2013 New England Patriots Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info & Analysis

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IApril 18, 2013

2013 New England Patriots Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info & Analysis

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    It's going to be an interesting season for the New England Patriots.

    That would have been the case simply due to the Wes Welker-Danny Amendola saga that is sure to be chronicled all season long. 

    By the way, though, there are game to be played, and the Patriots' schedule only adds another layer to the story lines we'll hear all season long.

    Now that we know who is playing, where they are playing and when they are playing, we can get a better feel for how the season could play out for New England. Here are my game-by-game predictions for the Patriots 2013 season.

Week 1: At Bills

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    Kickoff time and network: 1:00pm ET, CBS

    This marks two straight seasons for the Patriots opening up on the road. The last time the Patriots started the season on the road in Buffalo was in 2003, a game that ended in a 31-0 loss for the Patriots.

    The Bills did a lot of retooling on their defense in the 2012 offseason, adding defensive end Mark Anderson and Mario Williams. They didn't get a good return on investment with Anderson, but they hope adding defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will help maximize the potential of their defense.

    Williams eventually found his way into some productive games as a pass-rusher after surgery cleared up a wrist problem. If he's at full health, he could go back to being a terror off the edge.

    That being said, the Bills still have significant question marks at linebacker and cornerback. Stephon Gilmore and Manny Lawson figure to be key players, but the jury is out on who starts at the other spots, and even if those players are on the roster, they haven't inspired much confidence.

    The Patriots had their way with the Bills last year, racking up 89 points in two games. They did have some trouble getting stops against the Bills, allowing 59 points of their own in those two games, and needed a last-minute interception from Devin McCourty to ensure a win in the second meeting.

    What really did the Bills in last time was the running game, especially in the first meeting when the Patriots picked up 247 rushing yards and averaged 6.2 YPA. If the Bills have the same problems they had against the run in 2012—over five yards per attempt and over 200 rushing yards in each of their two games against the Patriots—it could be a very long day at the Ralph.

    Prediction: Patriots 24, Bills 12

Week 2: Vs. Jets

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    Kickoff time and network: 8:25pm ET, NFL Network (Thursday Night Football)

    The Patriots start the season with two division opponents and get them within four days of one another. With two wins to start and extra time to rest headed into Week 3, the Patriots could be a leg up on the AFC after just two weeks.

    Despite the idea that the Jets have not fielded a good team over the past few years, they have remained competitive with New England at times. The Jets have lost to the Patriots in New England in four of their five trips to Gillette since 2009, but lost by less than 10 points in each of their past two meetings and took the last one to overtime.

    That being said, there are so many things we still don't know about this game.

    We don't know whether the Jets will have Darrelle Revis or not; although he is currently on the roster, 

    We still don't even know who will be the starting quarterback for the Jets in 2013, but if it's Mark Sanchez, it's hard not to feel good about New England's chances. They are at their best when they can force the opposing offense to make mistakes, and there's not much "forcing" involved when it comes to Sanchez and his league-leading 50 turnovers in the past two seasons. The Patriots have been on the "receiving" end of 10 Jets turnovers in the past four games, although five came in the "Buttfumble" game alone.

    We don't know how the Jets defense will look under a new coordinator and with a lot of turnover from a personnel standpoint. They made a few one-year signings in Antonio Garay, Antwan Barnes and safety Dawan Landry. The Jets won't have to worry about Wes Welker anymore, but they still have to worry about Tom Brady, who has thrown nine touchdowns and one interception against the Jets in the past four meetings. That's the worst of any AFC East team.

    Prediction: Patriots 31, Jets 24

Week 3: Vs. Buccaneers

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    Kickoff time and network: 1:00pm ET, Fox

    As mentioned previously, with a few extra days to prepare for this one, the Patriots should be ready to go against an unfamiliar foe. Luckily, this game is in Foxborough, or else the heat in Tampa might be excruciating for the Patriots.

    The Buccaneers pass defense was among the league's worst last year, giving up just shy of 300 passing yards per game and a 93.5 passer rating to opposing passers.

    They have already added safety Dashon Goldston to the back end alongside Mark Barron. Along with linebackers Lavonte David and Mason Foster, the Buccaneers have a solid group of over-the-middle defenders to help take away Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.

