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Patriots Schedule Breakdown: Games 1-4

It's that time of year again, where I take a look at the upcoming slate of 16 games for the Patriots and make a game-by-game prediction.  I've done this exercise the past two seasons, predicting an 11-5 record for the team in 2010 (actual outcome 14-2) and a 15-1 record in 2011 (actual outcome 13-3).  Overall, I've been relatively close, but I'm not sure that actually means that I was any good a predicting, considering the Patriots' record has largely been between 10-6 and 16-0 for the past decade.  As long as you stay in that range, and skew towards the middle, you're almost bound to be near the target. 

But at any rate, this is more of a fun exercise and a look ahead at what's to come, then a measure of my football accumen, so let's get to it!

 

Week 1:  @ Tennessee Titans

The Patriots have been astoundingly good in season openers, winning all but one of their previous ten (2003 to Buffalo).  Given the fact that the Titans will be trotting out Jake Locker, who will be starting in his first regular season NFL game, and the Patriots will be sending out Tom Brady, I'm giving the edge to the Patriots here.  Make it 10 out of 11.

Record: 1-0

 

Week 2: vs. Arizona Cardinals

Yet another game that should make Patriots fans very thankful for their quarterback situation.  The Cardinals don't appear to be quite sure who will be tossing the ball for them when they roll into Foxoboro for the Patriots' home opener.  The Cards don't have a ton of luck when traveling to New England.  Thankfully for them, it should be a balmy September afteroon this time and not the blizzard they faced during the team's last meeting in 2008.  Although the weather may be better, I'm not expecting a different outcome this time around.

Record: 2-0

 

Week 3: @ Baltimore Ravens

This is the grandaddy of them all for the Patriots in the regular season – a rematch of last season's AFC title game.  You can be certain that Baltimore is still smarting from missing out on that Super Bowl trip and will be hungry to hand it to the Patriots.  With two playoff meetings in the past three years, and some epic regular season battles scattered in between, there is certainly no love loss between these two teams. 

This is a game that I believe the Patriots should win on paper.  I honestly believe that the 2012 Patriots are more talented than the 2011 Patriots.  I can't say the same thing for Baltimore, who appears to have taken a step back.  However, will the Patriots be able to walk into one of the most hostile of road environments against a quality team thirsty for blood and pull out a win? 

I'm sorry, but this one just wreeks of the typical early-season letdown game that seems to plague the Patriots lately.   The Miami wildcat game in 2008, the Jets in 2009 and 2010, and the 21-point collapse to Buffalo in 2011. 

Record: 2-1

 

Week 4: @ Buffalo Bills

With the New York Jets becoming more and more of a circus each day, it could very well be the Buffalo Bills who become the Patriots main AFC East rivals.  The Bills landed a nice punch in the mouth in Week 3 of last season, and with the addition of Mario Williams to the fold, now possess a fearsome pass-rush that could have Brady scrambling all over the place if New England's offensive line woes carry over from the preseason. 

I predicted a loss for the Patriots earlier, and back-to-back losses for the Pats have become twice-in-a-decade events.  If the Patriots do manage to beat the Ravens, this could end up being a game that trips up New England, but I have to call for a W here.

Record: 3-1

Derek Hanson

About Derek Hanson

Doctor by day, blogger by night, Derek Hanson is the founder of the Bloguin Network and has been a Patriots fan for more than 20 years.

Patriots Schedule Breakdown: Games 1-4

With the 2011 regular season fast-approaching, it’s time to do a breakdown of the upcoming schedule for the Patriots.  Similar to last year, this will be a four-part series were each quarter of the season is analyzed and predictions are made. 

If there’s one thing that jumps out about the 2011 schedule, it’s the relative “easiness” compared to the grueling gauntlet the Pats faced in 2011.  Their 14-2 finish last year was truly remarkable when you consider the fact that New England played five games against last year’s conference finalists, and had seven games in which they faced post-season teams.  While the balance of power in the NFL shifts quickly and you can never really say for sure which teams are going to be creampuffs or powerhouses, things look much more favorable for the Patriots this time around.  They get four games against the Bills and Phins, as well as games against the Broncos, Raiders, Cowboys, and Redskins.  If they win those games right there, you’re talking a .500 season.  

