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Predicting every game on the 2021 New England Patriots schedule

Related: Patriots 2021 schedule: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Arizona Cardinals v New England Patriots Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

A game-by-game schedule prediction for the 2021 New England Patriots season, you say?

No question about it, I am ready to get hurt again.

Before we do that though! Because our relationship is built on trust, it’d be remiss to not acknowledge that, in a plot twist not even Christopher Nolan could have seen coming...

......a few of our guesses about last year’s schedule turned out to be wrong. And by “our”, I mean “mine”. That being said, valuable lessons were learned, and I stand by my overall logic in selecting W’s and L’s being largely sound!

For accountability purposes, though, let’s run down a few of the more egregious misses and figure out how we got there.

  1. Opt-outs. If this sounds like excuse-making, that’s because it is. Apparently missing at least two future Patriots Hall of Famers on defense and the most Covid opt-outs of any team in football will have a detrimental affect on performance in all three phases of the game. Who knew?!
  2. To the above point, but more specifically; run defense. The reasons are myriad, but, you’ve seen the stats by now. The 2019 Patriots were a top-10 rushing defense by yards allowed; specifically, the NFL’s eighth-best. 2020? 26th in the entire league, allowing a ghastly 131.4 yards on the ground per game. Opt-outs and injuries need to be factored in, no doubt, but that’s about as steep a drop-off as you can get when you’re roughly equivalent to the Jaguars run D.
  3. The assumption of functional quarterback play. Let’s just say that last year’s guesses were made well in advance of the Cam Newton signing and right after the draft, where New England elected to eschew drafting a QB altogether. That would lead one to the assumption in place that if Jarrett Stidham was the plan, Bill and Josh and the guys were relatively certain Stidham would be at least replacement-level. The 2020 Patriots’ performance throwing the football did not meet that benchmark. Simple as that.

Now that that’s all out of the way, crack a fresh cold one and let’s call our shots for what may well be one of the most fascinating Patriots seasons in franchise history....for better or, um, otherwise.

(PS: we’re only predicting W’s and L’s here, not scores. Roast away in the comments.)

Week 1: vs Miami Dolphins, 4:25pm EST, September 12th

Prediction: Patriots win, barely

The question we run into immediately is how much to weight the Patriots’ vastly (theoretically) improved offensive AND defensive firepower vs the former Patriots coach and the team who unceremoniously bounced the Patriots from playoff contention in Week 15 of 2020. Assuming a 1-1 split with the Dolphins again seems reasonable, if not particularly optimistic, but we’re going to hand the Patriots the benefit of a doubt and a Week 1 win due to the Patriots’ proven game-planning prowess and, just like last season, being able to play Miami with the advantage of no film on exactly what the 2021 Patriots offense wants to be.

Week 2: at New York Jets, 1:00pm EST, September 19th

Prediction: Patriots win

While there’s certainly a lot to love about the Jets’ last two draft classes and the moves they’ve made in the clean-the-crayon-off-the-walls post-Adam-Gase Era, barring the possibility that QB Zach Wilson is Broadway Patrick Mahomes from the jump of the 2021 season, the Jets are still closer to another top-10 pick on paper than they are defeating the Patriots. Sorry.

Week 3: New Orleans Saints, 1:00pm EST, September 26th

Prediction: Patriots win, barely, again

Shout-out to my boy Gunner the Saints Fan, who astutely observed “this game will settle the age old question of who is most hungry to eat a W”.

Honestly, this game seems like a push; that being said, betting on the Patriots to win the turnover battle against (presumably) Jameis Winston of all quarterbacks seems like a good enough reason to assume they’ll enter Week 4 at 3-0.

Which, about that.....

Week 4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:20pm EST, October 3rd

Prediction: Patriots lose

Predicting an L to the defending Super Bowl champs with the GOAT at QB still firing on all cylinders doesn’t really require an explanation, does it?

Look, the best reason for optimism here is between Bill Belichick being the ultimate single-game game-planner and Bucs coach Bruce Arians perhaps being one of the ultimate “we run what we run” guys, there’s a decent chance this game ends up as a 21-18 rock fight with Tampa Bay on top, as opposed to a 42-38 shootout. So, there’s that.

Week 5: at Houston Texans, 1:00pm EST, October 10th

Prediction: Patriots win

Yes, the Patriots found a way to lose to the Houston Texans last year.

Counterpoint: have you seen this Texans team? Their best player who’s not currently embroiled in a disgusting-sounding lawsuit may be former Patriots WR Brandin Cooks, and it’s impossible to make any kind of good-faith argument that the Texans credibly improved, or even maintained the status quo on either side of the ball this offseason. There’s almost no way this doesn’t shape up as a perfect “it’ll cure what ails ya” game for New England after the Patriots (in this model) get waxed by the Bucs.

Week 6: Dallas Cowboys, 4:25pm EST, October 17th

Prediction: Patriots win

At this point, I get that predicting 5-1 after Week 6 sounds extremely cocky; that being said, we have a couple data points that can allow us to comfortably predict the Patriots keeping America’s Team in check and coming away with the win:

  1. The Cowboys offense and Patriots defense, the latter of whom is largely packing the same personnel and a few notable additions like LB Matt Judon and DTs Davon Godchaux and Christian Barmore; have a recent history; you probably remember this as the Pats D holding the Cowboys offense touchdown-less in 2019. And to any argument that “that was a different Cowboys coach and OC!”, the rebuttal is “Mike McCarthy now though”.
  2. We also have almost a full decade’s worth of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels proving on almost every occasion that they know full well how to shred a Dan Quinn Seattle-style defense. Which, for all the pronouncements by Dan Quinn that there’s “tweaks” he wants to make for the scheme that made him a household name....come on now.

