By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The 2019 Patriots had a clear stretch of games where you knew they would get their biggest challenges. On the 2020 schedule, it appears that the toughest tests are sprinkled throughout the season instead.
How good can the 2020 Patriots be? Ahh. Might take a while.
Thing about schedules, though. The strength of said schedules. They can morph almost immediately once the games begin. Does everyone believe the Ravens, 49ers, or Bills will be just as good or better? And to be fair, maybe the Cardinals or Dolphins surprise people. You just don't know with this league.
But for Bill Belichick and his next quarterback, a couple guaranteed tests are being served right up. Week 2 sends them to Seattle. Two weeks later, they're off to Arrowhead for the Super Bowl champions and Patrick Mahomes.
But then ... a breather. The Patriots get the Broncos at home for Week 5 and a rare bye in Week 6. That's when they arrive at the closest thing to a tough stretch of games in 2020.
Weeks 7-11 go like this: home against the 49ers, at the Bills, at the Jets, home vs. the Ravens, at the Texans. Again, assuming Lamar Jackson has another MVP campaign and the Ravens are just as deep and cohesive as they were in 2019. Assuming San Fran doesn't have the dreaded hangover after blowing the Super Bowl. Assuming the Bills continue on their upward trajectory, or at least avoid a regression. Calling this a challenging stretch requires a lot of assumptions.
From there, the next four opponents (Cardinals, Chargers, Rams, Dolphins) should be manageable for the Patriots, even with a mediocre offense again. That's when they get what could turn out to be the biggest game of the season, a home tilt against the Bills on Monday Night Football. The AFC East might be on the line. You better hope they have it all together by then.
...Buffalo, that is.
The important thing - and pretty much none of us will be able to stick to it throughout the season - is to stay patient with Jarrett Stidham if he is named the Week 1 starting quarterback. He's going to be tested a lot, too. The 49ers, Bills, Ravens, Chargers, and Rams all have talented defenses. Playing in Seattle and Kansas City for the first time might be terrifying.
But Stidham's big tests are spread out over the course of the 2020 season, just like they are for the team. The point is, it's going to be a long season. There's potential for ups and downs. It might serve everyone to take it one week at a time like the Patriots do. Get some antacids.
We all know we'll get caught up in something. Especially if it's the dreaded Bad Thing That Happened™. And the takes. Oh god, the takes. They're coming, and they're truly going to be insufferable.
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].