New England Patriots 2012 NFL Schedule: Game-by-Game Analysis with Predictions

Aaron DodgeAnalyst IApril 18, 2012

New England Patriots 2012 NFL Schedule: Game-by-Game Analysis with Predictions

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    Viewing the New England Patriots 2012 opponents through the lens of their 2011 success is a mistake. Parity knows no bounds within the NFL and wins are earned on a game-to-game basis; it matters not what happened last year, or even last week.

    With that said, there's still some room for careful analysis and sound predictions.

    Overall, New England's defense will not be up against a lot of elite quarterback play in 2012. Peyton Manning, whose health and long-term outlook in Denver remain a huge question mark, is arguably one of only three top-tier passers this team will face. Along with Joe Flacco of the Ravens and Matt Schaub of the Texans, the Patriots only play one other 2011 playoff team: the San Francisco 49ers.

    New England takes on three of those four playoff teams at home this season, making for a laughable road schedule. Even with Baltimore's 12 wins figured in, the Patriots' road opponents averaged fewer than seven wins in 2011.

    But let's get into the nitty gritty specifics. 

Week 1 at Tennessee Titans

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    2011 Record: 9-7

    Weapons: Kenny Britt, Chris Johnson

    Additions: Steve Hutchinson, Kamerion Wimbley

    Losses: Barrett Ruud, Cortland Finnegan
     
    Game Factoid: Wimbley, upon signing his five-year, $35 million deal with Tennessee, stated that the Patriots were among his final suitors. Obviously he chose greener pastures, though; there was no way New England was going to fork out that much for the 28-year-old.

    Prediction: This one won't go quite as badly for the Titans as the 2009 matchup did. The Patriots nearly scored 60 points that day and did so while playing in blizzard-like conditions.

    Tennessee has a solid core, but has lacked consistency at key positions over the last few years, which has held them back. The potential is there, but the development may not yet be enough. This team is close to joining the upper echelon of the league, but isn't there yet.

    Patriots by 7.

Week 2 Versus Arizona Cardinals

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    2011 Record: 8-8

    Weapons: Larry Fitzgerald, Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams

    Additions: William Gay, James Sanders, Adam Snyder

    Losses: Richard Marshall, Joey Porter
     
    Game Factoid: The last time the Cardinals beat the New England Patriots, they were known as the Phoenix Cardinals. That was back in 1991, and since then the Patriots have gone on to win five straight, the most recent coming in 2004 and 2008.

    Prediction: With the quarterback carousel that is the Cardinals depth chart, this team stands no chance of ending their losing streak, at least not this year.

    Patriots by at least two scores.

Week 3 at Baltimore Ravens

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    2011 Record: 12-4

    Weapons: Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson

    Additions: Corey Graham, Sean Considine

    Losses: Ricky Williams, Lee Evans, Jarret Johnson, Tom Zbikowski, Ben Grubbs
     
    Game Factoid: A surprisingly little-known fact: The Ravens franchise is just 1-7 against the Patriots since first playing in 1996.

    Rice did indeed run wild in the 2010 playoff game that eliminated New England from championship contention, but that's their one and only victory. The Pats absolutely have this team's number. 

    Prediction: The Ravens haven't made a whole lot of changes this offseason with regards to personnel and why would they? As one of the more sound and stable teams in the league, shaking things up just wouldn't make much sense.

    There are still some pieces missing in this equation, however. Anquan Boldin's skills are diminishing—quickly. Smith fills the speedster role flawlessly, but Joe Flacco needs more help. The team simply doesn't have the cap space to seek that help, though.

    Baltimore is in a very uncomfortable financial situation after signing Lardarius Webb long-term and they still have to address Flacco and Rice's contracts.

    I like New England in this seemingly annual matchup.

Week 4 at Buffalo Bills

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    2011 Record: 6-10

    Weapons: Stevie Johnson, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson

    Additions: Mario Williams, Mark Anderson

    Losses: Demetress Bell
     
    Game Factoid: Buffalo placed 17 of its players on the injured reserve in 2011; the hot start they experienced was no match for the deadly injury bug. The Bills limped to the finish line, going 1-8 over their final nine games.