    That being said, they lost their best pass-rusher in Michael Bennett, and their only real threat up front is defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. They also lost cornerback E.J. Biggers to free agency, and are hoping to fix what ails them by trading for Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.

    With a lot of movement on a bad defense, though, the Patriots could feast.

    The Buccaneers offense is predicated on their ability to run the ball with Doug Martin. He is one of the small, speedy, bulky backs like Ray Rice that have given the Patriots problems in the past, but their front seven is built to stop the run, so it will be a showdown for sure. If the Patriots can stem the damage from Martin and force the ball into Josh Freeman's tentative hands, they will come away with the win.

    Prediction: Patriots 41, Buccaneers 14

Week 4: At Falcons

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    Kickoff time and network: 8:30pm ET, NBC (Sunday Night Football)

    The first true test for the Patriots is a big one, and comes just four games into the regular season. In fact, this game could be the Patriots' toughest challenge of the season.

    Steven Jackson is expected to help lift the Falcons offense from its paltry 2013 average of 3.7 rushing YPA, but he had 23 yards on seven carries against the Patriots in 2012, and added two catches for 22 yards. The Patriots excel at defending runners between the tackles with Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love clogging the lanes and run-stopping linebackers like Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower waiting at the next level. 

    The real question is the passing game. This will mark just the second meeting between the Patriots and the Falcons in the Matt Ryan era, and the Falcons didn't have Julio Jones in the last meeting. The Patriots will need their full complement of cornerbacks to cover Jones and Roddy White, and we all know how much trouble the Patriots have had at covering tight ends like Tony Gonzalez over the middle. 

    The Falcons have lost a good deal of firepower on defense this offseason, with names like defensive end John Abraham, cornerback Brent Grimes (out for almost all of 2012 anyway), safety Chris Hope, linebacker Mike Peterson and defensive tackle Vance Walker on their way out.

    For all their inconsistencies against the pass, they were outright deficient against the run, allowing 4.8 YPA and over 110 yards in 10 regular-season games and both postseason games.

    It will come down to which team is able to be more well-rounded, but even with a stretch that allows them to play just two games in a 24-day stretch, the Patriots could find it difficult to pick up one of those rare road-team victories at the Georgia Dome.

    Prediction: Falcons 30, Patriots 27

Week 5: At Bengals

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 1:00pm ET, CBS

    Three of the Patriots first five games are on the road, and two are against opponents the Patriots didn't face in 2012.

    In fact, the Patriots have not yet faced quarterback Andy Dalton at all in his third year in 2013. In fact, they haven't faced the Bengals at all since 2007, and there aren't a lot of familiar faces from that game.

    The secondary will be tested by Dalton's efficiency more than his arm. Dalton went deeper than 20 yards on 12.7 percent of his attempts, but hit his mark on just 32.8 percent of those throws for the fourth-lowest average among NFL starters.

    Dalton was among the least-pressured quarterbacks in the league, though, so the Patriots will have to make sure they get to him and get him out of rhythm. He gets the ball out incredibly quick, with average time-to-throw of 2.64 seconds the seventh-quickest among starters.

    The Patriots offensive line will be put to the test against a Bengals defense that logged 51 sacks in 2012. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins logged 12.5 sacks in an All-Pro season, and was ProFootballFocus' top-ranked interior pass-rusher and ranked second against the run. He typically lines up at left defensive tackle, so right guard Dan Connolly and center Ryan Wendell could have their hands full. 

    Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict can be taken advantage of in coverage over the middle, so the Patriots tight ends could enjoy some success if the offensive line protects for Brady.

    This one could go either way, but with the new-look Patriots offense still getting its act together, the pressure-packed Bengals defense could have the right tools to slow New England down.

    Prediction: Bengals 27, Patriots 24

Week 6: Vs. Saints

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    Kickoff time and network: 4:25pm ET, Fox

    So, within the first six weeks of the season, the Patriots will already have three of their four out-of-conference games out of the way as well as two of their six division games.

    The Saints should improve on their 7-9 record in 2012 with their head coach Sean Payton back at the helm, but make no mistake—this is not the same team that rolled up 38 points on the Patriots on Monday Night Football back in 2009. The offensive line has lost some major pieces in Jermon Bushrod and Carl Nicks over the years, and their defense is no longer as fearsome as it was back then, either.

