The 2020 NFL season will be very different for the New England Patriots.
For the first time since 2001, Tom Brady won't be the starting quarterback in Week 1. He's taken his talents to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent, a move that likely will see 2019 fourth-round draft pick Jarrett Stidham step into the role of New England's starting QB.
What won't be different for the Patriots is playing a first-place schedule. There aren't many easy stretches for the Pats in 2020 , but would you bet on their streak of 17 consecutive seasons of 10-plus wins ending?
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Here's a complete viewers guide to the Patriots' upcoming season after Thursday night's schedule release.
The Patriots play the majority of their games on CBS, which is standard for an AFC team. They do have several primetime games, too (more on that below).
The Pats have a total of 10 matchups on CBS. They also will play twice on ESPN for "Monday Night Football", twice on NBC for "Sunday Night Football" and twice on FOX (including one game on "Thursday Night Football").
New England will play eight times at 1 p.m. ET, including the season opener and season finale, both of which will be played at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots will play at 4:25 p.m. and 8:20 p.m. three times each, as well as two games at 8:30 p.m.
Week 2 at Seattle Seahawks
Seattle is an enormously tough place for opponents to win, and it doesn't help that the Seahawks have an elite quarterback in Russell Wilson and a top-tier head coach in Pete Carroll. The last four meetings between the Patriots and Seahawks were decided by one score, with each team winning twice. If Stidham goes into CenturyLink Field and leads the Patriots to a primetime win, you might start to see a lot of people jumping back on the Pats bandwagon.
Week 4 at Kansas City Chiefs
The last time the Patriots played at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 4 was in 2014, and they got destroyed by the Chiefs. Trent Dilfer infamously said on the ESPN postgame show the Patriots are "not good anymore!" The loss led to Bill Belichick's famous "We're on to Cincinnati" press conference, and the Patriots recovered to win Super Bowl XLIX later that season. This year's clash likely will see the defending champion Chiefs as heavy favorites. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes beat the Patriots at Gillette Stadium last season, and another win would bring his record versus New England to 2-2 (including playoffs).
Week 7 vs. San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo spent three-plus seasons as the Patriots' backup quarterback, and he'll play against them for the first time when the 49ers make a rare visit to Gillette Stadium. The Patriots traded Garoppolo to the 49ers during the 2017 season, and he's now 23-6 as a starter in the NFL. A win over an elite 49ers defense would be a huge boost for Stidham's confidence and the team as a whole.
Week 10 vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens handed the Patriots their first loss last season with a 37-20 home win. New England couldn't contain Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson, who tallied 216 total yards and three touchdowns. The Patriots will host the Ravens this year in yet another "Sunday Night Football" matchup.
Games to Skip
Week 5 vs. Denver Broncos
If you like young quarterbacks with a lot of potential, this game is for you. But there's not a ton of starpower in this matchup.
Week 9 and Week 17 vs. New York Jets
The Jets are awful, and they haven't beaten the Patriots since 2015 -- that's eight straight losses to New England.
Marquee Games to Watch
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints, Week 1
Tom Brady's debut with the Bucs comes against another future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees. Early-season NFC South bragging rights are up for grabs.
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints, Week 3
Brees versus Aaron Rodgers in a matchup between two of the best quarterbacks in league history is as good as it gets. Both teams have a good chance to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LV.
Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens, Week 3
The two-best teams in the AFC go head-to-head in a matchup between MVP quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. The Chiefs beat the Ravens 33-28 at home in 2019.
Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Week 12
This will be the fourth (and maybe final?) matchup between Mahomes and Brady. They met three times when Brady played for the Patriots, and the 42-year-old veteran went 2-1 versus Mahomes' Chiefs, including a 2018 AFC Championship Game victory in KC.
The Patriots will see plenty of action on national television despite losing Brady in free agency. New England is scheduled to play five primetime games.
Here's a quick list of those matchups:
Week 2: at Seattle Seahawks, 8:20 p.m. on NBC
Week 9: at New York Jets, 8:15 p.m. on ESPN
Week 10: vs. Baltimore Ravens, 8:20 p.m. on NBC
Week 14: at Los Angeles Rams, 8:20 p.m. on FOX
Week 16: vs. Buffalo Bills, 8:15 p.m. on ESPN
The Patriots have the toughest schedule in the league based on their opponents' 2019 win percentage, but they don't have one particularly grueling stretch. New England's longest road trip is three games in December, but the first two games of that stretch are against the two Los Angeles teams, so the Patriots should be able to just remain in California for two weeks with minimal travel. And, honestly, hanging out in southern California in December is a little more enjoyable than the harsh New England winter.
If we had to pick one difficult period in the schedule, it would be the first five games after the Week 6 bye. In this stretch, the Patriots play four playoff teams, including the AFC's No. 1 seed from last season in the Ravens and the defending NFC champions in the 49ers.
Quarterbacks Pats Will Face
The Patriots will take on many talented quarterbacks in 2020. Here's a quick recap of the toughest QBs on the schedule.
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
Miami might finally have selected a franchise quarterback with the No. 5 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Tagovailoa had a great career at Alabama, which included a 2017 CFP national title.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson is one of the top five quarterbacks in the league and also ranks among the top preseason candidates for MVP.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes is a former league MVP and guided the Chiefs to a Super Bowl LIV title. He's the sport's best player.
Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
The 2019 draft pick finished 4-1 as a starter in his rookie season and is poised for a breakout campaign.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
Garoppolo has won a ton of games since landing in San Francisco and led the 49ers to an NFC title in 2019.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
The 2018 first-round pick won the MVP last season with more than 4,000 total yards and 43 total touchdowns.
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Watson is one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league to defend with his dual-threat ability.
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
The No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft had an impressive rookie season, and the Cardinals helped him out by acquiring elite wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in a trade with the Texans in March.