Dan Favale | Tue 05/09/2017 - 05:50 EDT

NFL Toughest Team Schedules 2017

#1 Denver Broncos

broncos

Opponents' Combined Winning Percentage in 2016: .578

The Denver Broncos have their work cut out for them if they intend to clear 10 victories for the fifth time in six seasons. Never mind that their quarterback situation remains a mess. Paxton Lynch's injury leaves Trevor Siemian under center, with Brock Osweiler backing him up. That puts them at a disadvantage from the jump. 

But their division takes care of the rest, as we saw only last season, when they mustered an unimpressive 9-7 record after winning the Super Bowl in 2015. The Kansas City Chiefs, the reigning AFC West champs, once again project as a 10-win squad at least. The Oakland Raiders will be right there with them if franchise quarterback Derek Carr is healthy enough to return to form. The Los Angeles Chargers don't profile as a real threat, but their offense could be straight fire with a healthy Melvin Gordon and Philip Rivers in the backfield.

Luckily for the Broncos, outside of the one trip they'll make to each of their division rivals, they don't have any noteworthy away games to fuss over. Still, to make a dent in the standings, they'll need to improve upon their 22nd-ranked offense—which, when looking at their personnel on the more glamorous side of the ball, feels beyond unlikely.

Record Projection: 8-8

Results / FixturesDenver Broncos

#2 Kansas City Chiefs

chiefs

Opponents' Combined Winning Percentage in 2016: .576

Get ready for a long line of AFC West inclusions. Such is the curse of playing in perhaps the NFL's most dangerous division. Chiefs fans needn't worry too much, though.

They remain one of the league's most underrated squads. Alex Smith should be able to lead wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Chris Conley to another top-13 offensive finish, and their secondary still has the talent to prop up a top-10 defense.

Kansas City probably won't duplicate its 12-win campaign from a year ago unless the Broncos and Chargers are complete flops, but it's well-positioned to sniff 10- or 11-win territory.

Record Projection: 10-6

Results / FixturesKansas City Chiefs

#3 Los Angeles Chargers

chargers

Opponents' Combined Winning Percentage in 2016: .568

If the Chargers played in another division, they might be a good sleeper bet on a week-to-week basis. Give Rivers wideouts Travis Benjamin and Mike Williams, along with a healthy Gordon and Allen, and this offense has top-seven potential.

Remember: The Chargers finished ninth in points scored per game last season while battling a vast array of injuries, and their defense, which placed 29th in points allowed cannot get much worse. Good health could be the difference between five and 10 wins for this squad.

But playing in the AFC West changes things. Like everyone else in the division, they don't have any noteworthy road trips beyond the three to Kansas City, Denver and Oakland.

Unlike everyone else, they don't have a clear path to fielding an average defense. The Chargers finished third to last in rushing touchdowns allowed and dead last in opponents' average possession time. They didn't add anyone over the offseason who helps reverse that sorry standing. Combine this with their tough schedule, and it's hard to imagine them sniffing the .500 mark by year's end.

Record Projection: 8-8

Results / FixturesLos Angeles Chargers

#4 Oakland Raiders

raiders

Opponents' Combined Winning Percentage in 2016: .564

Okay, this settles it: The AFC West is, without question, the toughest division in football. They wouldn't house the four hardest schedules in the league otherwise.

On the bright side for Raiders fans, though, they are best suited to combat these circumstances after the Chiefs. Everything hinges on the health of Derek Carr. The quarterback suffered a broken fibula in Week 16 last year that ultimately destroyed the team's dark-horse Super Bowl hopes. But he has since returned and continues to have the offensive tools around him to buoy what ranked as the NFL's seventh-best offense last year.

Elite No. 1 wideout? Check (Amari Cooper). Awesome No. 2 option? Check again (Michael Crabtree). Potentially detonative running back? Yet another check (unretired Marshawn Lynch). Insanely talented, bordering on impenetrable offensive line? You guessed it: Check.

The Raiders have a lot of options on the offensive side of things to go with a defense that can only be described as budding. If things go right for them, they might be looking at a division title. Then again, given their schedule, and its six matchups against fellow AFC Westerners, the slightest setback could relegate them to sub-.500 status.

Record Projection: 11-5

Results / FixturesOakland Raiders

#5 Buffalo Bills

bills

Opponents' Combined Winning Percentage in 2016: .561

At long last, we leave the AFC West division and head to the AFC East, where the Buffalo Bills aren't sitting so pretty.

Truth told, their situation is complicated. The four combined contests against the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins won't scare them one bit. But they have to face the reigning champion New England Patriots twice, which is an unmitigated disaster that will, in all likelihood, add two guaranteed losses to their column. And on top of all this, they have road trips to face the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers.

Mix in the loss of wide receiver Sammy Watkins over the offseason, plus the always-questionable health bill and overwhelming workload for star running back LeSean McCoy, and it's hard to come up with silver linings for the Bills. They'll be lucky to snag five wins this year.

Record Projection: 5-11

Results / FixturesBuffalo Bills

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