2014 New England Patriots Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info & Analysis

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IApril 24, 2014

2014 New England Patriots Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info & Analysis

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    Winslow Townson/Getty Images

    It may seem presumptuous, but the New England Patriots would probably like to fast-forward through the 2014 regular season to what seems like an inevitable rematch in the AFC Championship against the Denver Broncos

    There is a full 16-game season to handle before it gets to that point, though, and the Patriots will need to outperform the Broncos during that time if they want to play host to that game in Foxborough instead of packing their bags and flying across the country and a mile high to Denver.

    Now that the schedule has been released by the NFL, the Patriots have the map to get to the finish line and can prepare for the marathon ahead. Here's a look at the Patriots' entire 2014 schedule, with predictions for each game.

Week 1: At Dolphins

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    Ryan Tannehill (17, above) earned his first victory against the Patriots in 2013.
    Ryan Tannehill (17, above) earned his first victory against the Patriots in 2013.USA TODAY Sports

    Kickoff time and network: 1 p.m. ET, CBS

    The Dolphins' offensive line was their bugaboo in 2013, allowing Ryan Tannehill to be sacked 58 times. New general manager Dennis Hickey has been slowly adding pieces to try to rebuild that group, signing Branden Albert to be the left tackle and Shelley Smith to be the right guard. They still need another guard and a right tackle, but they are well on their way to rebuilding their offensive line.

    They already have invested heavily in their skill position talent after dishing out big contracts to Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline last offseason, but tight end Charles Clay also emerged as a favorite weapon of Tannehill's last season. The Dolphins added running back Knowshon Moreno to help fix their woes in pass protection in the backfield, with Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller both struggling in that area.

    The Patriots were successful in last year's first meeting in part due to their ability to diagnose and attack the Dolphins' weaknesses in pass protection (28 blitzes on Tannehill in 49 drop-backs). If they tee off against that rebuilt group, which could feature two inexperienced starters, before they ever get a chance to get their bearings as a unit, the Patriots can get the road win for their 11th straight Week 1 victory.

    Prediction: Patriots 30, Dolphins 24

Week 2: At Vikings

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    It could be either one of these two quarterbacks—Matt Cassel (16) or Christian Ponder (7) starting for the Vikings, or someone else entirely.
    It could be either one of these two quarterbacks—Matt Cassel (16) or Christian Ponder (7) starting for the Vikings, or someone else entirely.Jim Mone

    Kickoff time and network: 1 p.m. ET, CBS

    If the Patriots' run defense is as atrocious in 2014 as it was in 2013, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson could have a signature performance. The bigger question may be, can he beat the Patriots on his own?

    They will need an efficient performance from their quarterback, as well, whomever that may be: Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel or someone who is not yet on the roster. Either way, the Vikings quarterback will have the help of a lot of pass-catching talent in the form of wide receivers Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and Jerome Simpson, and tight ends Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson.

    With that being said, the Patriots' bigger problems may be over the middle than on the outside. If they can neutralize the tight ends, their corners should be able to handle the rest.

    Prediction: Patriots 38, Vikings 24

Week 3: Vs. Raiders

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    Dennis Allen (above) enters his third season as head coach of the Oakland Raiders.
    Dennis Allen (above) enters his third season as head coach of the Oakland Raiders.USA TODAY Sports

    Kickoff time and network: 1 p.m. ET, CBS

    The Patriots get their home opener on September 21.

    These two teams haven't squared off since 2011, a 31-19 victory for New England. A lot has changed for both teams since then, but unsurprisingly, even more has changed for the Raiders. They have a different head coach, quarterback and general manager. 

    In fact, the Raiders had three different starting quarterbacks last year with Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn and Matt McGloin, but it looks like they will have a different starter with Matt Schaub now in the fold. Schaub played poorly last year, with 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions including starting the season with six straight games with an interception returned for a touchdown. 

    The Raiders had the worst record in the AFC West last season at 4-12, and they won just one road game all season, against the Houston Texans, who finished with the worst record in football at 2-14. The Raiders have added a lot of pieces through free agency: wide receiver James Jones, defensive tackle Antonio Smith, defensive end Justin Tuck, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, right tackle Austin Howard and outside linebacker Lamarr Woodley, among others.

    But at quarterback and head coach, the Patriots are head and shoulders above the Raiders.

    Prediction: Patriots 31, Raiders 23

Week 4: At Chiefs

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Kickoff time and network: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN (Monday Night Football)

    The Chiefs were one of the surprises of the 2013 season, but they won't be sneaking up on anyone this year. They have lost a lot of their key components from last year, though, including three starting offensive linemen (Branden Albert, Geoff Schwartz and John Asamoah) and a starting defensive linemen (Tyson Jackson). 

