I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the most popular sport in America is NFL football, and the second most popular is the NFL offseason.
We go crazy for the strangest things as NFL fans. We constantly refresh Twitter the second Free Agency starts. We travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to get all dressed up and listen to Roger Goodell read a name off of an index card. And we obsess over when and
16 17 games will be played five months from now.
But since I’m just as pathetically obsessed as the next fan, I’m certainly not going to judge. I mean here I am, once again, obsessively poring over the 2022 New England Patriots schedule and looking for the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding this year’s slate of games.
Lots can and will happen between now and Opening Night, but based on what we know now, here’s how the schedule looks from my perspective.
Week 10 Bye. Week 10 is, in my opinion, the absolute perfect week to get that bye. Anything before Week 8 is too early, and while late season byes are good, sometimes they come too little, too late. Weeks 9 and 10 are really the bye week sweet spots, and the Patriots lucked out this year. They’re also at home in Week 9 against the Colts and then home again against the Jets in Week 11, so that’s a nice travel break. Furthermore, hosting the Jets right after the bye means that they basically get two full weeks off.
At Miami in September. New England has historically fared much better against the Fins in Miami in September than they have in December. It’s still warm in the northeast and they’re still used to the humidity - plus, Week 1 is kind of a crapshoot anyway. So it’s great to get this game out of the way right out of the gate as opposed to having it looming all season long. There’s a good chance the Patriots open the season with a W.
Soft October. At Green Bay to kick the month off could be tough, but after that the Pats play the Lions, Browns, Bears, and Jets. Cleveland is tough to read at this point - there’s a chance that with Deshaun Watson at the helm they could be a wagon in 2022 - but they could also Cleveland up the joint and be completely incompetent. October is the month you really figure out who you are as a team and start generating real momentum for the playoffs, and I can see New England going 3-1, or even 4-0, during this stretch.
Only one 4:25 game. The 4:25 slots are just the worst, in my opinion. Smack dab in the middle of the day leaving you no real chance on either side to do anything meaningful or productive with your Sunday ( for those of you who are actually meaningful and productive on Sundays, that is. I most certainly do not fit that bill). But other than at Green Bay, and possibly at Buffalo to close out the season, it’s either primetime or 1PM.
Three of four on the road to start. At, Miami, then at Pittsburgh, then home against a scrappy Ravens team before traveling to Green Bay means that three of New England’s first four games of 2022 will be away games. Ideally you’d want a few home games to start as everyone settles in for the slog, but not the case this year. The Patriots also don’t have more than two home games in a row all season, so it’s kind of a wonky travel schedule.
Tough close. New England closes the season with the AFC Champion Bengals, the Dolphins, then they have to travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills in what will likely be either a completely meaningless game or with the AFC East on the line. Buffalo in December where the Bills could very well need the W to lock up the 1 seed is a brutal way to finish the season.
Five Primetime games. I feel like this one finds its way into the Bad category every year, and I know that there are plenty of folks out there who completely disagree with this take...but if I had my way the Patriots would play every game at 1PM and they would always defer to the second half. But New England always seems to play the maximum allotted number of primetime games every season, and 2022 is no exception. Everyone may say that they’re sick of the Patriots, but the ratings say otherwise.
Possible rough September. A lot can change between now and then, but Miami, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore are three tough opponents to play back-to-back-to-back - and that doesn’t even mention traveling to Green Bay immediately after that. September is a weird month on the NFL calendar as teams are still getting a feel for each other and finding their stride, and 1-3, possibly even 0-4, isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility. September is going to be a major test for this team right out of the gate.
Four straight Primetime games. Starting with the Vikings on Thanksgiving Night, the Patriots play at 8:20, 8:15 8:15, and 8:20 in Weeks 11-14. My own personal thoughts on primetime games as a fan aside, there’s no denying that they’re just a different beast than afternoon games. The timing is off, you don’t get back to your house/hotel until 1AM, and sometimes you fly straight home and don’t get to bed until 3 or 4 the next day. Every day in-season is strictly regimented, and going primetime four straight times is going to take it out of these guys. And that’s not even touching the mental/emotional aspects of getting amped up for these night games. There’s only so much adrenaline in the tank, so Belichick is going to have to do some serious adjusting.
At Minnesota on Thanksgiving night. This one isn’t so much about the game itself; it should be a great one, New England has had great success against the VIkings this century, and I can for sure see them taking a W here as well. But Thanksgiving night, at the Shane household at least, is always a total mess. Everyone is stuffed, tired, groggy from the turkey nap, and maybe even a little hung over. So to have to get geared up to not only stay awake until 11PM on Thanksgiving, but be alert enough to cover and analyze the game is going to be a big ask. Hopefully we’ll get another Buttfumble to ramp up the energy.