Breaking Down the New England Patriots' 2014 Regular-Season Schedule
The new league year has come. The NFL free-agency frenzy has passed. The NFL draft is on its way shortly. Now, it is time to delve into the NFL schedules.
The New England Patriots' schedule features five prime-time games. It brings on rivalries, rematches and a different story every week.
The Pats will open the 2014 season in Miami & play 4 of their first 6 games on the road.— New England Patriots (@Patriots) April 24, 2014
New England's opponents in the 2014 NFL season won a combined 51.57 percent of their games in 2013, giving the Patriots the 10th-most difficult schedule in the NFL, according to ESPN.
The Patriots will be a different team in 2014. They have added guys such as Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Brandon LaFell, while losing the likes of Aqib Talib, Brandon Spikes and LeGarrette Blount.
During each game this season the Patriots will be faced with a new challenge. Here is a breakdown of what to look forward to each week.
Week 1: September 7, 1 p.m. at Miami Dolphins
Week 1 is here, and the New England Patriots start off their season with a divisional opponent.
The Miami Dolphins are coming into the season with hopes that the big money they spent in 2013 becomes more worth it:
The Miami #Dolphins have spent an est. $248.06M in new contracts since February (Re-Signing, FA, Draft); $116.8M of which is guaranteed.— Spotrac (@spotrac) June 5, 2013
The team spent all of that money and traded away its No. 12 pick and No. 42 picks in the 2013 draft to move up to third overall and select defensive end Dion Jordan. The same Dion Jordan who played 318 snaps all season. Compare that to Buffalo Bills rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso, who played on 1,117 snaps last year. This is the same Kiko Alonso who was drafted No. 46 overall.
That means the Dolphins could have avoided making a trade, taken another player at No. 12 and still would been able to draft Alonso at No. 42.
The Dolphins will certainly be hoping to rebound from what was a year of many lows, and that could start Week 1 in their home opener against the Patriots. But if the Dolphins plan to beat the Pats with expensive wide receiver Mike Wallace, they may want to look elsewhere with Darrelle Revis matched against him.
This should be a great start to the new season.
Week 2: September 14, 1 p.m. at Minnesota Vikings
Week 2 is here, and the Patriots are facing the most dangerous running back in the National Football League in Adrian Peterson.
This will be a week for veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork to prove that he was worth re-signing in the offseason. Before Wilfork went down with a season-ending Achilles injury, the Patriots held their opponents' leading rusher to less than 60 yards per game. After Wilfork’s injury, opponents' leading rushers averaged 84.6 yards per game. Now against Peterson, we will see if Wilfork’s presence can still hold the same weight.
The Minnesota Vikings were a 10-win team in 2012, but they regressed to only five wins in 2013 and will be looking to get back on the right track.
Week 3: September 21, 1 p.m. vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 3 is going to be a big one because it is the Patriots' home opener. The Oakland Raiders are the opponent, but do not expect the Patriots to just come in and walk all over these Raiders.
This is a very different Oakland team than the 4-12 team we saw a season ago. The Raiders went out and signed veteran quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, defensive linemen Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith and cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers.
The Patriots will have their hands full, and fans should be in for a good game in the first matchup of the year inside of Gillette Stadium.
Week 4: September 29, 8:30 p.m. at Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs face the Patriots in Week 4 Monday night and will be the Patriots' first of five scheduled prime-time games.
The Chiefs are also the first team the Patriots will face that finished last season with a winning record. Kansas City went 11-5 in 2013 and will look to make even further progress this year.
The Patriots run defense will be tested early and often this season as it tries to slow down one of the fastest running backs in the NFL, Jamaal Charles. Not only did Charles finish third in the NFL in rushing yards, he also had the most receiving yards of all running backs and more receiving yards than any actual wide receiver on his team.
Week 5: October 5, 8:30 p.m. vs. Cincinnati Bengals
For the second consecutive week, the Patriots face a 2013 AFC playoff team. The Cincinnati Bengals are another 11-5 team as well. On top of the challenge in the AFC matchup, the game is New England’s second straight game in prime time.
The Bengals are a team on the brink of being something great, but it seems like every time they are ready to make the next step, quarterback Andy Dalton takes a step back. Dalton has started at quarterback for the Bengals in three consecutive postseasons. He has yet to come away with a win. In three playoff games, he's thrown one touchdown, six interceptions and had three fumbles.
If Dalton can find himself as a player, the sky is the limit for the Bengals. If he cannot, they may be looking for a new quarterback soon. It is even possible that the Bengals have a different quarterback by the time they face the Patriots.
Week 6: October 12, 1 p.m. at Buffalo Bills
This is a game to highlight on the schedule, folks. Not only are the Patriots facing a division rival in the Bills, but there is some bad blood.
