Patriots Schedule 2017-18: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Entire Season
It might be one of the oldest sports cliches in existence, but the New England Patriots really do seem to take things one game at a time. Not only does the team always seem focused on the opponent at hand, but New England tends to formulate new game plans on a week-to-week basis.
This is why the Patriots consistently produce some of the best regular-season records in the NFL. Last year, that week-to-week plan yielded a Lombardi Trophy (that's why you may have recently noticed some Patriots in the White House).
How do things look for the Patriots as they try to defend their title in 2017? Well, now that the league has finally released the 2017-18 schedules, we can make an educated guess. We'll be doing exactly that here, as we examine each week of New England's upcoming season.
We'll examine the Patriots' opponents and make week-by-week predictions. We'll obviously focus primarily on each opponent, though factors like game location and timing will be considered.
Week 1: Vs. Kansas City Chiefs (TNF)
The Kansas City Chiefs should be one of New England's more difficult home opponents in 2017. The Chiefs won 12 games a year ago, and I firmly believe they will be a playoff team again this season.
There are a couple of reasons why the Chiefs can be a challenge for the Patriots in this game. The first is a defense that allowed just 19.4 points per game (seventh-fewest in the league) last season. The other is the dynamic running game led by Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware.
Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West can form the kind of backfield attack that gave the Patriots fits in the first half of Super Bowl LI. The Atlanta Falcons' problem was that they stopped leaning on their backfield in the second half. I doubt the Chiefs make the same mistake here.
This is the banner game, though. The Patriots will be kicking off the season, raising another title banner and doing it in front of thousands of rowdy fans (and possibly commissioner Roger Goodell).
Ultimately, I don't think even Kansas City's best efforts will be enough to stop the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in this game. There will be too much of a home-field advantage and New England will be too determined to continue riding the momentum of the team's last meaningful win.
Prediction: Patriots win 37-27
Week 2: At New Orleans Saints
Last season, the Saints ranked first in passing offense (317.1 yards per game), first in total offense (426.0 yards per game) and second in scoring offense (29.3 points per game). If this game turns into a shootout, New Orleans won't be outgunned.
The Patriots will also have to deal with a notoriously loud crowd in the Superdome. Even though the Saints' home-field advantage hasn't been what it once was in recent years, this is still a hostile environment that will make its presence felt.
However, the Saints probably don't have enough defensive talent to slow the Patriots when New England is on offense. They fielded the league's second-worst scoring defense last year (28.4 points per game allowed) and were rated 27th in overall defense by Pro Football Focus. The defense should see some improvement this year—especially if New Orleans uses both of its first-round picks on that side of the ball—but ultimately some improvement won't be enough to stop the New England juggernaut.
My guess is that the Saints keep things close for a while, but Brandin Cooks helps break things open against his former team in the second half.
Prediction: Patriots win 41-31
Week 3: Vs. Houston Texans
The Houston Texans managed to give the Patriots some problems early in their divisional-round matchup last season. However, New England was still able to pull away for a 34-16 victory. In the regular season, the Patriots defeated the Texans 27-0 with third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett under center.
While I don't believe this game will be the embarrassment that the last regular-season meeting was, I do think the Patriots cruise to a big win.
Sure, the Texans boast a defense that was rated fifth overall by Pro Football Focus last season. They also don't have a starting-caliber quarterback at the moment and they'll be playing in the meat grinder that is Foxborough.
That lack of a quarterback is going to be a killer. The Texans will address the position at some point—possibly in the draft—but unless their solution is to coax Tony Romo out of the broadcast booth, I don't think they stand a chance here. This is too early in the season for Houston's offense to have jelled, and New England's offense will be in usual form.
Prediction: Patriots win 34-17
Week 4: Vs. Carolina Panthers
If the same Carolina Panthers team we saw in 2016 strolls into Foxborough, it isn't likely to have much of a chance. The running game was inconsistent, quarterback Cam Newton was constantly forced to carry the offense, and the defense—well, it was bad.
The Panthers finished the season rated 29th in pass defense (268.2 yards per game allowed), 21st in total defense (359.8 yards per game allowed) and 26th in scoring defense (25.1 points per game allowed).
Of course, we're not likely to see that team again this season, and much of the 2015 Super Bowl core is still present. The presence of Newton is usually going to give the Panthers at least a chance to win.