    The last time these two teams met, the Patriots were handing the Chiefs a 34-3 loss at Gillette Stadium that was one of the Chiefs' worst losses in 2011, the final year of the short-lived Todd Haley era. Andy Reid is running the show in Kansas City these days, although he has yet to coach a team to victory over Bill Belichick's Patriots.

    Reid's quarterback, Alex Smith, is exactly the kind of efficient quarterback who has given the Patriots problems in the past. He is at his best when he can set up the play-action passing game, though, so it will once again be up to the defense to return to form against the run. Even if that happens, the Chiefs still have plenty of pieces on defense to make life miserable for the Patriots' offense.

    Prediction: Chiefs 21, Patriots 20

Week 5: Vs. Bengals

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    Tom Uhlman

    Kickoff time and network: 8:30 p.m.ET, NBC (Sunday Night Football)

    The last time the Patriots faced the Bengals, it was Tom Brady's first game without a touchdown pass after putting together a 52-game streak with at least one touchdown pass. 

    With that in mind, the Patriots will need to do better up front than they did in their last meeting if they want to come away with the win. The Patriots' offense was out of sync all day in the last encounter, when the Bengals had four sacks on Brady, including a sack on each of the Patriots' first two possessions. The Patriots also gained just 82 yards of rushing offense in what was a sloppy game with rain-soaked conditions in Cincinnati.

    The Bengals were one of many teams to have their way with the Patriots on the ground, rushing for 162 yards on 39 carries in taking advantage of the Patriots' defense in their first game without Vince Wilfork and after losing defensive tackle Tommy Kelly early on. Their passing attack, however, is far more one-dimensional, centered on wide receiver A.J. Green. If the Patriots can take him out of the game, they will greatly improve their chances of winning.

    Prediction: Patriots 21, Bengals 17

Week 6: At Bills

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Kickoff time and network: 1 p.m. ET, CBS

    The Patriots swept the season series with the Buffalo Bills for the second straight year in 2013, winning narrowly in Buffalo in Week 1 (23-21) and decisively in Foxborough in Week 17 (34-20). The Bills' last win over the Patriots was in Buffalo in 2011, but they have made life difficult for the Patriots on a consistent basis.

    Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense got off to a rough start against the Bills' defense under the tutelage of coordinator Mike Pettine, with just two offensive touchdowns and three turnovers. They rebounded in a big way in the final game of the season, rushing for a season-high 267 yards. 

    The Bills have wisely loaded up on slot cornerbacks in recent years to try to combat Brady's love of slot receivers. There are plenty of combinations for matchups; They now have Corey Graham and Nickell Robey, who will draw the likes of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and now Brandon LaFell in coverage. 

    The Bills also gave their linebacking corps a complete overhaul, moving Kiko Alonso to weak-side linebacker and adding Brandon Spikes in the middle and Keith Rivers on the outside. Spikes' impact in this matchup will be intriguing; The Patriots may look to target him in the passing game, but he knows the Patriots' offense cold from practicing against them all those years. 

    The Patriots only faced Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel one time last year, so it will be interesting to see if he gets more comfortable against the Patriots in his second meeting, or if they get more comfortable against him.

    Prediction: Patriots 24, Bills 17

Week 7: Vs. Jets

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Kickoff time and network: 8:25 p.m. ET, CBS/NFL Network (Thursday Night Football)

    When the Patriots last hosted the Jets, Gillette Stadium was soaked in rain as the two quarterbacks combined for 40 incomplete passes. After a full season together, the Patriots are hoping that their quarterback and receivers will be a bit more in sync this year than last year. They will certainly have a chance to capitalize on a weakened secondary that still does not have a true top-flight cornerback.

    Either Michael Vick or Geno Smith, on the other hand, could have a hard time finding open receivers with Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner breathing down his receivers' necks. The Jets added Eric Decker to the fold, but it remains to be seen whether he can carry the burden of being consistently covered by an opponent's best cornerback.

    If the Patriots are able to win up front, they should be able to get moving on offense. The Patriots and Jets could end up splitting their season series for a second straight year. 

    Prediction: Patriots 31, Jets 20

Week 8: Vs. Bears

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    Matt Rourke

    Kickoff time and network: 1 p.m. ET, Fox

    The Chicago Bears just signed Jay Cutler to a seven-year contract averaging $18.1 million per year, so even if you don't think Cutler is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, the Bears do. 

    The Bears had one of the league's worst defenses last year, and ranked 30th in both scoring and total defense. They didn't do much to improve it besides adding defensive end Jared Allen—and in the same breath, they lost defensive end Julius Peppers to the Green Bay Packers in free agency. 

    The Patriots focused more on the run in 2013, and that could continue against Chicago. They were at their worst against the run, where they allowed 12 of their 16 opponents to rush for more than 120 yards. The Bears' defense also allowed a league-high 5.3 yards per carry to their opponents. 

