The New England Patriots are coming off a year during which they won 14 of their 16 regular season games, and then followed up that performance with a stunning 25-point comeback in the Super Bowl. Amazingly, the widely-held consensus is that the Patriots are also one of the most improved teams this offseason, so they should be even better in 2017 than they were a year ago.
Of course, when you go 17-2 during the course of a season, there's only so much room for improvement. There's 18-1. And there's 19-0. That's it. At least one member of the Patriots thinks that any sort of discussion about the Pats even potentially going 19-0 is premature, though.
"When you go out and play in the National Football League, it's one of those things where it's even stupid to think about that," Julian Edelman said, per the Boston Herald. "It's never been done. You don't really want to talk about it. My focus is more on trying to get ready for the season, trying to learn your teammates, form your identity. [The 19-0 talk is] stupid. That's it."
The Patriots are going to be really good, of course, but they probably have one of the more difficult out-of-division schedules this season. The AFC East is no great shakes, as we all know, but the division's rotational schedule puts them against the NFC South (Falcons, Panthers, Saints, Buccaneers) and AFC West (Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders) for eight of their games, and New England's first-place finish last year means they also square off with the Texans and Steelers.
Those 10 teams won a combined 91 games last season, good for a 0.569 winning percentage that translates to an average of playing a 9-7 team every week. That might not sound too difficult on the surface, but playing an above-.500 team every week would make for one of the most difficult schedules in the NFL every year.
Can the Patriots run the table against that kind of group? Sure, it's possible in theory. But the smart bet is definitely against it, and even considering something like 19-0 before they get into the double-digits still undefeated is rather silly.