If Carolina can add the right pieces in the draft—perhaps a workhorse running back or a shutdown cornerback—this can again be a dangerous team. The Panthers added to their pass rush by bringing back Julius Peppers in free agency. They also brought back cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Mike Adams.
I think a revised Panthers team can give New England a decent fight. However, I don't see them knocking off the Patriots at home. I can see the defense being better, but not significantly enough so to corral the Patriots offense.
Prediction: Patriots win 34-24
Week 5: At Tampa Bay Buccaneers (TNF)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are an improving team, one that just barely missed out on a postseason berth last year. For them, the Patriots present an early-season measuring stick. Yes, New England is going to get everyone's best shot this season, but the Buccaneers will really be looking to prove they've taken the next step.
Unfortunately for Tampa, taking the next step and besting the world champions are two different things. The Buccaneers may indeed be a playoff team in 2017, but they aren't on New England's level yet.
Jameis Winston is still developing as a signal-caller and he remains mistake-prone. The Florida State product has tossed 33 interceptions and lost eight fumbles over the last two seasons. Against a Patriots defense that was rated first in the league by Pro Football Focus last season, that's a recipe for disaster.
The addition of DeSean Jackson will help Tampa's offense be more explosive, but it isn't likely to limit turnovers.
Defensively, the Buccaneers just don't have what it takes to stop New England's assault. There are some underrated pieces on defense and I'd expect the Buccaneers to add more in the draft, but this is still a team that surrendered 367.9 yards per game last season (23rd in the NFL).
Expect some exciting back-and-forth action for a while, but the Patriots should pull away late.
Prediction: Patriots win 33-24
Week 6: At New York Jets
The Patriots have only lost two regular-season games to the New York Jets over the past six seasons. Both came in New Jersey and both came in overtime.
If the Jets can keep this game close, they might be able to pull off the upset—at least they should have a better chance of winning than they will in New England. The Pats' last two road wins against the Jets were by a combined six points.
The problem for the Jets, though, is that the team just has too many question marks to keep things as close this year. Plus, this is New England's first divisional game of the year—they won't take it lightly.
Given the team's lack of a franchise quarterback and lack of offensive playmakers, it feels unlikely that the team will be able to match points with Tom Brady and Co. The only way this game is close is if New York's defense can keep the scoring low.
That Jets defense was rated just 28th overall by Pro Football Focus last season. The Patriots might experience a few road hiccups here, but they should still win fairly comfortably.
Prediction: Patriots win 28-20
Week 7: Vs. Atlanta Falcons (SNF)
The Atlanta Falcons proved they had the talent to go toe-to-toe with the Patriots in Super Bowl LI. Had they not gotten silly with their play-calling late in the game, Atlanta probably would have won.
The Falcons didn't win, though, so they'll be marching into Gillette Stadium looking for revenge. Realistically, I think they have the talent to get the job done.
Atlanta was the only team rated higher offensively than New England by Pro Football Focus last season. If the team can fix some deficiencies on defense, it's going to be a tough out for any opponent. The team already helped to address its run defense by adding free agent Dontari Poe to the defensive line. I fully expect the draft to be defensively driven.
Ultimately, I think the Falcons hype themselves up enough to win this super rematch. I think the Patriots will be in it until the end, but much like in the team's loss to the Seattle Seahawks last season, I think this comeback falls short.
The fact the Falcons will get their revenge in prime time will make it all the sweeter for the Atlanta faithful.
Prediction: Falcons win 34-32
Week 8: Vs. Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers are a better team than their 2016 record of 5-11 would indicate. The defense, which was rated eighth overall by Pro Football Focus, was actually quite good. If the Bolts can find some more consistency on offense—and avoid injuries—they could be in store for a bounce-back season in 2017.
Let's be honest, though. The Chargers are not traveling across the country and knocking off the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. They might have a shot at their new home in Los Angeles, but even that seems unrealistic.
New England is too balanced of a team for L.A. to handle. The Pats were rated first in defense and second in offense by Pro Football Focus. The pieces they've added, like Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore, should ensure they don't take a step back.
The Chargers might put up a valiant fight, but they're outclassed here. The trip will be taxing, and the challenge of trying to play for a new city is going to cast a cloud over every game the Chargers play this year.
The Patriots will be angry after losing their first game of the season, and they'll take their frustrations out on the outmatched Chargers.
