It always amazes me how excited I get whenever I learn that the new Patriots schedule is out. 16 games that won’t start for another five months have me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside - especially this year, where I think the cards fell pretty favorably for New England.
And since the schedule is out, that means it’s time for absolutely nobody’s favorite tradition: looking at the good, the bad, and the ugly from the 2018 Patriots Schedule.
Three game home stretch. The Patriots will be in Foxboro for almost a full month as September blends into October, right when the football season starts to pick up in earnest and teams begin figuring out who they are. October is a crucial month in the NFL, and the Patriots have three straight home games against the Dolphins, Colts, and Chiefs, that could not only create some early separation in the division and conference, but will allow the patriots to focus on correcting early season issues in the comfort of their own facility without having to worry about travel plans altering the schedule.
Late bye week. The Patriots have Week 11 off this season, which is awesome. The closer your bye week is to the end of the season, the better off you are. I personally think they should eliminate all bye weeks prior to Week 8, as they really end up screwing teams down the road, but the Patriots have had the benefit of another late-season bye week this year after getting stuck with that dreaded week four bye a few years back. That’s huge.
Two game home stand to close out the season. If the Patriots take care of business, then the last time they’ll need to travel before the Super Bowl is Week 15, when they travel to Pittsburgh. They close out the year at home against the Bills and Jets, both of whom are currently without a viable quarterback, which will hopefully allow the Patriots the opportunity to rest banged up players while still securing a win and locking in any playoff seedings that may be up in the air at the time. I feel that it’s best for a team to open at home and close at home, and the Pats have that this year. Win.
Three back-to-back away game stretches. New England plays two consecutive games on the road three separate times this season: Weeks 2 and 3 (at Jax, at Det), Weeks 7 and 8 (at Chi, at Buf), and Weeks 14 and 15 (at Mia, at Pitt). That’s always tough, and the Patriots have to do it three times this year. Not only that, but none of these road trips are the kind where the Patriots can save time by staying in one area in between games. Football season is very regimented, and road trips mess up the schedule.
Week 6 through 9. Vs. KC, at Chicago, at Buffalo, vs. Green Bay. I don’t like this stretch one bit. The Bears and the Bills are both potential trap games, the Chiefs rained on the Patriots banner parade last year, and the Packers beat the Patriots the last time these two teams played (at Lambeau, granted). There are always those losses that leave you scratching your head, trying to figure out what the hell you just watched, and if one of those losses comes during this stretch, it could exacerbate a more legitimate loss like dropping one to the Packers.
At Miami, at Pittsburgh back-to-back. This is a rough one. The Patriots don’t do well in Miami, and while they have owned Pittsburgh historically, they needed the benefit of a stupid rule and a crazy pick to get the win last year, and the Steelers already have this game circled. New England is likely to go 5-1 or 4-2 in the division, and at Miami is always a safe bet when trying to predict a Patriots loss. There’s a real chance that, late in the year when games matter three times as much and teams are jostling for a playoff bye, the Patriots drop consecutive games to the Dolphins and Steelers, which could potentially cost them homefield advantage. Of course, they could beat both of these teams to lock up the conference with two weeks to spare, but as of right now, that’s an ugly stretch.
Eight non-1PM games. That’s half the season. I’m very vocal on this point, and have been for years: I want every Patriots game to start and 1PM, and I want the Patriots to defer on the kickoff every time. I hate primetime games, and I hate 4:25 starts even more. When 4PM on Sunday comes around, I want to either be basking in a win or beginning the grieving process of a loss. I know that there are some folks out there that love the primetime games, but not me. And since this is my article, it goes in the ugly section.
Thursday Night Football. It just plain sucks. That is all.