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2013 NFL schedule: No free rides for new head coaches

With the NFL schedule out, the newest head coaches around the league finally know what they will be up against to start in 2013. Who faces the toughest season?

Rich Schultz

Eight NFL teams have new head coaches at the helm for the 2013 season. The Chiefs, Browns, Bills, Bears, Jaguars, Chargers, Eagles and Cardinals are all looking for fresh starts with different personnel. Looking ahead at the regular-season schedule, it won't be an easy road for most.

Chip Kelly can't go a day without making at least one headline. His first season as an NFL coach will be closely monitored. Scratch that, it already is closely monitored. With a bye in Week 12, Kelly won't have any time to slow down for a while once the season is underway.

Philadelphia faces Washington in a Monday night game on the road in its season opener. Robert Griffin III's health is the X-factor here. If he plays, Kelly will be staring down of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL.

Luckily, Kelly sees the Chargers and Chiefs in Week 2 and 3. Those two games will be crucial for the Eagles' chances of making the playoffs. They have to win those easier matchups. Philly ends with a run against the NFC North, facing the Lions, Vikings and Bears before ending in Week 17 with the Cowboys.

Andy Reid's Chiefs open the season with Jacksonville. That gives him a week to settle in before a three-game stretch against his old rivals in the NFC East, including that Week 3 trip back to Philadelphia.

Which new head coaches are looking at the toughest schedules?

Toughest opening: Marc Trestman

Opening doesn't necessarily refer to the actual season opener, but more of a look at the first quarter or so of the schedule for each new head coach. Trestman easily wins this category, and everyone should have pity on him in the early stages of the 2013 season.

The Bears begin the year with two consecutive games against playoff teams from 2012. At least Trestman will face the Bengals and Vikings at home to kick off his tenure. His offense will be tested immediately against a Cincinnati defense that finished No. 6 in the league.

Chicago then hits the road for matchups with the Steelers and Lions. Both teams are coming off underperfoming campaigns, so don't let the records fool you. Ben Roethlisberger and Matthew Stafford will pose early challenges for the Bears' defense.

After Week 4, Trestman will see the Saints, Giants and Redskins in that order. His Week 7 bye is going to feel like Christmas come early.

Toughest closing: Rob Chudzinski

The good news: Cleveland's overall strength of schedule is below .500. The bad news: the Browns end the season with the Patriots, Bears, Jets and Steelers.

OK, defeating New York isn't a daunting task, but the other three are already playoff contenders. "Chud," bless his soul, probably won't have to worry about the Browns making a late season push for the postseason. There's a plus?

Facing Tom Brady, Jay Cutler and Roethlisberger in three of the final four games could have Cleveland vying for one of the top picks in the 2014 NFL Draft. The team is rebuilding, but the quarterback situation is still up in the air. Complicating matters is an owner now facing potential fraud charges from the FBI. Foreshadowing another long year?

Toughest overall: Bruce Arians

Arians deserves all the praise in the world for leading the Colts while Chuck Pagano battled cancer last season. Indianapolis earned a playoff berth with a rookie quarterback and interim head coach for part of the season. What can Arians manage with his roster in the desert?

The Cardinals own the seventh-toughest schedule for 2013. Realistically, their Week 11 matchup with the Jaguars might be the only game on the schedule worth penciling in as a win. Of course, facing the 49ers and Seahawks twice will jeopardize any team's chances of success.

Arizona also takes on Atlanta, Houston and Indianapolis, all playoff teams from 2012. Throw in a trip to the Superdome, and you have eight games that appear to be huge obstacles to overcome.

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