With the NFL releasing its full 2015 schedule at 8:00 PM ET tonight, here are some storylines to watch from a Patriots perspective:
Strength of Schedule
The New England Patriots faced one of the most grueling schedules in recent memory last season, and if you’re a believer in preseason strength of schedule, their road to repeating as Champions should be a bit easier in 2015. They are ranked 22nd for strength of schedule in 2015 at .477. They’re only set to play four 2014 playoff teams. Expect the media to jump all over this. But as we’ve learned time and time again, preseason strength of schedule means very little. You only have to look as far as the Patriots’ own division, the AFC East, to see why. Each of the Dolphins, Bills, and Jets saw significant improvements this offseason and all project to have a better record in 2015.
The New England Patriots’ season opener will be a special one, as they will be celebrating their Super Bowl XLIX championship in the NFL’s inaugural 2015 regular season game. The Bills, Jets, and Steelers have been pinpointed as potential week one opponents. Reports have tied the Steelers as the most likely choice.
Each NFL team is allotted a maximum of five primetime games each season. Considering the Patriots are coming off of a Super Bowl victory and are one of the league’s most compelling squads, the Patriots will likely be scheduled for that maximum. We will be interested in seeing the who and when surrounding those games.
Another critical component of the schedule is the bye week placement. Generally, you want the bye to land in the midpoint or as late in the season as possible. The Patriots have fared well in this area as of late. In both 2013 and 2014, their bye was week 10.
In the past, the Patriots have preferred to play their West Coast games back-to-back. They will often find a facility in California, and stay there between games in lieu of returning to practice in Foxboro. This year, this might not be a concern. The Patriots will be playing the AFC South and NFC East. The farthest west they will go on the road is Colorado (Broncos) and Texas (Cowboys, Texans).
What games are you most looking forward to seeing?