    Brandon Marshall has had a great deal of success against the Patriots in his career, averaging around five catches for 80 yards per game, with a total of three touchdowns. He has never faced a Patriots secondary as well-equipped to cover him as the 2014 version that features Revis and Browner.

    Prediction: Patriots 30, Bears 20

Week 9: Vs. Broncos

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    Steven Senne

    Kickoff time and network: 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

    The Patriots and Broncos split their two games last year, with each team winning at home. This offseason, it's been an arms race between the two teams, with each front office going to great lengths to add talent to its roster. 

    The rivalry took another big step forward when former Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib signed with the Broncos, but the Patriots signed a pair of cornerbacks of their own, with Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner joining the fold in hopes of stymieing high-powered pass attacks like the Broncos'. 

    The Broncos made several other additions to their roster, including safety T.J. Ward and defensive end DeMarcus Ware, but they also lost guard Zane Beadles, wide receiver Eric Decker, linebacker Wesley Woodyard, running back Knowshon Moreno and defensive end Shaun Phillips. The Patriots suffered far fewer losses, and in losing Talib, they gained Revis. 

    The Patriots' bugaboo in their final meeting was their lack of firepower on offense, but if their receivers continue to develop and Rob Gronkowski stays healthy (for once), they should be able to match blows with the Broncos.

    Prediction: Patriots 34, Broncos 31

Week 10: Bye

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    Elise Amendola

    The Patriots get their bye week at just the right time, almost square in the middle of the season and immediately after the Broncos game to give them a chance to rest up for the home stretch.

    They'll need to get their act together quickly, though, as they hit the road to face a familiar playoff team immediately coming out of the bye. 

Week 11: At Colts

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    Dave Einsel

    Kickoff time and network: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC (Sunday Night Football)

    The Patriots have not traveled to Lucas Oil Stadium since 2009, when Peyton Manning was still the quarterback for the Colts. These days, Andrew Luck is leading the charge, but he has not had much luck against the Patriots. The two teams have faced each other once in each of the past two seasons, with the Patriots winning both games by a combined score of 102-46. 

    Of course, the Patriots were dealing with several key injuries last year, but the Colts were depleted with their own set of injuries last year and only faced the Patriots after losing tight end Dwayne Allen, running back Ahmad Bradshaw and wide receiver Reggie Wayne for the season. With Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner on the outside, it will be interesting to see how the Patriots choose to match up with Wayne and T.Y. Hilton.

    Facing the Colts in Indianapolis is completely different, though. They have built a mystique at home that is difficult to deny (13-3 home record since 2012), and if Luck plays more like himself (52-35 TD-INT ratio) than the version the Patriots have seen in the past two years (4-7 in his two games vs. the Patriots), the Colts could come away with the win.

    Prediction: Colts 28, Patriots 23

Week 12: Vs. Lions

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    Jim Mone

    Kickoff time and network: 1 p.m. ET, Fox

    Most teams struggle to cover Calvin Johnson. "Megatron" stands at 6'5" and 236 pounds, and with his blend of size and speed, he is often drawing double coverage and somehow still making the reception. The Patriots have several options as to how they can cover him: They could roll coverage to his side, and if they double him with someone besides Revis and Browner, they could really force QB Matt Stafford into some uncomfortable spots.

    Running back Reggie Bush, however, has added a new dimension to the offense as Stafford now has a big-play threat out of the backfield. With Jim Caldwell as their new head coach, the Lions offense could look a bit different, but the focus will likely still be on those three: Stafford, Johnson and Bush. 

    The Lions have the defensive formula that has given the Patriots problems in the past, with a dominant front four that can get pressure up the gut and off the edges, and a secondary that can spin the dial and switch things up. Will they have a different look and feel to them with Jim Schwartz now in Buffalo? That could be the determining factor. 

    Prediction: Patriots 31, Lions 24

Week 13: At Packers

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    Mike Roemer

    Kickoff time and network: 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

    The Green Bay Packers finished 8-7-1 and barely got into the playoffs last season, but they could have been much better if they hadn't lost Aaron Rodgers for seven games, losing four of those and tying one. 

    Rodgers wasn't even participating the last time these two teams faced off; At that time, Green Bay still featured a bevy of receivers with Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and even Donald Driver. Only Nelson remains from that group, but the Packers added Randall Cobb, who has emerged in recent years. Those are the two main threats the Patriots' defense will be trying to eliminate.

    With the addition of defensive end Julius Peppers, the Packers are hoping to give their defense a boost, but the Patriots could find their front seven to be ripe for the picking—the Packers have ranked in the bottom seven in the league in defensive rushing yards per attempt each of the past four years. Aaron Dobson could be in for a tough day against Sam Shields, considered to be one of the better cornerbacks in the league, but the Packers' secondary is not incredibly deep.

