By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots' 2019 schedule is official. As with every football season under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, there's plenty to look forward to as they defend their Super Bowl crown yet again. The schedule also surprised with a few games, which is saying something for a team whose success has ceased to surprise anyone.
As is tradition, the Pats play the maximum five prime time games. Some others are flex-worthy, which means they could end up swapping one out for another on the night schedule. And as always, you get a handful of landmark matchups and plenty of late nights for everyone following the team.
Below is the full schedule as it was announced on Wednesday night, and you can get a printable version at NFL.com.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) April 18, 2019
Here are some takeaways, observations, and other thoughts on the Patriots' 2019 schedule and what to expect.
-- Opening with the Steelers is a fine choice. Despite Tom Brady's strong career record against Pittsburgh, these games are rarely boring. I'm not going to give up on the Steelers just because they lost Antonio Brown, either. JuJu Smith-Schuster is a stud and will simply be their new focal point. The NFL ostensibly didn't want to blow their wad too early by putting the Chiefs in this spot. And ultimately the Steelers matchup will have more meaning to it than the Eagles or Cowboys.
-- Most likely loss in September: At Dolphins. Hard Rock Stadium has more closely resembled a medieval torture chamber for Brady and the Patriots. New England gets the Miami Miracle rematch in Week 2, when it'll likely be hot and humid again. Former Patriots defensive signal caller Brian Flores will be as motivated as Matt Patricia was with the Lions last season to beat Belichick in his second game as Dolphins head coach. The retooled Dolphins will take advantage of a Patriots team that, as always, is working a slow-build to start the season. They always always always drop one early, and this is the obvious choice for the game that will set off the premature panic alarms.
-- Patriots go over two months without a 1:00 game. The Pats head to D.C. in Week 5 for a 1 p.m. matchup against the Redskins on Oct. 6. After that, they don't play a 1:00 game until Dec. 15 at the Bengals. As you may expect, in between is a gauntlet of tough opponents. Weeks 8-14 will be their most challenging stretch of the season: vs. Browns, at Ravens, bye week, at Eagles, vs. Cowboys, at Texans, vs. Chiefs. Anyone should be thrilled with a 4-2 record in that stretch.
-- Most surprising scheduling decision: Patriots-Chiefs not in prime time. CBS snagged the AFC Championship Game rematch after broadcasting it in January. This seemed like a slam-dunk choice to take place on Sunday Night Football, if not in the season opener. Honorable mention goes to Patriots-Cowboys, a likely ratings bonanza that is instead a 4 p.m. FOX game. Which brings me to my next point...
-- Most likely to be flexed to prime time: At Eagles. Finally, a real Super Bowl rematch for the Pats and Eagles. No Nick Foles this time, but if Carson Wentz is healthy this should be a fun one. For now it's on CBS at 4:25 p.m., and I'm guessing that CBS protects the Chiefs game from being flexed. It's quite possible that Patriots-Eagles turns out to be a more compelling and appealing matchup than the current Week 11 prime time game, Bears at Rams. NFL rules may force another Pats night game out of prime time to keep them at five. That distinction could go to either Week 9 at the Ravens or Week 13 at the Texans.
-- Closest to a trap game: At Redskins. The only way for this game to not look like a trap is if the Patriots are 2-2 going into it. There's no way Brady and Belichick would go to 2-3. So if they're 3-1 or 4-0 at this point, most observers will go into this thing assuming a cakewalk. Sort of like how road games last year at Detroit and Tennessee should have been walkovers. The Redskins project to be one of the worst teams in the NFL and will be fielding either a rookie or inferior journeyman at quarterback in 2019. So while you can't expect them to be competitive in this game, that's usually where prognosticators get in trouble trying to predict the unpredictable.
-- Best chance for a boring game: Home vs. Browns. Well, it might not be boring for Patriots fans. The Browns are coming to Foxboro with a loaded roster on offense, particularly if Baker Mayfield continues taking steps forward. If he becomes the elite QB he's supposed to be, Cleveland should score a lot. They have plenty of legitimate talent on defense, too. But again, this is the Patriots in Foxboro we're talking about. Is head coach Freddie Kitchens ready for this moment? Doubtful. Even if both teams are 6-1 at this point, I'm picking the Patriots in a convincing, statement kind of win over the league's most overhyped team entering the season.
-- Record Prediction: 12-4. For now, I'm picking the Dolphins and Jets (road), Chiefs, and Cowboys as their losses. Why Dallas? I see the Patriots coming off a high of beating the Eagles in prime time and having a bit of a letdown on a relatively short week against a solid team. That's all that is. And the beauty of my prediction is that it's meaningless and I can change it at any time. But don't expect me to budge far from the 12-4 prediction.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].