By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Finally, everything you needed to know about the schedule for the 2020 New England Patriots is here.
And after finding all the primetime games (the Patriots have five in 2020 despite the departure of Tom Brady), the first thing you do is go through them one-by-one in a futile attempt to project the team’s win-loss record by the season’s end. It’s a completely pointless exercise — especially with all this uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season as a whole due to the ongoing battle with the COVID-19 pandemic — but I couldn’t help myself.
In fact, I love wasting my time with this kind of nonsense, so please, let’s waste time together.
(A few notes: These picks assume that Jarrett Stidham is indeed New England’s starting quarterback, that fans will be in attendance, and that none of these second-half games are flexed into primetime.)
Week 1 vs. Miami Dolphins (1 p.m.)
If the Miami quarterback competition shakes out how we expect, the Patriots will be the ones to welcome Alabama star Tua Tagovailoa to the NFL. This will be the No. 5 overall pick’s first pro game, obviously, and will be his first real game since he suffered a season-ending hip dislocation on Nov. 16, 2019. Given Tua’s inexperience — as well as the the Patriot locker room’s desire to start this post-Brady chapter on the right foot — you almost have to go with the Patriots here.
Season to date: 1-0.
Week 2 at Seattle Seahawks (8:20 p.m.)
Tough first road start of Stidham’s career. By that, I mean almost impossibly difficult. On the road, surrounded by The 12s, and in what would be the first primetime start of his career. Y I K E S. There’s no Legion Of Boom like in Brady’s unforgettably forgettable trip to Seattle, but the challenges will certainly be there. It’s called halo and I’ll take the Seahawks.
Season to date: 1-1.
Week 3 vs. Las Vegas Raiders (1 p.m.)
This game begins a trend (potential perk) that I don’t think is getting enough love when talking about the 2020 Patriots, as the Raiders will come to Foxborough for what will be a 1 p.m. kickoff. Or, alternatively, a 10 a.m. start for the Raiders. Oh, and the Raiders are also coming to Gillette on a short week (they host the Saints in Monday Night Football in Week 2), and will likely be riding some sort of hangover given with that Week 2 head-to-head with New Orleans being their Vegas debut.
Another stat to love when it comes to this timeslot in a heavy Patriots vs. West 2020 slate: The last time the Patriots lost a 1 p.m. Boston-time kickoff to an AFC or NFC West team was all the way back on Sept. 16, 2012, when they dropped a 20-18 final to the Cardinals. Since then, the Patriots have rattled off five straight victories (six if you include the playoffs with their 2018 divisional round win over the Chargers) against West-based opponents in this scenario. Taking the Patriots.
Season to date: 2-1.
Week 4 at Kansas City Chiefs (4:25 p.m.)
Another tough road spot for Stidham and the Patriots. They’ll be better off for these experiences, you’ll assume, but these moments are still a little too big for them at this point. Have to ride with a K.C. squad that can actually put up 24 points in about four minutes if you’re caught napping. I just don’t know if this offense is built for that kind of shootout.
Season to date: 2-2.
Week 5 vs. Denver Broncos (1 p.m.)
Another 1 p.m. start against a West team. Sure, the Broncos are two hours behind Boston instead of three, but it’s still a factor that I think will make the difference after taking their lumps against the Chiefs the week prior. Rest will be on Denver’s side, however, as they’ll play the Week 4 Thursday Night Football contest. In a push, I’ll lean home field.
Season to date: 3-2.
Week 7 vs. San Francisco 49ers (4:25 p.m.)
You can look at this from two different angles: Jimmy Garoppolo is coming back to the place where it all began to stuff it down Belichick’s throat and prove what a mistake he made or Belichick knows Garoppolo better than anybody else and will dial up the perfect scheme to make him have some second-half of Super Bowl LIV flashbacks. Kyle Shanahan is still San Fran’s coach, too, so you can’t sleep on the potential self-sabotaging buffoonery that could come to the table. Going Pats, but also not suuuuper confident about it.
Season to date: 4-2.
Week 8 at Buffalo Bills (1 p.m.)
