That headline? A filthy lie.
Nobody is coming up with five COMPLETELY novel angles on this thing.
All us hyenas are chewing at the carcass of the same fallen wildebeest. Hard to find a spot someone hasn’t already bitten.
HOWEVAH, we will try.
COULD CHIEFS GAME BE DOOMED?
Mark Maske of The Washington Post has been at it a long time. He’s plugged into the league office. So when his initial story about the schedules focuses on how the NFL has made it easy to compress, you best believe he ain’t spitballing.
He offers a scenario where the league could leave the first two weeks but cut Week 3 and Week 4.
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That means two of the Patriots AFC West games would go by the wayside: home against the Raiders. At the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football. Which would suck because watching elite teams play is fun. But, for the Patriots purposes in 2020, it would be a boon because on the road at KC with Jarrett Stidham in his fourth start against an offense that’s going to put up 30 points most weeks wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Patriots record-wise.
I believe the league’s preference would be to push everything back as far as it could and keep the 16-game schedule intact. They’d no doubt prefer eliminating the bye during the season and maybe before the Super Bowl before contracting the regular-season slate. But the NFLPA would certainly have a say about its constituency losing its bye week so it’s worth keeping this scenario front of mind.
POST-BYE SLATE IS A GRRRRINNNNDDDD
No matter how you sliced the 16 games, the schedule was going to look like a grind on paper. To me, after the early bye, the Patriots are in for a ride.
They face the defending NFC Champion Niners at home in Week 7 then get two on the road with the Bills and Jets. The Jets are a Monday night game so the Patriots have a short week before playing another night game against the Ravens on Sunday Night Football. That’s followed by the long flight to Houston to play the Texans. So it’s four out of five games against 2019 playoff teams.
The reprieve against teams who weren’t so hot in 2019 follows. They host the Cardinals in Week 12 then head to Los Angeles for two games with the Chargers and then the Rams on a Thursday night. That’s followed by a game at Miami in heat they won’t be real used to on December 20.
Then one more Monday night game in Week 16 before closing at home with the Jets. Getting a short stay in L.A. is a break – they can fly out on Friday, December 4 and return on Friday December 11 – but there’s no getting around the fact it’s a logistical challenge.
WHY DON’T WE DO BOTH?
For those in the New England market who will inevitably have a deeper interest in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season, there’s no reason to divide your attention. The Bucs and Patriots don’t have overlapping games until late December. So you can get all the Brady and Gronk you want and not feel like you’re stepping out on your local.
The Bucs have five prime-time games and they are all – interestingly – packed into a seven-week period which will have sleepy denizens of the Tampa-St. Pete region wondering how people can stay up so late to watch their football. The Bucs have never had five night games before.
The Patriots have five prime-time games as well which is no surprise even if they are Brady-less. They are a national brand and that hasn’t changed. If you think about it, on a national scale, how the Patriots fare with Brady no longer under center is one of the most compelling stories for the 2020 NFL season.
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A BREAK ON THE BYES
The Patriots saw a fleet of teams coming off their bye week last season. This year, they have none. Only one team gets a little extra prep time before their game with New England – that’s the Cardinals who have a Thursday night game and then get 10 days before they have to play at Gillette. It’s a big break compared to last year.
LOFTY LIST OF QUARTERBACKS
In 13 of the Patriots 16 games, they could be facing first-round quarterback selections. There’s Tua Tagovailoa two times (jury will be out on whether he’s the opening day guy), Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen twice, Sam Darnold twice, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Kyler Murray, Jared Goff and potentially Justin Herbert.
The other three projected starters they’ll see who weren’t first-rounders are Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo and Drew Lock.
Stidham, a fourth-rounder, has lower draft status than all of them. Of course, if Tua and Herbert aren’t ready to go, that changes. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor are the veterans for the Dolphins and Chargers. Fitz was undrafted. Taylor was a sixth-rounder.
Draft status doesn’t mean much of anything, of course. But Fitzpatrick, Mahomes, Jackson and Watson all beat the Patriots the last time they faced New England.