Week 7: New York Jets, 1pm EST, October 24th

Prediction: Patriots win

No further explanation necessary here. As you’ll see when we get to the Buffalo Bills games, if a team beat the Patriots both times they played last year, they get the benefit of a doubt that they’ll do so again. Conversely, until the Jets prove that they can actually beat the Patriots and not look like the NFL’s version of an NBA lottery team, the L’s are assumed. Sorry.

Week 8: at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05pm EST, October 31st

Prediction: Patriots lose

The Patriots may have found a way to boat-race the LA Chargers last year, but between the emergence of bona fide superstar quarterback Justin Herbert and what can only be described as a dream offseason in both the draft and free agency for the Chargers, this one ends in defeat for New England.

Week 9: at Carolina Panthers, 1:00pm EST, November 7th

Prediction: Patriots win

Back in the saddle with a win! Making Sam Darnold jokes would be taking the easy way out, so we’ll defer to now-Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater on the Panthers’ practice regimen....or, more accurately, lack thereof:

Not being fluent in even basic situational football when you’re playing against the Bill Belichick New England Patriots seems like a bold choice.

Week 10: Cleveland Browns, 1:00pm EST, November 14th

Prediction: Patriots lose

Let’s put it this way, since the Browns being within a puncher’s chance of a Super Bowl is about as jarring as it gets; Cleveland’s Super Bowl odds are currently +1600. The Patriots are sitting at +2800, post-draft. These aren’t your grandpa’s Cleveland Browns. Or your dad’s. Or your older brother’s. Or....you get the idea. They’re legit and if they can improve on 2020, they’re going to do what they do really, really well.

Week 11: at Atlanta Falcons, 8:20pm EST, November 18th

Prediction: Patriots win

This is a tricky one, because the 2020 Atlanta Falcons were the undisputed champs at finding ways to lose one-score games. Specifically, of their 12 losses, 8 of them were by one score or less. Chalking that up to bad luck or being snake-bit is being charitable; that’s just a poorly-coached, poorly-prepared, and in the case of the defense, talent-deficient squad. No reason to believe New England doesn’t take this one.

Week 12: Tennessee Titans, 1:00pm EST, November 28th

Prediction: Patriots lose

Titans offensive maestro Arthur Smith may be gone, and Tennessee’s recent drafts certainly leave a lot to be desired, but even with those caveats, the Titans have either out-gamed or thoroughly dismantled the Patriots in their last two meetings. Fair is fair, given that Tennessee’s offensive core of the best running back in football, our old pal QB Ryan Tannehill, and Pats Pulpit draft crush AJ Brown doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Even with the Patriots coming off the mini-bye after Thursday Night Football.

Week 13: at Buffalo Bills, 8:15pm CST, December 6th

Prediction: Patriots lose

Per the rules above, with the Bills being the pretty much undisputed #2 in the entire AFC, and given that New England’s failure to play situational football lost them one game against Buffalo in 2020 and failure to play any kind of competent football lost them their week 16 matchup to the tune of a 9-38 final score, yeah, the Bills get the assumption that they’re going 2-0 against the Patriots in 2021 until proven otherwise.

Week 14: Bye

Prediction: as our venerable Alec Shane put it, “.....the coveted week 14 bye?”

Week 15: Indianapolis Colts, TBD

Prediction: Patriots win

If we’re going to (justly) criticize the Patriots for sub-par quarterback play in 2020, it also seems like a fair assumption that new Colts QB Carson Wentz will be ineffective until proven otherwise. The offensive weapons in Indy outside RB Jonathan Taylor remain underwhelming, and the Patriots’ ownage of the Colts in recent seasons can’t be discounted either.

Week 16: Buffalo Bills, 1:00pm EST, December 26th

Prediction: Patriots lose again

Yup. The Bills are elite. On paper, at least. Stealing a game from Buffalo would be an almost unimaginable coup for New England, which is a nice way of saying it almost certainly won’t happen.

Week 17: Jacksonville Jaguars, 1:00pm EST, January 2nd

Prediction: Patriots win

Ok, in terms of old assumptions holding tight, the Jacksonville Jaguars are firmly back in “are we really sure they could beat Alabama?” territory. We’ve already given this matchup more thought than it deserves.

Moving on to the regular-season finale......!

Week 18: at Miami Dolphins, 1:00pm EST, January 9th

Prediction: Patriots lose

The heart wants what it wants, and it’s extremely difficult to not flash back to the good old days of “The Patriots play their best football in December going into January, they’ll find a way”. A deal is a deal, though, and since we gave the Patriots the W in the Week 1 matchup at Gillette Stadium, we have to hand the Pats an L here to close out the regular season.


That leaves the 2021 Patriots finishing the regular season on a sour note and chalking up an unimpressive (for this fanbase, anyway) 10-7 record. Debate away below; where do you think the Patriots will end the season?


Poll

How many games will the Patriots win in 2021?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    0-4 games
    (17 votes)
  • 2%
    5-7 games
    (105 votes)
  • 37%
    8-10 games
    (1437 votes)
  • 55%
    11-13 games
    (2147 votes)
  • 4%
    14-17 games
    (163 votes)
3869 votes total Vote Now