These teams are going to trade punches all year in the best AFC East race we’ve seen in a decade. With this game essentially guaranteed to be the Bills Mafia’s Super Bowl, I’ll go with Buffalo here. An 0-3 start on the road. SHEESH.
Season to date: 4-3.
Week 9 at New York Jets (8:15 p.m.)
For all the talent the Jets have — and I know you’re going to raise your eyebrows at that, but there’s some legitimate talent on this New York roster — I can’t ignore the fact that this is a primetime game between the Jets and Patriots. Sam Darnold has already pissed his pants. I’m legally required to take the Patriots in these games until proven otherwise.
Season to date: 5-3.
Week 10 vs. Baltimore Ravens (8:20 p.m.)
I honestly believe Belichick’s focus on adding speed on the edge and linebacker was designed to help them handle Lamar Jackson’s utterly insane skillset, but I still don’t love this matchup for New England, even at Gillette. Ravens win this one.
Season to date: 5-4.
Week 11 at Houston Texans (1 p.m.)
So, the Texans beat the Patriots on this same turf last year, but they also traded one of the top wideouts in football for running back David Johnson (his 345 rushing yards and 370 yards in the passing game last year were both the lowest single-season totals of his career), and replaced Hopkins with a trade for Brandin Cooks. That leaves Houston with a (tissue-thin) one-two punch of Will Fuller and Cooks. Between those two and J.J. Watt, I’ll be straight-up shocked if this game actually features two of these three guys in action. Gimme the Patriots.
Season to date: 6-4.
Week 12 vs. Arizona Cardinals (1 p.m)
So after dealing with Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson in back-to-back weeks, the Patriots will get their first look at the similarly-skilled Kyler Murray. I think this will actually play to New England’s advantage. And, again, this is another West team coming to Gillette for a 1 p.m. local time game. I’ll take the Patriots here.
Season to date: 7-4.
Week 13 at Los Angeles Chargers (4:25 p.m.)
The biggest question for the Chargers: Who’s starting under center? Is it first-round pick Justin Herbert or veteran backup Tyrod Taylor? Does Cam Newton enter the equation? The Patriots, for what it’s worth, have won five straight games against the Chargers, and Belichick is 2-0 against the Bolts since Anthony Lynn took over as their coach. Patriots.
Week 14 at Los Angeles Rams (8:20 p.m.)
The Rams lost an absolute ton of players this past offseason, but with a quick turnaround for the Patriots here (this will be their Thursday Night Football game), I’m leaning Rams. If not the Rams, they’ll lose Week 13 against the Chargers. To take the easy way out, I’ll just say that they’re going to split their L.A. vacation.
Season to date: 8-5.
Week 15 at Miami Dolphins (1 p.m.)
A late-season meeting with the Dolphins is basically a nightmare. That said, I think this is in the middle of the Patriots finding their identity and their younger players on both sides of the ball finding their way. A 21-20 kind of win for the Pats.
Season to date: 9-5.
Week 16 vs. Buffalo Bills (8:15 p.m.)
Just like last year, this is when and where the AFC East will be decided. And once again, I think it’ll be the Patriots who capture the division crown with a defensive effort that frustrates Josh Allen into some bad decisions. The Bills feel so close to overtaking the Patriots, so this may be a coin flip, but Allen feels like too much of a wild card for me to truly buy in on him beating the Patriots at Gillette if this defense comes with the same aggressiveness it did last year.
Season to date: 10-5.
Week 17 vs. New York Jets (1 p.m.)
Again, the law requires me to take the Patriots against the Jets until proven otherwise. Is Crazy Eyes Gase still coaching New York when this game happens or is he basically a dead man walking at that point?
Season to date: 11-5.
Final projection: This sets the Patriots up for an 11-5 season in my eyes. This may seem insane given all of New England’s offseason departures (namely at the quarterback position), but the Patriots were a 12-win team in 2019 while having an undeniably average offense. This is a team built to win some rock fights, and their defense got noticeably quicker through the draft and with some free agent additions. And most of all, having a young quarterback who can and will develop a rapport with the Patriots’ younger receivers and backs will be a major, major boost in 2020.