NFL teams only play 16 games during the regular season, so every game is important, as is getting off to a good start. Team schedules are often broken down into four-game quarters, with the first quarter happening in the first month of the season. Having a tough schedule early on can put a team at a disadvantage because early losses can put a team in a hole that could be hard to come back from. Here are the five teams that have the toughest opening schedules of the 2019 season.
5. Green Bay Packers
The Packers are starting the season on opening night the first Thursday, taking on their biggest rivals, the Bears. The Bears have a good defense, led by Khalil Mack, which will give Packers QB Aaron Rodgers a challenge to put points on the board in his first game of the season. Playing a division rival like the Bears means it’s important for the Packers to win the game to get off to a lead in the NFC North. After their opener, the Packers play another divisional foe in the Vikings. They get a bit of a break in Week 3, taking on the Broncos, but then they get another potential playoff team with the Eagles in Week 4.
4. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders should have an improved offense this season after trading for WR Antonio Brown from the Steelers, but they are starting the season with games against teams that may have better offenses than them. Not in Week 1, though, when they open the season against the Broncos. After that, the first quarter of the season gets tougher for the Jon Gruden-led team. In Week 2, they go against the Chiefs and reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes, who threw 50 touchdown passes last season. They face the Vikings in Week 3, and Andrew Luck and the Colts are the Raiders’ opponent in Week 4. Not many NFL teams have a tougher opening month than the Raiders.
3. Washington Redskins
The Redskins’ season opens up with games against three playoff teams from last season and all three division rivals. They open with back-to-back games against NFC East teams, the Eagles and Cowboys, respectively. Their one non-divisional game in the stretch comes against the Bears, and they close out the first month of the season against the Giants, which should be the easiest matchup of the four and potentially the only win the Redskins could get in the first quarter of the season.
2. New Orleans Saints
The Saints just missed representing the NFC in the Super Bowl last season, but they’re going to have to get through an early gauntlet if the want to return to the NFC Championship. Out of all the NFL teams, only two face four 2018 playoff teams to start the season, and the Saints are one of them.
After a Monday night contest with the Texans in Week 1, the Saints have an NFC title game rematch against the Rams in Week 2. Following that highly anticipated game, Drew Brees and the Saints play the Seahawks, with the Cowboys on deck for Week 4.
1. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins were 7-9 last season, but they’re expected to be worse this season with Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starting quarterback. And it’s not going to be easy early on, as their first four games are all against teams that made the playoffs last season. After opening against the Ravens, the Dolphins have their first of two games against the Patriots. They play the Cowboys in Week 3, and the Chargers are on the docket in Week 4. There’s a strong possibility that the Dolphins begin the season 0-4 against that slate.