The NFL released its schedule this evening, giving us our first look at the Patriots’ slate for 2014. Here are some thoughts about the team’s draw for this year…
#1 – Perfect bye week placement: You can’t do much better than a Week 10 bye. It will give the team ample time to recharge before a grueling stretch from Week 11-14, where they play three out of four on the road against legit playoff contenders. Hopefully it will give the team an extra boost of motivation (not that they should need any) against Denver the week prior to the bye, knowing that they can go all out with a rest on the horizon.
#2 – Prime time loves the Patriots: New England is always a big ratings draw, but this year in particular, it seems like the Patriots will be playing in front of a national audience at an astounding rate. They have one Monday Night game, a whopping three Sunday night games, a CBS Thursday night game, and two late afternoon games against the Broncos and the Packers which will almost certainly be shown nationally. That’s seven of their sixteen games!
#3 – Brandon Browner catches a break: The “other” big free-agent corner pickup this off-season happens to be suspended for the first four games of the season. With the Dolphins, Vikings, Raiders, and Chiefs as the first four teams on the slate, the Pats have managed to dodge a bullet. They won’t have to go without him against Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, or Andrew Luck.
#4 – Miami Heat: I generally like it when the Patriots get Miami on the road as the second of the two matchups, as it means things will have cooled off considerably down South. The Patriots are going to have to beat the heat and the Phins this year as they are slated for a blazing early afternoon start to kick off their season. When they opened against the Dolphins on the road in 2011, it was a Monday Night game.
#5 – Second half battle: Anything can happen on any given week, but looking at the first eight games, the Patriots will likely be heavily favored in every contest. I’m not saying that it will happen, but you could easily make a case for this team to go 8-0 to start the year. In Week 9, the difficulty gets ratcheted up big time with the Broncos, followed by the Colts, followed by the Lions, followed by the Packers, followed by the Chargers. Depending on how the Pats fair in that tough stretch, the division may very well be on the line when they finish the year with three straight division games.