Patriots Season Schedule Breakdown: Jets, Chargers and Eagles Stand in Their Way
With the first week of preseason in the bag, we can finally really give that sigh of relief that football is back for 10 years straight. So in honor of that and my beloved Pats, I thought it would be an appropriate time to take a look at the Patriots' 2011 schedule.
I also want to note that this season I will be bringing “The Point After” series to the Bleacher Report, so continue to check in here every Monday for reviews of that week's football—where teams have been, where they are and where they’re going!
Week 1: Patriots @ Dolphins
You probably don't need to be told that the Dolphins have struggled the last few seasons. They've seen some glimmers of hope only to find themselves dashed against the rocks wooed by sirens. I'm afraid to say that the Fins are in for another challenging season.
There still seems to be chaos amongst the ranks, and even the fans aren't pleased with who their starting QB will be. If the 12th man doesn't show up to play, the other 11 really can't make up for it. In my opinion the Patriots walk away with a season opener "W."
Week 2: Patriots vs Chargers
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If history is anything to go by, then we know that the Chargers have historically been a challenge for the Patriots. Philip Rivers is back under center, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that he’s hungry this season.
Last year, by the numbers, he was the best arm in the league. The real question that will be on everyone's mind this season is whether Bill Belichick has improved the pass rush. Rattle Rivers and rattle the Chargers. Let him throw and it's lights out of the Pats.
I’m not going to hand this “W” over to the Pats just yet, as it might be their first loss and as every New England fan knows, we play weaker earlier on in the season.
Week 3: Patriots @ Bills
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This game might surprise you. In 2009 I was in Foxboro watching the opening game against the Bills and Brady's return from injury. The Bills dictated the game all the way until the two-minute drill when Tom showed us just why he's a six-time Pro-Bowl selection.
The Bills might be at the bottom of the pile when it comes to the numbers, but like wise players we rarely take them lightly. Provided the Patriots don't play this one easy, they come away with the "W."
Week 4: Patriots @ Raiders
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As honest Abe said, I can't tell a lie—I hate the Raiders. I also think that in recent years they've become the sideshow of teams in the league. One day they show up and destroy the competition. The next day Al Davis would be better off recruiting from the cub scouts.
A few other fun Raider facts? Sure. In 2010, they were the first team in NFL history to go undefeated in their own division and not make the playoffs. As Hue Jackson takes the reins from Tom Cable that makes him the fifth head coach for the team in seven years. And lastly I am still almost a 100 percent sure Al Davis is a super-villian. Seriously.
All that said I don't see the Raiders having enough weapons to overcome the Patriots' high-scoring offense. Mark another win for the Pats.
Week 5: Patriots vs Jets
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Obviously you don't need me to tell you about this rivalry. Despite the fact that the weight of the entire season isn't riding on this game, it very well may feel that way. Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick will pit wits again and face off in Foxboro for the first of these two matchups.
Now I'm sticking in the camp I've always been in and I'm saying it again—Mark Sanchez is overrated. That being said, the Jets will pose the biggest threat to the Patriots this season. I’m going to take a gamble here and say that Shawn Ellis comes up big for the Patriots here, making the Jets regret losing him, just as they felt with Danny Woodhead. After a very hard fought game, I see the Patriots coming away with a win.
Week 6: Patriots vs Cowboys
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This is a hard game to call. The Cowboys were a complete disaster last year. However after the exit of Wade Phillips, Jason Garrett coached the team to a 6-10 record. Not too bad seeing they started 1-7. Tony Romo is coming back to the gridiron, but the question will he show up with the same power he had before?
I can't answer that one, only to say if I had to guess, I'd say yes. I’m going to stack this game in the wild card slot and say that if the Cowboys indeed show real promise earlier in the season they may very well come into Foxboro with something to prove. Having said that, I’m going to throw my two cents in and call this a win for the Pats.
Week 7: Bye
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It's the Patriots bye week and I thought I'd look at those two new controversial rules put into effect this season.
Kick off: Why do we keep trying to fix things that aren't broken? Kick returns were an important part of the game, they were an exciting part of the game, and for many teams they could make the difference between a win and a loss. Now with the kick off moved to the 35-yard line, you see a lot of touch-backs... a whole lot. I don't see this rule lasting all that long. Just long enough to mess with a couple of seasons.
Scoring Review: I love football. I wait all year until that very first game, almost frothing at the mouth. However, even I have to say that the game can be painfully slow at times. Do we really need to throw in another thing to add to the stoppage of play?
In addition to that why do we need to help the coaches conserve their challenges? Isn't that part of being a coach? Knowing when to throw the challenge flag and when to keep it in your sock? If there's anyone out there who shouldn't need the officials help it's the coaches. They're paid to know what to do and when to do it!
Week 8: Patriots @ Steelers
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They hold the most Super Bowl championships, and they were a stone's throw away from hoisting another trophy last year. I can't really call it a prediction, because most would say it's obvious, but anyone who takes the Steelers lightly this season won't be making it through unharmed.