Prediction: Patriots win 38-24
Week 9: Bye Week
The NFL hasn't always been kind to the Patriots, but it appears the league did them a bit of a scheduling favor this year. Having the bye in Week 9 perfectly splits New England's season in half. This means the team will have two eight-game stretches with a nice vacation right in the middle.
This also means the Patriots have two full weeks to prepare for the Denver Broncos. They'll probably need the help, as the second half of the season is brutal. The Patriots play five divisional games and three non-divisional playoff teams from 2016.
Week 10: At Denver Broncos (SNF)
The Broncos can provide a tough challenge for the Patriots, especially when playing in Denver. The team fielded an incredible defense last season—one rated third overall by Pro Football Focus. That defense held the New England offense to just 12 points the last time these two teams met.
Denver's problem, though, is uncertainty at the quarterback position. Trevor Siemian played well at times last season, finishing with a passer rating of 84.6. However, he was never able to really threaten opposing defenses in the passing game.
According to new Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, Siemian will compete with second-year quarterback Paxton Lynch for the starting gig.
"It is open, guys, 50-50," Joseph said, per Mike Klis of USA Today. "It's an open competition."
If the Broncos can get improved quarterback play this season, they can win this game. Remember, New England lost to Brock Osweiler and Broken Peyton Manning in the two games against Denver in 2015.
However, I'll stick by the Patriots defense—which was rated first overall by Pro Football Focus and held Denver to two points in last year's game—to come out on top. With two weeks to craft an offensive game plan, I think the Patriots will be able to put up just enough points offensively.
Prediction: Patriots win 17-10
Week 11: At Oakland Raiders (in Mexico City)
The Oakland Raiders may be one of the tougher opponents the Patriots face this year—assuming quarterback Derek Carr has no issues returning from his broken leg. The Raiders have an explosive passing attack and an underrated defense that was rated 16th overall by Pro Football Focus in 2016.
Oakland may be close to adding Marshawn Lynch to the offensive side of the football, and if the team doesn't, a bruising back could be added during the draft.
The Raiders aren't going to be intimidated by the defending Super Bowl champs either.
"Yeah, we look forward to competing against the very best," Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said, via the Patriots' official website.
I actually think the game being played in Mexico City will help the Raiders. The team's pending move to Las Vegas is likely going to affect the home crowds in Oakland. However, the Raiders won't have to deal with any relocation distractions south of the border. The Patriots, meanwhile, are still making a road trip. They'll be doing so after a trying and physical game against Denver.
This will be the second high-altitude game in a row for New England, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Patriots stay west between the two. I'm not sure it will be enough.
I think Carr continues to show he's a special quarterback, while the Raiders steal this one and hand New England one of the team's few losses in 2017.
Prediction: Raiders win 34-30
Week 12: Vs. Miami Dolphins
New England returns home from a brutal two-game road trip to face the rival Miami Dolphins—and there's no better way to settle in than beating up a hated foe.
I believe Miami is going to prove to be a worthy challenger in the AFC East this year, but I don't think the team is yet on the level where they can go into New England and knock off the Patriots. Their best chance of winning the divisional battle will come in Miami.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill should be fully recovered from his broken leg by this point, and the Miami offense should be running on all cylinders. However, the Patriots offense will be as well, and New England simply has too many weapons for the Dolphins defense to handle.
While the Dolphins have some nice defensive pieces, this is still a team that allowed 382.6 yards per game last season (29th in the NFL). A cocky Miami team tries to get into a shootout with New England's offense—which averaged 386.2 yards per game in 2016 (fourth in the NFL)—and gets shredded here.
There is a lesson for Miami to learn here—don't get into a gunfight with Brady.
"I want to go into the games against New England expecting to win—that’s something we need to do," Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry said, per Peter King of TheMMQB.com.
Unfortunately, expecting to win and actually doing it in New England are two completely different things.
Prediction: Patriots win 38-27
Week 13: At Buffalo Bills
The Patriots haven't lost to the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo since 2011, and the last three wins there have been by more than a touchdown. However, this isn't the only reason I think New England will again dominate in Orchard Park.
New head coach Sean McDermott faces the challenge of turning around a Buffalo defense that was rated just 24th by Pro Football Focus last season. Do I think McDermott can turn things around? Absolutely. However, I'm not sure he's going to be able to do it in one season.
