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Looking forward: New England Patriots schedule after the bye

I have a love/hate relationship with bye weeks.  On the love side, I actually get a gameday off.  Not that I don't love 12 hours of football, chatting it up with the faithful, and recapping the games - I do.  But, it's nice to get a gameday free every once in a while.  On the hate side, the Patriots news dries up to a dribble and we're left reporting what the players are doing with 4 days off.  It also reminds me of the dreaded off-season when you have to read stories about all the Patriots who have worn #47.

At this point, I think it appropriate to run through the upcoming schedule and get a sense of what we have to look forward to.


Problem Games

  • Dolphins - Sunday's matchup against New Orleans was very telling.  It showed a Miami team that would simply not lay down.  It was a dogfight to the very end.  Personally, I think they're better than their 2-4 record suggests.  At least, I think they're capable of causing more TROUBLE than that record suggests.  I still don't discount this team, though.  They have traditionally been a good matchup for us.  They are truly a division rival that seems to know us well.
  • Colts - What can I say.  Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning is the show of the season.  It's a great matchup that's full of so much hype that it's almost sickening.  Last year was a bit of a let down considering Manning's recovery and Matt Cassel subbing for the convalescing Brady.  This year, Manning and the Colts seem to be on fire and with the aid of an easier schedule (based on strength of schedule), it would be a colossal meltdown if Indy isn't playing in January.  Interestingly enough, Football Outsiders' DAVE has Indy and NE ranked 1 and 2.  I haven't dug into the numbers, but even with our 2 losses, I suspect it's NE's tougher schedule that has us so close.
  • Jets - I think New York is a bit one dimensional and the numbers seem to suggest that.  Using the same Football Outsiders link above, their DAVE is low, indicating a strong defense and a weaker offense.  If we can figure out how to handle their blitzing schemes, things should turn out ok.  Our loss in Week 2 was with a different team. Wes Welker's back, Brady's looking better every day, and Joey Galloway isn't dropping balls.  Bottom line, NE is better, smarter, faster.
  • Saints - New Orleans may be our toughest challenge this second half of the season.  Did you see what they did to Miami?  The Fins were up 24-10 heading into the half.  End of the 3rd quarter it was Miami, 34-24.  And then the Saints scored 22 unanswered points.  My thought while watching that game was, "Dang, Miami's defense looks gassed."  Drew Brees just connects when he needs to and a third of his yardage came from TE Jeremy Shockey: 4 receptions for 105 yards, a long of 66.  That's a chain mover we have to neutralize.
  • Panthers/Bills/Jaguars/Texans - Other than the 4-3 Texans (who are rather low on the DAVE chart), is anyone worried?  We hit the Saints and Dolphins on the road, but these 4 cap off the season.  Any given Sunday and all that, but I have a tough time seeing how we blow one of these.

Prediction: I think there's 1 more loss, possibly 2.  I say we take the division with a 12-4 record.