However, the Patriots will be coming off their bye, and I think they'll be rested and ready to take on the beginning of the toughest part of their schedule. I think it will be a close game, but they'll come out on top, possibly with a trademark Tom Brady two-minute drill.
Week 9: Patriots vs Giants
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Steve Smith and Kevin Boss are out for the Giants. Umenyiora finally backed down and is staying on the ship, but we'll see if his performance is impacted. Though through it all GM Jerry Reese insists that the Giants will make the playoffs.
Well if you’ve read any of my other works, you’ll know I’m not a believer in Little Payton Manning (Eli) and with the ship seemingly off course I’m going to call this a win for the Patriots in a game that is surprisingly easy on a cold winter day in Foxboro.
Week 10: Patriots @ Jets
The Jets will be coming into this game looking for revenge for an earlier season loss. I still feel the emperor has no clothes when it comes to the Jets, but I think they come to this game seeking blood and they might just find it in this game. I think Brady has a bad day and Sanchez gets lucky. The Jets hand the Pats their first real loss of the season in this game.
Week 11: Patriots vs Chiefs
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This might not be the rivalry that the Jets or the Colts have with the Patriots, but believe it or not it’s a game I’m looking forward to. The Chiefs have shown that sooner or later they’ll be demanding respect and this season just might very well be that season.
By this time in 2011 we'll already know whether the new rookies for the Chiefs are working out or not, and if they are, I'm going to say that the Chiefs are proving to be the dominating force in the AFC West. Yes, even over the Chargers.
Regardless, I have to image there is some sport to Tom Brady going up against old backup Matt Cassel. Secretly I'm sure they both get a kick out of it.
Week 12: Patriots @ Eagles
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The Eagles have really put themselves on a path to the Super Bowl, though I’m not going to run with this whole “dream team” deal. Michael Vick is very, very impressive to watch play. They've stocked up on true all-stars and they very well might be THE team to beat in the NFC.
I see New England having trouble with this game. Brady and Co. are really going to have to show up to win this one. This very well may not be a match that the Pats can come away with unscathed.
Week 13: Patriots vs Colts
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If you call yourself a football fan and you’re not looking forward to this game, you must be a European football fan. Every year I look forward to watching the two best quarterbacks in the game go head to head.
The Colts have been and will continue to be a forced to be reckoned with regardless of injury or other drama. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will line up and, like so many wonderful games in the past between these two, the game will come down to the two-minute warning.
I’m not going to call this game outright, only to say that I’m a Patriots fan so you know who I think will be winning.
Week 14: Patriots @ Redskins
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If I'm going to ignore all the talk of Albert Haynesworth being cut, then I would say that if he shows up and plays like we all know he can, then he hits big. If that's the case, the Redskins are going to regret trading him to the Patriots. Obviously that's a huge assumption.
I personally don't believe they'll cut Haynesworth just to prove a point to the rest of the locker room (Belichick already did that with Moss and a host of other players). However I'm just not sure how much gas is left in the tank for him.
Of course even if Haynesworth proves to be the same disaster I just don’t see the already discombobulated Redskins finding enough power to overcome the force that the Patriots have made themselves. Tom Brady shows up and he shows up in force and buries the Redskins in Washington.
Week 15: Patriots @ Broncos
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The Broncos might have a great man under center with Kyle Orton, but they simply are still putting together the rest of their team. As a close friend said, whether it’s Orton or Tebow or that guy from Radioshack, they need to lock down a franchise quarterback and put the weight of their faith behind him.
The 12th man is tired of watching QBs rotate in and out since the days of Elway. Without having this, the team is still stuck in a mental limbo that will be reflected on the field. I see the Patriots marching into Denver and leaving the Broncos buckled at the knees.
Week 16: Patriots vs Dolphins
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I don’t see this game being much different from the season opener except to say that it will be in Foxboro in the winter, both of which are a significant advantage to the Pats. I see this as another loss for the Fins and another “W” for the Pats.
Week 17: Patriots vs Bills
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There is only one way that this game could be a great game and that’s if the Patriots somehow find themselves on the bubble this season. If that’s the case then the Bills would actually be one of the last teams I’d like to play. I just don’t see that being the case though.
The Bills play a tough game here, a tougher game than the Patriots play. They hand New England their final loss of the season, but at the half all the starters are already pulled to save them for the playoffs.
When All Is Said and Done
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So after that’s all said and done, I’m calling a 13-3 record for this season. (In truth I’m thinking more like 14-2). Either way though I know we’re all thrilled to have football back.
I have to toss a shout out to my Patriots buddy who called another undefeated season with the acquisition of No. 85. I'd love to think that's the case but I'm sticking with my 14-2.
To every team good luck! And remember to read my “The Point After” series every Monday of every week to know where teams stand and their prospects as the season continues!