Twitter is a dangerous tool for athletes because every word is recorded and read by everyone. Former Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes recently took to Twitter to share how happy he is to be out of New England and more:
I am sure a few of his old teammates will have a few words for him. He won’t see it on Twitter, though, he will hear it on the field.
Week 7: October 16, 8:25 p.m. vs. New York Jets
The New York Jets have been the Patriots' biggest AFC East rival in recent years, and their first meeting of 2014 will be in prime-time on a Thursday night.
This year, the rivalry will grow to new heights, as the Jets come to Revis Island in New England. One of the best players ever in the Jets franchise now plays for the Patriots, and the tables are turned. The Jets went out and signed former Denver Broncos receiver Eric Decker, though, so Revis will have a good opponent to face.
On top of that, this is a season where no one is sure who the Jets quarterback will be. They have sophomore QB Geno Smith, but they also brought in dynamic veteran Michael Vick to compete.
With all of the storylines in this rivalry, it is sure to be a fun prime-time game.
Week 8: October 26, 1 p.m. vs. Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears were one game away from making the playoffs last season, so they will be looking to take that next step this year.
The team made two big moves when it signed two top defensive ends in Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen.
This means that Week 8 will fall largely on the offensive line's shoulders. Offensive tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer will have their hands full but should be able to handle it.
Week 9 November 2, 4:25 p.m. vs. Denver Broncos
Both teams will be looking to make a statement in this game. The Patriots won this matchup a year ago in the regular season, but the Broncos took the AFC title without much trouble.
Both teams are very different this time around, however. The Patriots have a rebuilt secondary, while the Broncos have a new secondary as well as the addition of Demarcus Ware to come off of the edge. The Broncos have a big addition but also have a big subtraction after losing Decker. The teams seem to balance out a bit better this year on paper.
Following this game, Week 10 is the Patriots' bye week.
Week 11: November 16, 8:30 p.m. at Indianapolis Colts
This is the Patriots' 10th game of the season, and it will be their fourth game against a 2013 AFC playoff team and their fourth game in prime time. This time, the game is against the Indianapolis Colts.
Patriots vs. Colts is a big rivalry, and it still has some fuel to it despite Peyton Manning’s departure from Indy. This story is Andrew Luck vs. Tom Brady, old school vs. new school.
The old school taught the new one a thing or two last season in the playoffs when Brady defeated Luck 43-22 in the AFC divisional round. OK, so I am exaggerating the whole QB vs. QB thing here. If anything, it was more like LeGarrette Blount beat the Colts with his four rushing touchdowns.
Luckily for the Colts, Blount has moved on to a new team and Indianapolis picked up a big-name receiver in Hakeem Nicks during free agency. This should be a much closer contest than the previous meeting.
Week 12: November 23, 1 p.m. vs. Detroit Lions
Darrelle Revis vs. Calvin Johnson. What more is there to say about this week? Megatron is taking a vacation on Revis Island.
Week 13: November 30, 4:25 p.m. at Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers went through a tough middle and end to the season last year when quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone. There was hope in many that the Packers had another championship team in them last year, but the injury really derailed things.
With Rodgers back and healthy, I am sure that the team has similar aspirations. It will be tough for the Packers to be the same because two of their biggest receiving weapons, James Jones and Jermichael Finley, have moved on. The team still has Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and breakout running back Eddie Lacy, though, so the Patriots certainly cannot let up on Green Bay for one moment.
Week 14: December 7, 8:30 p.m. at San Diego Chargers
This is the fifth and final prime-time game for the Patriots, and it is against the fifth and final 2013 AFC playoff team that New England has yet to face.
The San Diego Chargers, as it was for every AFC team, did not make it as far as they would have liked last year. Quarterback Phillip Rivers had a phenomenal season, however, and showed that he can be the type of QB that will lead a team to a championship with the right pieces around him.
The Chargers have a breakout star in receiver Keenan Allen, but the Patriots' new coverage team should still be able to hold up well late in the season.
Final Stretch: Dolphins, Jets, Bills
Week 15: December 14, 1 p.m. vs. Miami Dolphins
The Patriots end the 2014 season on a streak of three divisional rematches. In Week 14, the team faces off once again against the Dolphins.
Week 16: December 21, 1 p.m. at New York Jets
This time, Revis goes back to New York, bringing Revis Island back where it originated.
Week 17: December 28, 1 p.m. vs. Buffalo Bills
The Patriots' last game of the 2014 NFL season is in New England against the Bills.
In the two teams' first matchup against each other, the Patriots will be doing the talking back to Spikes. In Week 17, however, it will be the New England's fans applying the pressure. This game could ultimately decide who goes to the playoffs and who stays home. Regardless of the records going in, this game will be centered around Spikes.