Patriots avoid Terrell Suggs this season

The New England Patriots have the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL -- and it got a little easier on Thursday.

Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles tendon and will be out for a significant portion of this season. There are reports Suggs will miss the entire year, but Suggs says he will be back by late October or early December at the latest.

Either way, the Patriots won't have to face Suggs in Week 3 when they travel to Baltimore in a prime-time game on Sept. 23. This is the much-anticipated rematch of January's AFC Championship Game, in which a shanked field goal by Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff could have forced overtime. Instead, the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl and lost to the New York Giants.

Suggs is the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year and a huge difference-maker for Baltimore. His absence should make the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady feel more at ease going into this rematch.

Any game involving New England and Baltimore is going to be a slugfest, no matter who is injured. But the Ravens are arguably the toughest opponent on an otherwise easy schedule for the Patriots. There's no denying Suggs' injury makes this game more winnable for New England.