But don’t forget, the NFL is an unpredictable league.  You truly can never know what you’re going to get on any given Sunday.  That being said, here are my predictions for the season

 

Week 1 – Away vs. Miami

It’s well-documented that Miami can be a house of horrors for the Patriots.  Add to it the unpredictability of Week 1, where seemingly any team can throw an upset, and Patriots fans certainly can’t take this first game for granted.  This is repeat Monday Night Football game from last season.  A year ago, Patrick Chung had a second half for the ages to propel the Pats to victory.  However, you don’t have to look too far back to remember when New England nearly blew an opening Monday Night game to the lowly Bills in 2009.  This is going to be a much tougher game than many people anticipate.  Still, I like the preparation that the Patriots have shown in the pre-season.  If any team isn’t feeling a lull from the lockout, it’s the Pats.  I think they’ll pounce early on the Phins and take control of the game from there.

Predicted Record: 1-0

 

Week 2 – Home vs. San Diego

Last year, the Patriots jumped out to an early lead against San Diego thanks to a myriad of bone-head plays by the Bolts.  Then the Chargers rallied back and ended up shanking a field goal that would have lead to over time.  San Diego has a lot of bad blood pent up against the Patriots, so you know they have this game circled on their calendar.  The Patriots are inducting Drew Bledsoe into the Patriots Hall of Fame this weekend, and I predict they’ll honor Drew’s legacy by defending their home turf.  Wins don’t come easy for opponents in Foxboro, especially jet-lagged West Coast teams.

Predicted Record: 2-0

 

Week 3 – Away vs. Buffalo

The Patriots have a winning streak of 1,394 or so straight games against the Bills.  I fully expect that to continue in Week 3.

Predicted Record: 3-0

 

Week 4 – Away vs. Raiders

Trap game.  New Englad makes a trip out West with a HUGE revenge game looming against the Jets the next week.  Can the Patriots keep their focus against the Raiders or will they fall in to the Black Hole?  I called out the Cleveland trap game last season when I did this schedule overview last year.  I’m tempted to pencil in the loss here as well, but I think Belichick will have his team laser-focused early on in the season.  If any team can avoid the trap game, it’s the Patriots.  They’ll head into that Week 5 matchup with New York undefeated.

Predicted Record: 4-0

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Derek Hanson

About Derek Hanson

Doctor by day, blogger by night, Derek Hanson is the founder of the Bloguin Network and has been a Patriots fan for more than 20 years.

Patriots Schedule Breakdown: Games 1-4

With the 2010 Regular season fast-approaching, I thought it might be a good idea to break down the upcoming schedule for the Patriots.  In order to keep things relatively short and also give myself three more “easy” articles to fill some space during the dog days of August, I’ll turn this piece into a four-part column, covering each of the games in blocks of four.

Of note, 2010 marks the season where the NFL comes “full circle” with the scheduling system it set up starting in 2002.  That season, the Patriots’ NFC Division was the NFC North.  They played at Detriot and Green Bay and hosted Chicago and Minnesota.  In 2006 when the NFC North came up again, the home and away games were reversed.  Now in 2010, the Patriots will again be making trips to play the Lions and Packers, while the Bears and Vikings return to Foxboro.