    Prediction: Patriots 37, Packers 28

Week 14: At Chargers

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    QB Philip Rivers (right) and WR Keenan Allen (left) were an electric duo for the San Diego Chargers in 2013.
    QB Philip Rivers (right) and WR Keenan Allen (left) were an electric duo for the San Diego Chargers in 2013.Denis Poroy

    Kickoff time and network: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC

    Philip Rivers has had limited success against Bill Belichick's Patriots in his career, and his only career win came in 2008 when Tom Brady missed the entire season with a knee injury. The Chargers have always been known for their aerial attack, but they took a much more balanced approach in 2013 than in years past; they had the seventh-lowest percentage of pass plays in 2013.

    The Patriots will have to find a way to put the brakes on Ryan Mathews, who rushed for 1,255 yards and 4.4 yards per carry in his first full 16-game season since entering the NFL in 2010. That said, the Patriots' secondary will be tested with the likes of Antonio Gates, Keenan Allen and Eddie Royal. 

    The Chargers' defense, however, has more holes than Swiss cheese. Opponents moved the ball at will up and down the field, but they kept opponents out of the end zone and finished ranked 11th in scoring defense. If they are able to keep that up, the Patriots will have to make sure they capitalize when they get the ball.

    Things always seem to get a little strange in these matchups, with missed field goals and sometimes multiple interceptions for the quarterbacks. Who could ever forget the double turnover in the 2006 playoffs? But if the Patriots are able to assert their dominance in the secondary and force the Chargers to play a one-dimensional game, they should be able to pick up the win.

    Prediction: Patriots 34, Chargers 24

Week 15: Vs. Dolphins

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Kickoff time and network: 1 p.m. ET, CBS

    The Patriots have an opportunity to sweep the season series with the Dolphins after splitting with them 1-1 in 2013. Ryan Tannehill is 1-3 against the Patriots in his career, but picked up the win the last time around by leading two touchdown drives in the final four minutes of the first and second halves in their last meeting. He didn't appear to "crack the code" in the last meeting as much as he just made several perfect throws. 

    One matchup that will be interesting to watch is the Dolphins' running game against the Patriots' run defense. The Dolphins have gone to great lengths to improve their running game by adding Knowshon Moreno and revamping the entire offensive line. The Patriots are going with the status quo, hoping that Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and Jerod Mayo can help when they return from injury next season.

    The Dolphins have started to close the gap in the AFC East, but the Patriots are hanging tight, and as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are in the fold, it would be a surprise to see them unseated at the top of the division. That doesn't mean they will sweep the division, but it does mean those games will be close.

    Prediction: Dolphins 27, Patriots 23

Week 16: At Jets

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Kickoff time and network: 1 p.m. ET, CBS

    The Patriots are 3-2 facing the Jets in New Jersey in the Rex Ryan era. Last year, the Jets earned a narrow overtime victory thanks to a controversial finish that involved defensive tackle Chris Jones illegally pushing a teammate into the pile at the line of scrimmage on a Jets field-goal attempt.

    Once again, the Jets are embroiled with a quarterback controversy. The starter could be either Geno Smith, drafted by the Jets in the second round in the 2013 NFL draft, or Michael Vick, signed this offseason to a one-year deal.

    Smith had some moments against the Patriots last season, but on the whole, he struggled against them, going 32-for-68 passing (47.1 percent) for 447 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions (50.9 passer rating). Vick is more familiar with the Jets' offense after spending years under offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg when the two were together with the Philadelphia Eagles.

    The Jets lost cornerback Antonio Cromartie after releasing him this offseason, and with some question marks on the back end, the Jets' best bet will be to dominate with their defensive front as they did in the second meeting last year (four sacks on Brady, 90 rushing yards allowed on 20 carries). If they can also put together an impressive performance in the running game, they could steal another win from the Patriots.

    Prediction: Jets 23, Patriots 21

Week 17: Vs. Bills

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Kickoff time and network: 1 p.m. ET, CBS

    The Patriots have not lost to the Bills at Gillette Stadium since its inception. With EJ Manuel entering his second year, though, the Bills are hoping he takes a step forward that allows them to change their fate. Make no mistake—if the Bills are going to pull off the upset, it's going to be up to Manuel to play his best. 

    As many Patriots opponents may experience this season, Manuel could have a hard time finding open receivers with Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods being blanketed by Revis and Browner.

    Perhaps Manuel will rely on a solid rush attack to keep the Patriots' defense honest. The Bills loved to run the ball in 2013, with a league-high 546 rush attempts and the second-ranked rushing attack with 2,307 yards. It wouldn't be a surprise to see them go to the well for C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson early and often. The Patriots will have to play better against the run than they did last year, when they ranked 31st in the league.

    If they are able to do so, however, the Bills could find it hard to get their offense going unless Manuel improves dramatically as a pocket passer.

    Prediction: Patriots 28, Bills 20


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