New England Patriots

Oct 24, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches a play against the New York Jets during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
  • Patriots fans now have everything they need to make their plans this fall. The NFL released the 2022 schedule on Thursday, giving the full picture of New England’s 17-game, 18-week slate. You can find the full schedule here.

    While the opponents on the list were already known, the order completes the picture. There’s now the context of primetime games, bye weeks, travel schedules and more. How does that added information change the view of the Patriots’ schedule? Here’s the key takeaways.

  • Difficult late season stretch

    Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on from the side line during the second half of the game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium on November 28, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on from the side line during the second half of the game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium on November 28, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    The Patriots’ 2021 season was defined by lack of success down the stretch, as the team lost four of its five games after the bye. As they look to finish strong in 2022, the schedule doesn’t do them any favors.

    For a five week stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Patriots play four primetime games – two Thursday night games at Minnesota and at home against the Bills (the first back-to-back Thursday games in franchise history), followed by a Monday night game in Arizona then a Sunday night game in Las Vegas. They then have a short week before returning home to take on the Bengals on Christmas Eve day on Saturday. (The Patriots are tied with the Eagles for the most short weeks this season with five.)

    There’s a lot to break down here, but what really jumps out is the lack of consistency. Athletes, like most people, enjoy and may even rely on their routines. However, with the game dates jumping all over the place it will be tough to build up any habbits through this stretch – which is just one week removed from the bye. While that’s not a reason in itself the team should struggle, it’s yet another element to deal with late in the year.

    Adding to the lack of routine during that stretch is the likely week-long trip to the southwest. ESPN’s Mike Reiss suggested the Patriots could stay out west between the Cardinals and Raiders game, holding practices on location. It’s something the team has done before, most recently between LA games in 2020.

    Even after this stretch, the Patriots’ schedule doesn’t get any easier to close things out. Their final two games see them take on the Dolphins in Week 17 then travel to Buffalo in Week 18.

  • Backloaded divisional games

    Dec 6, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) tries to move past Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde (23) on a run in the second quarter at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    Just good-old-fashioned hard running by Stevenson. Seventy-eight yards on 24 carries doesn’t look good on paper, but in a game like this, yardage wasn’t necessarily as important as ball security. Stevenson, of course, didn’t fumble in his 24 touches. He aced the eye test, muscling his way through a sea of defenders on a number of carries. The Patriots leaned on the rookie hard, and he did his job.

    As mentioned above, the Patriots don’t play their final two divisional games of the year until the final two weeks of the season. That’s just the beginning of what is a backloaded in-division schedule.

    After visiting Miami in Week 1, the Patriots don’t play another AFC East team until Oct. 30, when they travel to New Jersey for a Week 8 game against the Jets. They won’t host a divisional game until Week 11, when they face the Jets again. Six of their eight AFC East games, including all three home games, come after the bye in the final eight weeks of the season.

    In a division that’s supposed to be tighter than usual this year, the divisional games may hold some extra weight in 2022. So does it benefit the Patriots to have them all crammed in at the end of the schedule? On one hand, the team themselves should be clicking better and have a stronger identity at that point. At the same time, that can also be said about their opponents, and the intensity levels of those games will be heightened with the increased stakes.

  • Ideal bye week

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 28: A general view of Gillette Stadium before the game between the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots on December 28, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 28: A general view of Gillette Stadium before the game between the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots on December 28, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    Last season’s Week 14 bye wasn’t just tied for the latest in the NFL that season, but the latest in league history. Many pointed to the late week off as a possible catalyst for the team’s issues down the stretch.

    This year, the bye week placement is much kinder. In the team’s official schedule release video, long-time staffer Ernie Adams described Week 10 as “about perfect placement for the bye.”

    The Patriots also have a much softer landing coming out of their week off this time around. Last year, they went on the road to play a red-hot Colts team. In 2022, they’ll be at home taking on the Jets – before beginning the primetime stretch described above.

  • Trap game?

    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 31: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots reacts in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 31: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots reacts in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

    It’s part of the tradition that comes with the schedule release – identifying potential trap games. This year doesn’t have the obvious candidates the last two schedules did, but there are two games that may fit the description.