Also worth noting is that the Patriots 2010 schedule looks to be one of the most difficult that I can remember.  Going soley on 2009 results, the Pats have roughly eleven “contenders” on the schdule and only five games against teams that were pushovers last season.  This is clearly a transition year for the Patriots and their young players are going to find themselves thrown into the fire rather quickly.  It’s certainly easy to see how an inexperienced team could find themselves overwhelmed early on and have their season spiral out of control.  Still, I believe any time you have Tom Brady as your quarterback and Bill Belichick as your coach, you’re going to succeed.  Here’s hoping that I’m right…

 

Week 1 – Home vs. Cincinnati

The Bengals, like the Patriots, finished 2009 with a record of 10-6.  They also shared the same fate as the Patriots in the post-season, losing at home during the Wild Card round.  By far, the biggest headline this off-season in Cincy was the signing of Terrell Owens, a player the Pats are all-too-familiar with from his recent stint with the Bills and Super Bowl XXXIX.  Despite all the smack-talk, the Patriots have essentially owned T.O. during their many battles, and, this far into his career, Owens isn’t likely to be a major factor in Week 1.  My guess is that this will be a fairly close battle to start the season, but I’m giving the edge to the Patriots.  They’re at home, they’ve got the better QB, and they have the better coach.  The Patriots also have made a habit of starting the season strong, winning seven of their last nine openers.  If there is any consolation though in the case of a loss, it’s that the last time the Patriots dropped their opener to the Bengals, they went on to win the Super Bowl (2001).

Predicted Record: 1-0

 

Week 2 – Away vs. New York Jets

The gloves come off early into the season as the Patriots head to New York.  Last season, the Jets shocked the Patriots in the Meadowlands during Week 2.  It was a defensive battle where the Pats were shut out in the 2nd half and Darelle Revis’ nickname “Revis Island” was born.  Here’s hoping that the Patriots learned their less and aren’t set up for a repeat performance.  This is a game that both teams will be jacked up for and it should set the early tone for the AFC East.  Everyone’s been hyping the Jets all off-season and discounting New England.  This will be the game that will determine if they’re right.  Going off of history, the Jets tend to beat the Patriots when you least expect them to.  They catch the Pats sleeping and sneak out a win.  I can guarantee you that no one will be caught napping this time as this game’s been circled on the calendar since the moment the schdule came out.  I’ll pencil in a win for the Pats.

Predicted Record: 2-0

 

Week 3 – Home vs. Buffalo

The Patriots have three fairly difficult games in their first four contests.  I’m usually pretty generous when making predictions for the Patriots, but I definitely thought twice about my picks for the games vs. Cincy, NY, and Miami.  That being said, this game at home vs. Buffalo should be considered an absolute must-win for the Patriots.  If the Pats struggle early and drop two of three against their tougher competition, this game is the difference between a recoverable 2-2 start and a iffy 1-3.  They absolutely need to take care of business at home against a clearly inferior opponent.  Even if the Pats swept the Bengals/Jets/Dolphins, this season’s schedule is far too difficult to throw away games like this.  If the Patriots can simply sweep Buffalo and beat Detroit, Chicago, and Cleveland, they only need to finish 6-5 the rest of the way to make it to 11-5.  I know that 2008 was an abberation, but 11-5 almost always equals playoffs.

Predicted Record: 3-0

 

Week 4 – Away vs. Miami

By now every Patriots fans know that games at Miami, particularly early-season games at Miami, are a house of horrors for the Patriots.  It seems that no matter how bad the Dolphins are, or how self-aware the Patriots are about this not being a game to sleep on, the annual trip to South Beach ends up as a loss 80% of the time. I actually believe that the Dolphins are the Pats’ biggest threat this year in the AFC East, and so as much as it pains me, I have to pencil in the first loss of the season.

Predicted Record: 3-1

 

As a quick recap, the first four games of the season are huge for the Patriots.  They will play three divisional games, with two coming on the road.  One would hope that the Pats can at least take one of those two games vs. Miami or New York, which would put them in a pretty comfortable position.  Then it’s all about taking care of business against Buffalo.  The Cincinatti game is a bit of a toss-up, but hopefuly home field tilts the scales towards the Pats.  Without trying to jinx anything, I think 2-2 is probably a worst-case scenario at this point, with the team hopefully entering their Week 5 bye at 3-1.

Derek Hanson

About Derek Hanson

Doctor by day, blogger by night, Derek Hanson is the founder of the Bloguin Network and has been a Patriots fan for more than 20 years.

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