One of the nice parts about being a fan or a member of the media, as opposed to a member of an organization, is that from time to time, you can throw the “one game at a time” mantra out the window, and look to the weeks ahead.
The New England Patriots currently sit at 5-3 headed into week nine, and are resting on a bye. It’s kind of nice to have the bye at the exact mid-point of the season. Actually, it’s about the best time you could possibly hope for. That being said, lets take a quick look ahead to the Patriots schedule for the second half of the season:
Week 10: vs. Buffalo Bills (3-4), 1:00 PM ET, November 11th
Week 11: vs. Indianapolis Colts (4-3), 1:00 PM ET, November 18th
Week 12: at New York Jets (3-5), 8:20 PM ET, November 22nd (Thursday)
Week 13: at Miami Dolphins (4-3), 1:00 PM ET, December 2nd
Week 14: vs. Houston Texans (6-1), 8:30 PM ET, December 10th (Monday)
Week 15: vs. San Francisco 49ers (6-2), 8:20 PM ET, December 16th
Week 16: at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6), 1:00 PM ET, December 23rd
Week 17: vs. Miami Dolphins (4-3), 1:00 PM ET, December 30th
The Patriots will obviously have their hands full in the second half of the season. Five of their eight games will be against teams above .500. Four of their final eight games will come against divisional opponents. On the bright side, the Patriots will host five of their final eight games.
The four week stretch leading up to the Patriots’ week 14 match-up against the Houston Texans will be an indicator of what playoff position the Patriots are playing for. If the stumble against the Colts and/or their any of their division rivals, the team could be looking at a dogfight for a wild card berth. However, if New England can take care of business weeks 10-13, they could be in a position to jockey for one of the two byes in the AFC.
Without a doubt, however, the back-to-back games against the Texans and 49ers will tell us exactly how ready this team is to compete against the NFL’s top Super Bowl contenders.