Of the 6 teams ranked higher Pats played 3 and won in all 3 games (yes, this season). If all goes well in the last two home games (which should never be a given) this playoff run should hardly be an underdog story.. 3. Most teams played one of their best games of the season against Patriots - the standard everyone still wants to measure themselves against despite the “end of dynasty“ talk. The Patriots Bowl effect is real. It has been pointed out several times that all the teams that beat Patriots so far were beaten in their next games. The teams that lost Patriots Bowls didn't do much better: HOU, MIA, IND, BUF, NYJ, MIN all lost their next games with only KC, CHI, GB able to bounce back. The trend is likely to continue with PIT @NO next. I don't think you can find this pattern with any other team. And its not only this year. ___ Bottom line: Being the top dog everyone wants to bring down year after year, meeting opponent's A-games Sunday after Sunday is never easy, mentally or physically. Considering all of the above one could say NE always plays the hardest schedule. The good side of this is they should be better prepared for January and they usually are. A BYE would be nice to take another breather but even if its divisionals for the first time in a long time its gonna be Sunday (Saturday) as usual for the Patriots.