Tom E. Curran's 2019 Patriots schedule breakdown
For months, we've known which opponents the Patriots would face in their Super Bowl defense. But until Wednesday afternoon, we didn't know when they'd face every team.
Now that the full 2019 NFL schedule has been released, we can identify the challenging (and much less so) stretches of New England's season, which matchups and opponents have buzz, and what to watch for along the way.
So without further ado, Tom E. Curran has this unique week-by-week look at what's ahead for the defending Super Bowl champions in the 2019 season.
Week 1 vs. Steelers
Sunday, Sept. 8 — 8:20 p.m. (SNF)
There’s no fanbase that hates the Patriots quite like the Steelers'. Not only do Steelers fans have themselves fully convinced the Patriots stole trips to the Super Bowl from them (despite the fact the Patriots have caved in the Steelers heads repeatedly in AFCCGs), the Patriots took from Pittsburgh its lone claim to Super Bowl Era supremacy by equaling the Steelers total of six Lombardis in February. And now Steelers fans can watch a banner being unfurled. The Steelers have been wallowing in dysfunction for a few years but haven’t descended to mediocrity. Now they’re sniffing it after a 9-6-1 season and the departures of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.
Huge storylines for Al and Cris to plumb in the Sunday Night Football opener on NBC including whether or not Patriots owner Robert Kraft is there for the banner unveiling or on suspension. The last time the Patriots opened the season with Pittsburgh, Mike Tomlin complained about headset issues which – given it was September 2015 and DeflateGate was still a raging forest fire – was not appreciated in Foxboro. Good opener and for the post-Gronk Pats who have a tendency to start seasons slowly, probably not a walkover.
Week 2 at Dolphins
Sunday, Sept. 15 — 1 p.m.
I know you maniacs like to save your South Florida trip for later in the year. Instead, you’ll swelter. C’est la vie. The question will be whether there’s a full-blown panic after the opener against the Steelers or whether the Patriots are swaggering into Miami Gardens to take on Brian Flores in his second game as Dolphins head coach.
We know the Patriots’ history against ex-coaches or players has been dotted with some down days – last year being a prime example when they lost to both the Lions and Titans – but it’s hard to imagine them not having an easy time with Miami, who is going to be in full rebuild mode. Of course, it was hard to imagine the Patriots losing as they kicked off to the Dolphins with just seconds remaining last December but…
Week 3 vs. Jets
Sunday, Sept. 22 — 1 p.m.
The Patriots stay in the division and get their first look at Le’Veon Bell in the diarrhea green of the Jets. New York flat quit in the season finale last year. Now Todd Bowles is out, Adam Gase is in and the hope is that Sam (Hey!) Darnold can take the next step in development after a decent first-year performance. The Jets finished last year 4-12. The addition of Bell caused giddiness and New York also brought on C.J. Mosley and wide receiver Jamison Crowder. They should be better but they probably still won’t be good.
Week 4 at Bills
Sunday, Sept. 29 — 1 p.m.
The Patriots stay in the division for the third straight game to play the Bills. Buffalo made a fairly significant addition with slot receiver Cole Beasley, who opted to go with the Bills and Josh Allen instead of the Patriots and Tom Brady. They finished 6-10 last year under Sean McDermott and while I don’t think Allen is going to be a very good NFL quarterback, he played better than expected. And the Bills also think so. One thing McDermott has been able to get is full buy-in, it seems. Nice weather to take the seven-hour ride out, see the Falls and duck away from flying sex toys launched by Bills Mafia.
Week 5 at Redskins
Sunday, Oct. 6 — 1 p.m.
It’s really hard to summon any words about a road game against the Redskins. They have become the definition of forgettable. Their quarterback is 34-year old Alex Smith, his backups are Josh Johnson, Colt McCoy and Mark Sanchez. Their best player is Adrian Peterson. He’s 33.
