Debating the Toughest Game, Upset Special on New England Patriots' 2012 Schedule
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But make no mistake—there will be some doozies on the schedule, and the Patriots will get the best shot from everyone they face.
Only a few will actually be up to the challenge, but which teams will pose the biggest threat to the Patriots? Which games will be the toughest?
Take it away, my man.
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When the schedules came out, there weren't many dates that I circled on my calendar. The Week 5 date against Denver was one that popped out and could be interesting, and the Jets always make things tough.
But the Week 14 and 15 games against the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers are the ones that stand out for me. Both games are in prime-time, which takes guys out of their typical routines, and the Patriots will be coming off of a short week against the 49ers following a Monday night game against Houston.
Those are two excellent choices, Nick. The 49ers and Texans are two of the early favorites in their conference to make a trip to the Super Bowl.
But then again, so are the Patriots.
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Although the Ravens haven't been triumphant over New England very often (in fact, just once in team history), they also haven't had the luxury of hosting New England at M&T Bank Stadium since a regular season meeting in 2007—another game that came down to one play at the end.
That is definitely a game to watch. Like you said, the Ravens are going to show up wanting to get that sour taste out of their mouth left by Billy Cundiff's missed kick. I don't think I'll forget the look on his face as he sat in the locker room crestfallen, trying to diagnose what went wrong.
Which game will be the toughest on the Patriots schedule?
And no, you can't pick Buffalo. They spent the offseason trying to find ways to stop Tom Brady, so I don't really feel like it will be shocking if they manage to split. They'll simply be realizing their goal, and a lot of people are already calling for that exact scenario to play out.
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Great question, Nick. For me, it's the Seattle Seahawks.
This is an underrated defense that fielded the league's sixth-best pass defense with a 74.8 defensive passer rating. Their pass-rush doesn't strike fear into the hearts of offensive linemen, with defensive end Chris Clemons' 11 sacks accounting for one-third of their sack production as a team (33), but that could change if defensive end Bruce Irvin is as talented as the Seahawks think he is.
They could be especially troublesome if running back Marshawn Lynch is able to turn on the "beast mode"; the Patriots had a hard time tackling last year, missing 115 tackles according to Pro Football Focus, and Lynch ranked fifth in broken tackles in 2011 according to Football Outsiders.
As if you needed a reminder after his Richter Scale touchdown against the Saints in the 2010 playoffs.
Don't forget about the "12th Man," either; with a lot of new pieces on the Patriots offense, and specifically the offensive line, don't be surprised if there are some communication issues and false starts in what is the league's loudest stadium.
One thing's for sure: Losing that game would be a bad way to start a three-week gauntlet that includes a trip halfway around the world, as the Patriots travel to Seattle, then home to face the Jets, then to England to take on the Rams at Wembley Stadium.
Which game has the most upset potential?
You're absolutely right about that stretch. That exhausting stretch on the schedule could make them prime for an upset. Maybe their opponents look soft at first glance, but there are a few hurdles that could trip up the Pats along the way.
Nick, it's always a pleasure talking Patriots with you. We'll have to do it again soon.
Readers can let us know who got it right by voting in the polls and leaving comments below. Be sure to check back every day for more debates around the AFC East.
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