    Drew Brees is one of the most cerebral quarterbacks in the game, and unless the Patriots find a way to cover tight ends this offseason, Jimmy Graham could be dunking on the crossbar at Gillette Stadium once or twice.

    The Patriots know a thing or two about having a historically bad defense in terms of giving up yards in bunches. The Saints, however, wrote the book on it in 2012 and set a new NFL record for total yards allowed.

    The Saints had no one capable of covering Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski at joint practices in 2012, and if that continues, the Patriots should come away with the victory.

    Prediction: Patriots 30, Saints 20

Week 7: At Jets

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    Kickoff time and network: 1:00pm ET, CBS

    Oddly enough, the Jets have fared worse at MetLife in recent years against the Patriots (outscored 86-35) than they have at Gillette Stadium (outscored 59-47).

    The Jets have gone under so much change, but at this stage of the season, it may have already come together or may have fallen apart. Will they have their ducks in a row at this point? Will they be completely out of the race?

    It comes down to how the whole team responds to their new surroundings and with some new coaches in place, as well. 

    While the Jets have made some costly mistakes against the Patriots recently, the Patriots have put on a clinic of clean football. It's exactly the way the Patriots win most of their games.

    Prediction: Patriots 27, Jets 16

Week 8: Vs. Dolphins

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    Kickoff time and network: 1:00pm ET, CBS

    The Patriots won't get their first look at the Dolphins' new-look offense until the midway mark, but it is about much more than just the offense for the Dolphins.

    The Dolphins think they have finally found a solution to stopping Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski by bringing in linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler to replace Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby. ProFootballFocus' stats indicate that while the new linebackers allowed completions at a higher rate, they also allowed fewer yards per completion. The Dolphins may be in the best shape yet to shut down the Boston TE Party. 

    They have had relative success against Brady in recent years. In fact, they have held him to three touchdowns and two interceptions in the past three games. 

    Will Ryan Tannehill come into his own in his second year as the starting quarterback? That remains the biggest x-factor. The Dolphins went well out of their way to provide Tannehill with as many weapons as possible, sparing no expense in netting the best available wide receiver on the free-agent market.

    The Patriots have the personnel to match up there, but the question is how they will defend tight end Dustin Keller. He earned the nickname "Patriots Killer" with the Jets, and had 12 catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns against them last year.

    That being said, he likely won't beat New England all on his own. 

    Prediction: Patriots 31, Dolphins 21

Week 9: Vs. Steelers

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    Kickoff time and network: 4:25pm ET, CBS

    The Patriots have two straight home games to send them into the bye week, and host the Steelers at home in the regular season for the first time since 2008.

    The Steelers had a down year in 2012, and although they have never missed the playoffs in back-to-back years in the Ben Roethlisberger era, their prospects don't look much better this year.

    They got in a bit of trouble with the salary cap, which has forced them into a bit of a transition phase. They bid farewell to eight starters from 2012 this offseason, losing wide receiver Mike Wallace, cornerback Keenan Lewis, linebacker James Harrison, guard Willie Colon, defensive tackle Casey Hampton, left tackle Max Starks and safety Will Allen.

    Transitions like this can go remarkably well, or they can be bewildering. One particular area to watch is the offensive line. The Steelers have struggled there for years, and they lost two starting linemen this offseason. The Patriots could blitz Roethlisberger heavily as they have in the past.

    Tom Brady has had success against the Steelers defense in the past, but the last time these two teams met, Dick LeBeau came with a remarkably different game plan than the ones Brady had seen in the past, and was able to keep the Patriots offense out of rhythm for most of the day. With a lot of those players gone now, though, the Steelers might not have the ammunition to execute that scheme again.

    Prediction: Patriots 28, Steelers 24

Week 10: Bye Week

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    The Patriots will enter the bye week a cool 7-2, which is good, because their stretch to close out the season includes three playoff teams, including three of the top four seeds in the AFC in 2012, and four-of-seven road games.

Week 11: At Panthers

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    Kickoff time and network: 8:40pm ET, ESPN (Monday Night Football)

    The Panthers are the unfortunate team to face the Patriots following a bye, where Bill Belichick is 10-3 as Patriots head coach in the regular season.