They were 7-9 last year. Just like they were the year before that. They don’t even play near Washington, D.C. The stadium is in Landover, Maryland. The owner is detestable. The front office is dysfunctional. It’s just a Sunday in October, this one.
Week 6 vs. Giants
Thursday, Oct. 10 — 8:20 p.m. (TNF)
This will be Eli Manning’s final visit to Gillette Stadium, ladies and gentlemen. Right? Or will the Giants still be insisting he’s not the problem in 2027? Either way, the Giants went 5-11 last year and their head coach is … not Ben McAdoo anymooooorrrreeee … Pat Shurmur! Ya gotta believe Pat will have his G-Men ready to go for the sake of the Maras and the Tisches and the millions of insufferables who will always have SBs 42 and 46 as well as several more seasons of suck staring them right in the face. For the Patriots, it’s not a bad turnaround game to go from the not-so-menacing Redskins into a home game with the Giants on their short week.
Week 7 at Jets
Monday, Oct. 21 — 8:15 p.m. (MNF)
The Patriots get almost two bye weeks with the tidy, 11-day break in between the Goodbye Eli Game and their second meeting with the Jets, this one down there on Monday Night Football. This will be the Patriots' sixth game in a row against either a washed-up quarterback or a second-year guy. They’ll be hoping that’s been good for business because after this one, the Patriots leave the AFC East for a while and have a run of decent and or highly physical teams to deal with.
Week 8 vs. Browns
Sunday, Oct. 27— 4:25 p.m.
By the time this one rolls around, we’ll know whether the Browns backed up the hype they got (and deserved) for their offseason cannonball into the NFL’s deep end. Nobody’s made more headlines this offseason than Cleveland. They closed last season winning five of their last seven and finished 7-8-1, their best record since 2007.
This offseason, they dealt for Odell Beckham and added running back Kareem Hunt and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. They join an offense with Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, promising tight end David Njoku and the hard-to-bet-against Baker Mayfield. On defense, they have Richardson, Olivier Vernon and Myles Garrett. We’ll see how head coach Freddie Kitchens puts it all together and whether they are close to being ready for the Patriots. Just a few days before Halloween? I like it in this spot.
Week 9 at Ravens
Sunday, Nov. 3 — 8:20 p.m. (SNF)
We’ve seen some high drama down in Baltimore in prime time. The 2007 escape. The replacement ref debacle in 2012. Now we’ll get another. The Flacco Era is over in Baltimore. He’s in Denver now and it’s Lamar Jackson’s team. Flacco’s expiration date was long since passed and the Ravens went on a tear with Jackson at the controls, adopting a run-heavy offense and winning six of seven (the only loss coming in OT) down the stretch to win the AFC North. But Jackson’s playoff performance against the Chargers was hard to watch.
The Ravens got rid of Eric Weddle and brought on Earl Thomas. They also brought aboard running back Mark Ingram. They have three good, young tight ends (Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle). The rivalry with the Patriots isn’t what it was a decade ago but it still smolders. Also, if you’re traveling down, M&T Bank Stadium is one of the best in the league for watching a game. It’s a good road trip.
Week 11 at Eagles
Sunday, Nov. 17 — 4:25 p.m.
The bye came and went at a good time (my birthday!!) and now the Patriots are heading to Philly to deal with the team that prevented them from becoming the only team to win three straight Super Bowls, the Eagles. (I know, we don’t know what would have happened last year if the Patriots HAD won SB52 but whatever…). The Eagles didn’t much mind, going 10-8 and nearly missing the playoffs last year.
They had so much damn fun the year before. I guess that’s what Lane Johnson was driving at when he could … not … shut … up … last offseason. I find this team fascinating because – brilliant as Carson Wentz has shown himself to be, they were 5-6 when he was the starter last year, 4-1 when Nick Foles was in. And Foles played pretty much as well as Wentz did the year before when he took over. So what is Wentz? And is he injury-prone? Either way, there will be some spice to this game.