    Prediction: This isn't the same Buffalo team as it was last year, as the defensive linemen have a lot more zeros in their paychecks this year. The Bills' coaching staff, which seems oddly stable, will also have another year to strengthen the system they're implementing. 

    I think Buffalo has a decent shot to improve upon their 2011 record and one of their six wins was against the Patriots last season. Still, it's hard to pick them over New England.

    Since this game is in Buffalo and for the sake of accounting for the Bills improvements, I'll give them an early-season win over the Patriots here, much like last season.

Week 5 Versus Denver Broncos

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    2011 Record: 8-8

    Weapons: Willis McGahee, Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas

    Additions: Peyton Manning, Jacob Tamme, Brandon Stokley, Tracy Porter

    Losses: Eddie Royal, Brodrick Bunkley
     
    Game Factoid: It was the Jake Plummer-led Broncos that ended the 2005 season for the Patriots, and now Manning, who ended the Patriots season in 2006, is joining the ranks of the evil empire in Denver. How fitting.

    Prediction: I really don't think it's fair to predict how Manning will do next season; it'd be completely speculative at this stage. He's going to need time to get ramped up in order to compete at the NFL level for 20-some-odd weeks.

    Barring another health setback, he's going to be a threat this season to the Patriots, both in this game and possibly down the road in the playoffs. I'm giving the edge to New England due to their offseason spending spree, but I'm glad Manning wasn't around in 2011 to test the Patriots secondary.

Week 6 at Seattle Seahawks

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    2011 Record: 7-9

    Weapons: Marshawn Lynch, Sidney Rice, Zach Miller

    Additions: Jason Jones, Matt Flynn

    Losses: Robert Gallery, John Carlson, David Hawthorne
     
    Game Factoid: The current head coach of the Seahawks, Pete Carroll, manned the same position for the Patriots back in 1999 prior to his mega-successful stint with the USC Trojans.

    It was Carroll who drafted Kevin Faulk 46th overall that year in 1999.

    Prediction: I'm one of the few ready to jump on the Seattle bandwagon in terms of predicting success. I liked what I saw out of the core of that roster last season and it seems like improving that core has been a major priority.

    The addition of Flynn ought to be a game changer. If the Seahawks could manage a nearly .500 season with Tarvaris Jackson under center, imagine the potential with a stud passer.

    Still, I'm only predicting improvement in overall stats and maybe two or three more wins, but I can't see one of them coming against New England.

Week 7 Versus New York Jets

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    2011 Record: 8-8

    Weapons: Shonn Greene

    Additions: Tim Tebow, LaRon Landry

    Losses: Plaxico Burress, Jim Leonhard, LaDainian Tomlinson
     
    Game Factoid: The Patriots new/old offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, was the one solely responsible for Tebowmania in Denver. If the Jets seriously plan on utilizing him on a 20-snap-per-game basis, it should help to have McDaniels back in the fold for game-planning purposes.

    Prediction: The New York Jets were probably better than their 8-8 record last season based on talent alone. Take locker room mentality and maturity into account and it begins to explain how such a high-potential team could fall so hard and so short of their goals.

    It doesn't appear, at least from this perspective, that the Jets have done anything but sweep their problems under the rug. I expect another rough go for New York in 2012, and that's going to include dropping this one to the Patriots.

Week 8 at St. Louis Rams

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    2011 Record: 2-14

    Weapons: Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson, No. 6 overall pick 

    Additions: Kendall Langford, Steve Smith, Cortland Finnegan 

    Losses: Gregg Williams, Brandon Lloyd 

    Game Factoid: The Wes Welker philosophy will be in full effect with this matchup. Brandon Lloyd was signed away from St. Louis after posting nearly 700 yards and five touchdowns on 51 receptions in just 11 games. Assuming he's healthy, Lloyd will be a featured offensive asset of the Patriots offense. 