    The Panthers love to run the ball, with 462 attempts ranking 11th in the NFL, and 4.5 YPA ranking ninth. They may not have such success against a Patriots defense that is built to stop the run, holding opponents to 3.9 YPA for the sixth-lowest average in 2012. 

    The Patriots have not yet had to deal with Cam Newton's speed and athleticism, though, and although New England's thumping trio of linebackers would ordinarily provide an advantage in this case, Newton has the size to take on linebackers. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich probably will not rack up a lot of sacks, as their role will most likely be in containment of Newton on the edges.

    That being said, the Panthers do not have the firepower to take advantage of the Patriots secondary. They lost a solid No. 2 option in Louis Murphy, but Brandon LaFell has the combination of size and speed that has given the Patriots problems in the past.

    Carolina's defense was not much better than the league average last year, but they were much improved across the board from 2011. Their defense actually matches up well with the Patriots.

    Linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis could provide a decent solution to covering the two tight ends, and Captain Munnerlyn is proficient enough in the slot to take on Danny Amendola. Luckily for Tom Brady, the Patriots brought back right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, as both he and Nate Solder will have their hands full with Carolina's pass-rushing duo of Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, so at least he'll have time to find his open man.

    The Panthers have what it takes to make life difficult for the Patriots, but the Patriots defense will force Cam Newton to beat them with his arm, and that could pose a problem against a defense that forces as many turnovers as New England.

    Prediction: Patriots 23, Panthers 17

Week 12: Vs. Broncos

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    Kickoff time and network: 8:30pm ET, NBC (Sunday Night Football)

    Of course it's prime time!

    Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning is always sure to entertain, but Wes Welker's return to New England will surely grab the headlines this time around. Will the Patriots allow him to dominate the stat sheet as well? 

    The Broncos had their way with the Patriots the last time around, with New England making a few timely stops to stem the Broncos scoring opportunities, and were held to just seven points until the third quarter. Two quick touchdown drives put the Broncos back in it, but the Patriots made another timely stop with Rob Ninkovich forcing a fumble on Broncos running back Willis McGahee to help seal the win.

    The Broncos sacked Brady four times in that game, but only pressured him on seven of his 35 dropbacks. Brady has had success against Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio in the past, and the Patriots have scored 125 points against the Broncos in their past three meetings. If the Broncos defense is unable to create pressure once again (and they'll be without Elvis Dumervil this time around), the Patriots offense could go off without a hitch once again.

    Prediction: Patriots 34, Broncos 28

Week 13: At Texans

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    Kickoff time and network: 4:25pm ET, CBS

    Back-to-back games against the Broncos and Texans? Ouch.

    With their third meeting in under 12 months, this could quickly become a juicy rivarly. The way the Patriots owned both of these meetings last year, though, it could become a one-sided bloodbath if the Patriots pick up their third straight victory.

    Houston's aggressive style of defense has been considered a strength in Wade Phillips' two-year tenure as defensive coordinator, but Brady ate the blitz alive last year, going 27-of-41 passing (65.9 percent) for 375 yards and six touchdown when the Texans sent more than four defenders after the quarterback last year. 

    That being said, Brady will be without Wes Welker this time around, after the diminutive receiver hauled in 11 catches for 183 yards in the two contests, with eight of those catches coming in the playoffs. Brady will have to go to his tight ends more often, but considering the matchup problems the Texans had with Aaron Hernandez last year, that could be just fine.

    Defensively, the Patriots have the formula to shut down the Texans offense. Aqib Talib gives them an answer to Andre Johnson, their front seven is built perfectly to stop Houston's zone runs and stretch plays, and they were not efficient in turning their drives into points. Unless the Texans find a good deal of firepower, or find some way to slow down the Patriots offense, it could be another long day for the Texans. 

    Prediction: Patriots 30, Texans 20

Week 14: Vs. Browns

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    Kickoff time and network: 1:00pm ET, CBS

    The Browns handed the Patriots a little "trap game" surprise the last time these two teams met back in 2010, but most of that cast of characters is gone now, including the defensive staff of Eric Mangini and Rob Ryan that held the Patriots to a season-low 14 points.