Week 12 vs. Cowboys
Sunday, Nov. 24 — 4:25 p.m.
A few days before Thanksgiving, the Patriots will host Dak, Zeke and the rest of Jerry’s Boys. This will be the third of five straight games against 2018 playoff teams so that slow ramp-up at the start of the season will be well in the rearview. Dallas went deeper than it’s been in a while, beating Seattle in the Wild Card round before losing at the Rams in the Divisional Round. The Cowboys have some really good young defensive players the Patriots will contend with in this game.
Week 13 at Texans
Sunday, Dec. 1 — 8:20 p.m. (SNF)
So the Patriots will turn into the stretch run with a trip to Houston right after Thanksgiving. Last year, the Texans were my preseason pick to make it to the Super Bowl. Many had a big laugh when they started 0-3, lampooning my predicting skills. The Texans went 11-2 the rest of the way. And then failed to make the Super Bowl anyway, getting pantsed at home by Indy in the Wild Card Round.
I’m still big on Houston, though. They have too many good players on both sides of the ball to be perennially one-and-done and Bill O’Brien is too good a head coach. The Patriots generally have their way with the Texans. This one will be in Houston, though. It’s a good trip despite the sneaky long flight. Sprawling city but the Galleria section’s a good bet, barbecue is outstanding, and you can bring your sticks because it will still be warm enough.
Week 14 vs. Chiefs
Sunday, Dec. 8 — 4:25 p.m.
A week after playing the Texans out of the division, the Patriots come back to play another top-tier team in the AFC. A rematch of the AFC Championship Game in which the Patriots confounded league MVP Patrick Mahomes for a half and then saw their 14-0 turn into a 31-31 tie at the end of regulation before the Patriots tore out Kansas City’s heart and showed it to them in overtime. That was an instant classic that followed up the instant classic from the regular season when the Patriots also won late.
The Chiefs released safety Eric Berry and linebacker Justin Houston and brought aboard Carlos Hyde and Tyrann Matthieu. They also fired defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. Among their coaching adds, former Patriots defensive line coach Brendan Daly. But the bottom line is, with Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins on offense, last year’s No. 1 seed in the AFC is still real good and this is a marquee matchup. It’s got some bitterness to it now. Which is nice.
Week 15 at Bengals
Sunday, Dec. 15 — 1 p.m.
The only good thing about Cincinnati is that it isn’t Kentucky. Although it almost is, since Porkopolis (that’s a nickname for Cincy) is right across the Ohio River from Kentucky. But the home of our friends at Pro Football Focus does serve up a nice chili. And also housed George Foster’s sideburns in the ‘70s.
The football team? The Bengals are in a blue period. They went 2-9 in their final 11 which finally dislodged Marvin Lewis from their sideline. He’s been replaced by junior executive-looking Zac Taylor. With perpetually OK quarterback Andy Dalton pushing 32 and A.J. Green entering the last year of his deal, last year’s 6-10 season may be a year the Bengals look back fondly on. If you choose to go, you should be able to find tickets easily.
Week 16 vs. Bills
Saturday, Dec. 21 or Sunday, Dec. 22
Just based on last season’s results (which are not a guarantee of this season’s results) the Patriots will be in a good spot if they need to make up ground in the AFC because the Bengals, Bills and their Week 17 opponent, Miami (in the cold) don’t figure to be threatening the playoffs at this juncture. You never know! You never, ever know. But chances are good since the Bills haven’t won a playoff game this century.
Week 17 vs. Dolphins
Sunday, Dec 29 — 1 p.m.
Will there be anything at all on the line? How bad will the Dolphins’ record be? How much will it suck for them to be on the road, in the cold with (likely) nothing to play for a few days after Christmas? Most importantly … SHOULD THE PATRIOTS SIT THEIR STARTERS!!!! WHY IS BRADY IN THERE!!!