New England Patriots: Looking at Team's 5 Most Pivotal Games in 2013
The Patriots will play five games in prime-time television slots. They will also face the NFC South division—four teams that can all provide solid competition.
This will be an important season for the Patriots as they look to answer the question of how they can overcome the losses of Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Danny Woodhead, along with dealing with an ailing Rob Gronkowski.
If any team can pull it off, it's the one led by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Here, we will take a look at the five most important games for the team this year. Winning all five of these games should put the Patriots back up near the top of the AFC.
Week 1 at Buffalo
The Patriots have won 18 of the last 19 games against Buffalo, so there seemingly isn't much to worry about in the season opener.
However, the Bills are the perfect team for Tom Brady and company to get into a rhythm against in a meaningful game.
The new weapons on offense, such as Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Zach Sudfeld have looked good in the preseason, but this will be their chance to do it when it matters.
Add in the news that was reported today that the Bills will likely start undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel in that game, and it sets up as a great way for the Patriots to open the season.
Against the inexperienced Tuel, the Pats' defense could get off to a great start as well.
Week 8 vs. Miami
Around the midway point of the season, the Patriots will host the Miami Dolphins, a team some expect to be their biggest challengers in the AFC East.
For the Patriots to show that the division still belongs to them, they must make a statement in this game and protect their home field.
In his career against Miami, Brady has thrown 36 touchdown passes and has won his last six starts against them.
Week 12 vs. Denver
In a game that will be played in front of a national television audience on Sunday Night Football, this stacks up as one of the best games of the 2013 season.
Welker caught 672 passes in New England and he would like nothing more than to come into Gillette Stadium and help Denver get a huge win.
Many people thought these two teams would play for the AFC Championship last year and the expectations are high for both teams this year. Late in the season, this game could help determine home field advantage in the playoffs.
Week 13 at Houston
Tom Brady threw three touchdowns, two of which went to the unlikely hero Shane Vereen, as the Patriots knocked Houston out of the playoffs in the divisional round last January.
That game took place in New England and this time, it will be in Houston where the Texans and their fans will no doubt be looking for a measure of revenge.
Houston has only beaten New England once in their franchise history, but they should still have one of the AFC's top teams this season.
This game, which will take place in a hostile environment, will be a good barometer if New England can contend for another Super Bowl.
Week 16 at Baltimore
The last time the Patriots saw Baltimore, the Ravens were celebrating a trip to the Super Bowl after winning the AFC Championship on the Patriot's home field.
These two teams have played in the last two AFC title games and Baltimore arguably should have won them both. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco outplayed Tom Brady in both of those games.
If the Patriots are to make that deep playoff run they are hoping for, they have to show they can get by this team. Though the Patriots lead the all-time series 7-3, Baltimore has won the last two against them and have found a way to give them problems.
The Patriots certainly haven't forgotten the 15-point defeat they were handed by the Ravens in January and getting this road win would be huge for the team.