    He had nearly 14 yards a catch in 2011 and has a 15.4 career average. Lloyd got that average up to an insane 18.8 yards per catch and did it on 77 receptions back in 2009. That was under Josh McDaniels, so it's encouraging to know he's already had career years in a very similar offensive system. 

    Prediction: New England will steamroll St. Louis. This may be a rebuilding franchise, but there hasn't been nearly enough time for that roster to develop enough to take on and beat the Patriots.

    Bradford is a high-ceiling quarterback, but that's hardly the the only position of importance. Pitting one of the highest-rated offenses against one of the lowest-rated defenses ought to end up in a blowout. 

Week 10 Versus Buffalo Bills

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    2011 Record: 6-10

    Weapons: Stevie Johnson, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson

    Additions: Mario Williams, Mark Anderson

    Losses: Demetress Bell
     
    Game Factoid: Prior to their victory over the Patriots in their first contest of the 2011 season, the Bills had dropped 15 straight games to New England. 

    Prediction: I threw Buffalo a bone in the their first matchup with the New England, but they won't be so fortunate in Week 9. The Patriots ought to be in midseason form by now and the Bills likely won't be able to keep pace with the Tom Brady-led scoring offense.

Week 11 Versus Idianapolis Colts

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    2011 Record: 2-14

    Weapons: Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Donald Brown

    Additions: Cory Redding, Tom Zbikowski, Donnie Avery, Mike McGlynn, Samson Satele

    Losses: Pierre Garcon, Dallas Clark, Jacob Tamme, Joseph Addai, Peyton Manning, Gary Brackett, Melvin Bullitt, Jacob Lacey, Jeff Saturday, Phillip Wheeler, Anthony Gonzalez
     
    Game Factoid: The Patriots have won three out their last five games against the Colts, but their record drops to three out of eight when going back a bit further.

    Prediction: The Colts may not be as bad as their 2011 record of 2-14 indicates, but they also won't be nearly as good as they were pre-Manning's injury and release.

    It's going to take time to install a completely new offensive system and play-caller, not to mention a rookie play-caller. Gutting the entire veteran core of the team also generates a ton more question marks than it answers.

    The bad blood between these two franchises may have to wait a year or two before any competitive games take place. New England by 13.

Week 12 at New York Jets

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    2011 Record: 8-8

    Weapons: Shonn Greene

    Additions: Tim Tebow, LaRon Landry

    Losses: Plaxico Burress, Jim Leonhard, LaDainian Tomlinson
     
    Game Factoid: The Patriots and Jets find themselves in a near tie when considering overall head-to-head record. The two teams have met 106 times with New England barely edging New York 53-52-1.

    Prediction: It's possible the Jets return to their successful ground-and-pound attitude that go them into the league's top tier. What's also possible, if not likely, is a continuing development of the Patriots run defense.

    If New York wants to go to the power game, New England will have the ability to respond with a proper defensive alignment. Versatility is something the 2012 Patriots defense may very well become known for—stopping the Jets running game here could go along way towards accomplishing that.

Week 13 at Miami Dolphins

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    2011 Record: 6-10

    Weapons: Reggie Bush

    Additions: David Garrard, Gary Guyton, Richard Marshall

    Losses: Chad Henne, Brandon Marshall, Yeremiah Bell
     
    Game Factoid: The Dolphins and Patriots have played nearly 100 times, with Miami winning 50 and New England winning 43.

    Prediction: Miami has too many holes and apparently not enough credibility to do what it needs to do. 2012 will be an epic struggle for this franchise as they they attempt to short out their quarterback situation.

    Who knows—maybe they're planning to pull an Indianapolis. Doesn't matter either way; they're aren't beating New England next season.