    The Browns do have some talent on defense, especially in the secondary, but their offense has significant question marks.

    Trent Richardson did not rack up big yards on the ground last year, averaging just 3.56 yards per carry and totaling 950 yards. It's not likely he'll get it going against a Patriots front seven that has been very stout against the run, but a solid Browns offensive line could get some push up front at times.

    The real question in Cleveland is whether or not it has found its starting quarterback of the future in Brandon Weeden. His 57.4 completion percentage, 6.5 yards per attempt and 72.6 passer rating were the lowest of any of the rookie starters. Will having Norv Turner as a mentor help him develop? In any case, Turner's track record against New England is spotty at best. The Chargers went 1-4 against the Patriots under Turner, and only once did they score more than 21 points.

    Prediction: Patriots 27, Browns 14

Week 15: At Dolphins

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    Kickoff time and network: 1:00pm ET, CBS

    How have things come together for the Dolphins since the first meeting? Or has the free-agency frenzy already turned into a hunt for Jeff Ireland's job?

    The Patriots like to install their defense over the course of the season, which could pose a problem for Tannehill if he's not prepared for the looks he'll see. The Dolphins scored just 16 points on the Patriots in the first meeting, and followed that up by getting shut out in Week 17.

    As mentioned earlier, however, the Dolphins defense has had relative success against Tom Brady in the past couple years. Will that success continue with a new-look defense? It's hard to tell for sure.

    The Patriots secondary played their best football over the final seven games, a stretch in which they played the Dolphins twice. The front seven had a freakish performance against the Dolphins offensive line, with seven sacks having a heavy influence on the game. The offensive line could be a problem for the Dolphins once again, unless they draft a tackle early.

    The Patriots have always struggled on the road against the Dolphins, and although Tannehill struggled at times against New England's defense, there were some missed opportunities as well. If he is a true pro, he won't make those same mistakes again. 

    Prediction: Dolphins 21, Patriots 20

Week 16: At Baltimore Ravens

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    Kickoff Time and Network: 8:30pm ET, NBC (Sunday Night Football)

    The schedule makers saved a real doozie for the end of the season here. The Patriots and Ravens are basically division rivals at this point. This will be the fourth meeting between these two teams in the past two years. 

    That familiarity may have less of an impact this time around. 

    With so much turnover in the defensive personnel, the Ravens aren't going to have the same ability to spin the dial, mix things up and do things differently as they've had in the past. That's certainly good new for Brady, who hasn't been nearly as effective against the Ravens as he has against other teams, compiling just an 83 passer rating in five regular-season games and a 56.8 passer rating against them in three postseason games.

    Tom Brady will surely be glad not to have to deal with Ed Reed.

    The x-factor, once again, is the Patriots secondary. The Patriots looked good on defense on their first two drives in the AFC Championship Game, but things snowballed after Aqib Talib went down with an injury. If all hands are on deck, and without having to worry about Marquice Cole covering Anquan Boldin, the Patriots defense could fare much better than they did last time.

    Prediction: Patriots 31, Ravens 27

Week 17: Vs. Bills

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    Kickoff time and network: 1:00pm ET, CBS

    Will Tom Brady struggle with Buffalo's defense for the first time in years now that they've brought in a defensive coordinator who has helped make him struggle in the past? Will the improved health of Mario Williams make him a terror too difficult for Sebastian Vollmer to handle on his own? Will Pettine be able to get the most out of Mark Anderson as a pass-rusher? Who is starting at cornerback opposite Stephon Gilmore?

    These are some of the questions from the first matchup that remain this time around, but hopefully by this point, we'll have some answers.

    If Doug Marrone's gang is going to come together in 2013, they will probably have done so by this point. This game could get interesting, but with so many questions about the starting roster at this point, it's tough to make those projections. 

    One thing's for sure: The Patriots will likely have to deal with a much larger dose of Bills running back C.J. Spiller than they had to last season. He had just 23 touches against them in the two games combined, but Marrone's Syracuse team led the Big East in rush attempts in 2012, so he's not afraid to move the ball on the ground. Will that game plan have success against New England's stout run defense? My guess is no. 

    Prediction: Patriots 31, Bills 20