The Patriots schedule was released on Wednesday, with play beginning on September 12th at home against the Dolphins. The team will look to rebound from a disappointing 7-9 finish in 2020. Here are some thoughts on what to expect from the 2021 slate of games.
This season marks the first time that the NFL will have a 17-game regular season schedule. I am not a fan of this due to player safety concerns as well as potential saturation of the product, but seeing New England square off against Dallas when they otherwise would not have will at least be exciting.
Chance For a Quick Start
The Patriots play five of their first seven games at home and the two road games are against two bad teams: the Jets and Texans. The Jets will be better, no doubt, but they are still a year or two away from being good. Houston may be the worst team in the NFL if Deshaun Watson does not return. The home slate is not easy, but tilts against Miami in Week 1 and New Orleans in Week 3 are winnable. Depending on Dak Prescott’s recovery and how much the Dallas defense improves, the Week 6 game against Dallas will be tough but winnable. Playing defending-champion Tampa Bay in Week 4 will be the toughest test. Speaking of that…
Tom Brady will return to New England on October 3rd. The matchup will be on Sunday Night Football and it will be the most anticipated regular season game in league history. It was smart by the NFL the schedule it here, both teams should be rounding into form after a few games and have fewer injuries than they would later in the season. The game itself will be fascinating; the revamped Patriots offense trying to score against a great Buccaneers defense and Brady trying to score on a defense coached by Bill Belichick.
Rough Stretch to End Season
The Patriots have a Week 14 bye, which is the latest since a Week 16 bye in 2001. The rough patch begins four weeks before the bye, when New England travels to Cleveland to take on the contending Browns who proved their legitimacy in 2020. Following that, the Patriots travel to Atlanta on a short week and then play the Titans at home. The team plays its 13th straight game the next week on Monday night at Buffalo.
After the bye, New England will have to travel to Indianapolis before playing the Bills again at home. A quick reprieve against the Jaguars is followed by a road clash with Miami to close out the season. Every game is tough in the NFL, but this stretch could derail the Patriots playoff hopes if they don’t play at a high level each week. It could also solidify them as a true contender if they come out of this stretch with a winning record.