Ultimately, I think the Patriots offense will be too much for Buffalo to handle here. I think the defense will be too much for Tyrod Taylor and Co. as well. I think the Bills can play admirably, but the reality is that they are a retooling franchise facing a championship-caliber rival.
The only way I could see Buffalo pulling off the upset is if the team consistently pounds the ball on the ground and plays keep-away with the football. Against a New England run defense that Pro Football Focus rated second in the league last season, I have my doubts the Bills can pull off the feat.
I think Stephon Gilmore makes a couple big plays in his homecoming and the Patriots roll.
Prediction: Patriots win 40-27
Week 14: At Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins can give the Patriots some trouble when playing in Miami. In fact, New England has lost there in three of the last four seasons. While the Patriots are the superior team, the Dolphins have enough talent to possibly pull out another win here.
Tannehill finally seems to be playing up to his potential. He finished last year rated 16th overall among quarterbacks by Pro Football Focus. Unfortunately, he also finished last season with a broken leg.
If the Dolphins are going to beat the Patriots, though, they're likely to do it with breakout running back Jay Ajayi. The Boise State product proved he can take over a game by himself multiple times last season. He twice rushed for 200 yards and produced 1,272 yards rushing on the season.
After failing to win a shootout the first time around, Miami will lean on the ground game here.
If Ajayi can dominate on the ground in this game, the Dolphins can keep Brady and Co. off the field. Keeping the Patriots offense off the field and out of rhythm gives the Dolphins a chance to win. I don't think New England goes perfect in the division this season, so this is my pick for their one AFC East loss.
The Patriots generally thrive in prime time, but I think the Dolphins get away with one here.
Prediction: Dolphins Win 27-24
Week 15: At Pittsburgh Steelers
There are few NFL quarterbacks who can stand toe-to-toe with Tom Brady in a gunfight and give the impression that they might actually win. Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers is one of them.
No matter how well Roethlisberger plays, though, the Patriots are usually the team that comes out on top. New England is 8-2 against Pittsburgh since 2005. Part of the New England's dominance can be attributed to the fact that Brady just seems to know how to dice up Pittsburgh's zone defense.
This fact was evident during New England's 36-17 win in the AFC title game last season.
"Let’s talk about preparation," Ben Volin of the Boston Globe wrote after the game. "The Patriots exploited massive holes in the Steelers' zones, and Pittsburgh never adjusted. The Steelers also had no answer for the Patriots' uptempo attack. Never have we seen so many wide-open receivers running down the field in a playoff game."
This should be a closer game than the AFC Championship Game, especially with this being the third game in a three-week road trip. Pittsburgh should get a bit of a boost from playing at home in this game—and the Steelers should learn at least a few things from their past defensive mistakes. However, I think New England again has their number.
Prediction: Patriots win 32-27
Week 16: Vs. Buffalo Bills
The Patriots were embarrassed at home by Buffalo last season, but that was when Brady was finishing his suspension and the team was relying on a banged-up Jacoby Brissett to lead the offense. This time around, the Patriots should be approaching playoff form and looking for revenge.
New England should be able to get their revenge, too. This late in the season, the team will have flipped the switch to playoff mode and will be looking to create some momentum for the postseason.
With this game coming just three weeks after the first meeting between these two teams, the matchups should be very similar. The Bills will probably again try to pound the ball down New England's proverbial throat, and the Patriots will respond by carving up Buffalo's defense through the air.
If the Bills are vying for a playoff spot, this could be a very interesting game, but I don't think Buffalo's place in the standings will affect the outcome. New England fans will want payback for last year's home loss, and Brady and Co. will give it to them.
Prediction: Patriots win 38-24
Week 17: Vs. New York Jets
There's no telling who will actually be under center for the Jets by Week 17. What is more certain—at leat if last year was any indication—is that New York will be out of the playoff hunt and limping toward the offseason.
New England, on the other hand, will be looking to close out the season strong and create some momentum for the playoffs. The direction of these two franchises at this point in the season lays the foundation for a very ugly game.
The Patriots are too talented, have too much to play for and will have home-field advantage. The exact opposite is basically true for the Jets here.
I don't expect this to be quite as bad as the 41-3 massacre we saw on Christmas Eve last year, but I do expect a blowout. The Jets haven't won in Foxborough since 2011, and that streak continues for at least another year.
Prediction: Patriots win 38-13