Week 14 Versus Houston Texans

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    2011 Record: 10-6

    Weapons: Arian Foster, Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson,

    Additions: Bradie James, Donnie Jones

    Losses: Mario Williams, Lawrence Vickers, Neil Rackers (FA)
     
    Game Factoid: Foster's main backup in Texas is Ben Tate, a youngster who has been in the deep recesses of the minds of many fantasy football players for little while now.

    Tate broke his ankle in the preseason opener of his rookie season, but came back in 2011 to post 942 yards on 175 carries—impressive production considering the depth chart. Houston aggressively moved up the draft board in 2010 to nab Tate, and as you guessed it, they traded with New England to do so.

    Prediction: The Patriots kept their starters in despite the game having no real meaning back in 2010. Not only did that result in the loss of Wes Welker, but the starters didn't even perform that well. 

    The Texans handed New England a 34-27 loss, along with a nasty taste in their mouths heading into their playoff game with Baltimore.

    With that said, these two franchises have only played three times, and only once since 2006. Give the Patriots coaching staff and scouting department another shot at cracking the code and I think they win this game.

Week 15 Versus San Francisco 49ers

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    2011 Record: 13-3

    Weapons: Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore

    Additions: Randy Moss, Brandon Jacobs, Josh Johnson, Mario Manningham

    Losses: Josh Morgan, Madieu Williams, Braylon Edwards
     
    Game Factoid: Many know Tom Brady was a Bay Area native and grew up a 49ers fan. Fewer people know that he was actually a part of a historic NFL moment back in 1982, as a four-year-old.

    Brady was in the stands with his father for "The Catch", a game-winning nab by 49ers wideout Dwight Clark.

    Prediction: List the 49ers among the teams who experienced the best offseason so far, if only because San Francisco will be retaining all 11 of its defensive starters and most of its offensive weaponry.

    This game will be one of the more exciting contests to watch and the Patriots may be given a run for their money. The 49ers have a lot of youth, speed, power and continuity in 2012 and those factors could easily combine to make this a New England loss.

    It will help that this is a home game, but that may not be not enough.

Week 16 at Jacksonville Jaguars

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    2011 Record: 5-11

    Weapons: Maurice Jones-Drew

    Additions: Aaron Ross, Laurent Robinson, Lee Evans, Chad Henne

    Losses: Matt Roth (FA)

    Game Factoid: One of New England's lesser-known draft day follies came in 2009 in a deal with the Jaguars

    The Patriots traded their third-round pick (No. 73 overall) to Jacksonville for a 2009 seventh-round pick (No. 232 overall) which turned into Julian Edelman. New England also received a 2010 second-round pick (No. 44 overall) which eventually turned into Rob Gronkowski. 

    But Jacksonville took cornerback Derek Cox with that 2009 third-rounder and haven't looked back since. The 25-year-old has made 33 starts over the last three years, and while limited by injury, he's collected eight interceptions, 21 passes defended and 143 total tackles.

    Considering New England has used six selections on the secondary since 2009, this one was a bit of a swing and miss. 

    Prediction: The Jaguars lost a lot of talent last season to injury, had a rookie under center and dealt with the midseason firing of head coach Jack Del Rio. 

    Still, this is a highly one-dimensional offense with limited upside outside of the running game. Expect to see a heavy dose of Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love and Jonathan Fanene in the middle plugging holes. The Patriots will look to force Jacksonville to pass to see just what Blaine Gabbert has learned over the offseason. 

    This one won't be close. New England by at least 13.

Week 17 Versus Miami Dolphins

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    2011 Record: 6-10

    Weapons: Reggie Bush

    Additions: David Garrard, Gary Guyton, Richard Marshall

    Losses: Chad Henne, Brandon Marshall, Yeremiah Bell
     
    Game Factoid: The Patriots have won four straight against Miami and six out of the last seven.

    Prediction: With nearly no luck in attracting free agents to the South Beach this offseason, the Dolphins find themselves in a load of trouble heading into 2012.

    If Miami thinks ridding themselves of Henne and bringing in Garrard is going to solve any problems, they are sadly mistaken. New England takes two of two.