    The first is Week 5 against Detroit. For the Patriots, it’s the lone home game in a three-week span, sandwiched between two road games that could feature elite quarterbacks on the other side in the Packers (Aaron Rodgers) and Browns (Deshaun Watson). For the Lions franchise, this may be viewed as somewhat of a revenge game as they face former head coach Matt Patricia for the first time.

    Week 11 against the Jets also fits the mold. The Patriots will be coming off a bye week, and heading into the toughest stretch of their schedule. By the definition of a trap game, this is one to keep an eye on.

  • Best road trip

    Lambeau Field at sunset on Aug. 14, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. (Sarah Kloepping/USA Today Network-Wisconsin via Imagn Content Services)

    Lambeau Field at sunset on Aug. 14, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. (Sarah Kloepping/USA Today Network-Wisconsin via Imagn Content Services)

    For fans looking to see the Patriots on the road, there are two clear contenders for best road trip – although they involve two very different destinations.

    This year will be the Patriots’ first ever trip to Las Vegas. There will actually be two chances to see the team out there, both in the preseason/joint practices, and the Week 15 Sunday Night Football matchup. If anyone is feeling adventurous enough to take the whole week off, it could turn into a full trip in the desert with the Patriots playing in Arizona the week before.

    The other trip many have circled is Week 4 in Green Bay. Seeing a game at Lambeau Field is on many football fans’ bucket lists, and the Patriots only play there once every eight years. A 4:25 early-autumn tailgate in Green Bay – now that’s football.

  • Return of the red?

    DETROIT - NOVEMBER 25: Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots celebrates his interception with teammates Brandon Meriweather #31 and Jermaine Cunningham #96 during the fourth quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on November 25, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. New England defeated Detroit 45-24. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

    DETROIT – NOVEMBER 25: Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots celebrates his interception with teammates Brandon Meriweather #31 and Jermaine Cunningham #96 during the fourth quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on November 25, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. New England defeated Detroit 45-24. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

    Although it hasn’t been officially confirmed yet, there’s been a number of breadcrumbs over the last year suggesting the Patriots will bring back their throwback red ‘Pat Patriot’ uniforms in 2022. NFL teams sometimes link uniform announcements to the schedule release – will the Patriots do the same?

    Now that the schedule is here, it may be easier to identify which games would make sense for the throwbacks. Primetime games are also prime marketing opportunities for new apparel, so the Week 7 Monday Night game against the Bears and Week 13 Thursday Night game against the Bills would both make sense.

    Week 11 against the Jets after the bye against is also a game to watch here. The last two times the Patriots wore red in 2011 and 2012 came against the Jets.

    Some have suggested the look could return in Week 12, following the tradition of throwbacks on Thanksgiving. However, the Vikings are the home team and their purple may be too close to the red. For it to happen, Minnesota would have to choose to wear white at home, which they haven’t done since 1964. All that being said, the Patriots could also bring back the all-white throwback look they’ve worn just once (2009) since 1989.

  • New-look preseason

    Mar 2, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels talks to the media during the 2022 NFL Combine. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 2, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels talks to the media during the 2022 NFL Combine. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

    In addition to their full regular season schedule, the Patriots also announced their three preseason opponents. This year’s preseason schedule looks very different from what fans have become accustomed to in recent history.

    The biggest change is that for the first time since 2004, the Patriots are not schedule to play their preseason finale against the New York Giants. Instead, the Giants will come to Foxborough for the first of the three preseason games. That one will be followed by a game against the Carolina Panthers, which is expected to be accompanied by joint practices.

    In their final and lone road preseason game, the Patriots will head to Las Vegas for joint practices (per Reiss) and the preseason finale against the Raiders. This is a departure from the norm for two reasons. First, teams usually schedule preseason games with opponents within close proximity to cut down on travel. It’s also rare for regular season opponents to play in the preseason, which will be the case here. However, the ability to work with a familiar program run by a familiar face in Josh McDaniels may have been too good of an opportunity to pass up.