Examining the schedule, game by game
WEEK 1: New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills
The Doug Marrone-led (who?) Buffalo Bills and whatever quarterback they pluck to run their offense are first up for the Patriots. The Patriots will be in Western New York for that one. Good thing for Stevie Johnson because the wideout is not going to be warmly welcomed when he arrives in Foxboro for the final week of the season on December 29.
WEEK 2: New England Patriots vs. New York Jets
The Patriots get a short week right out of the chutes and play the Jets and Tim Tebow in prime time in Week 2 at Gillette Stadium. Could this be the early portion of the Rex Ryan Farewell Tour? Wouldn’t be shocked if it were.
WEEK 3: New England Patriots vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Patriots will face Bill Belichick acolyte Greg Schiano and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3. Josh Freeman and the Muscle Hamster (aka Doug Martin) will be in Foxboro and dealing with the Patriots – presumably – up-tempo offense that once caused Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to muse after a preseason game if “Mr. Brady” could please slow down. The Patriots will have 10 days to prepare for this one.
WEEK 4: New England Patriots @ Atlanta Falcons
The first marquee game for the Patriots comes Week 4 in Atlanta against the Falcons for Sunday Night Football. Big challenge for the Patriots secondary with Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. An excellent defensive matchup for the Patriots as well with the very fast Atlanta defense.
WEEK 5: New England Patriots @ Cincinnati Bengals
Good preparation in Week 4 going against the Falcons, because New England gets to see another ginger QB – Andy Dalton – and another top-tier receiver A.J. Green. For New England, going back-to-back on the road is a challenge for them.
WEEK 6: New England Patriots vs. New Orleans Saints
Big week for the Patriots passing game, one would presume, as New England goes up against the horrific Saints pass defense. With Sean Payton back in the mix, one would presume the Saints will be on the uptick a little bit. This one has the making of a shootout. Take the over.
WEEK 7: New England Patriots @ New York Jets
The Patriots will be at the Jets for October 20. By then, New York could be in either full-on disarray or feeling unbelievably good about themselves. Either way, it’s always a good show especially in New York.
WEEK 8: New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are the AFC East offseason champions to date. The Patriots have to deal with them for the first time right at the midpoint. It will be the Patriots’ first exposure to Mike Wallace and also the Dolphins new logo.
WEEK 9: New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Steelers’ week and this figures to be an interesting game given the Steelers offseason to date in which so many of their prominent players – Mike Wallace and James Harrison leading that list – will be gone. But Emmanuel Sanders will be there and he’ll get a chance to play on the field he came ohsoclose to playing on in 2013.
WEEK 11: New England Patriots @ Carolina Panthers
The Patriots come off their bye week and actually get an extra day to prepare for Cam Newton and the Panthers. This is a Monday Night Game at Carolina and a chance to face the most mobile quarterback they’ll see all season.
WEEK 12: New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos
This is the one you’ve been waiting for. The Patriots hosting the Broncos on Sunday Night Football. The tiresome “boo him or not and why would you do such a thing” conversation will dominate as Wes Welker re-enters with a horse’s head on his helmet. The Manning-Brady conversation for this week will take a backseat to the hue-and-cry over whether Welker should be in Denver or not. And Danny Amendola will be a popular quote that week as well.
WEEK 13: New England Patriots @ Houston Texans
Get your letter jackets ready. Patriots are at the Texans who were twice shamed by the Patriots last season. This time, though, the Texans will be hosting New England. First game down there since Wes Welker blew his knee back in 2009. Bill Belichick will be checking the field prior to the game.
WEEK 14: New England Patriots vs. Cleveland Browns
Good breather – one would suppose – after the Patriots go back-to-back with the Broncos and Texans. Not a lot of zest to this one so a good day to get a jump on your Christmas lights with the 1 p.m. start, dontcha think?
WEEK 15: New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
Hey, who needs some warm weather in the middle of December. Pasty legs and bald spots invade South Florida for the matchup with the Dolphins. If the Dolphins are who many think they are, this game will have significant implications on the divisional race.
WEEK 16: New England Patriots @ Baltimore Ravens
The rematch of the last two conference championship games comes in the penultimate week of the season as the Patriots have to go down to Baltimore to deal with the Ravens. By then, we’ll long since know how much the Ravens’ attrition hurt them. And whether they overpaid significantly for Rainbow Joe Flacco.
WEEK 17: New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills
The season ends as the season began. With the Bills. Anticipate the “play ‘em or sit ‘em” conversation because – unless I’m missing my mark – this will be a race for the Bills trying to get to win No. 6.