New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 02: New England Patriots players lead by Mac Jones #10 and Kendrick Bourne #84 enter the field before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
  • Football fans are just days away from being able to plan their fall and winters. The NFL schedule will be released in its entirety on Thursday night, although individual games tend to leak out throughout the day.

    Although each team’s opponents have been known since the end of the 2021 season (you can find a list of the Patriots’ 2022 opponents here) the order is the final piece of the puzzle. Not only does it fill in the picture of bye weeks, primetime games, etc., but also helps fans who are planning to attend games during the season.

    As the schedule rolls out on Thursday, what should Patriots fans be looking for? Here’s some storylines to keep an eye on.

  • Opener/Finale

    Sep 13, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; A detailed view of the Gillette Stadium sign before a game between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 13, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; A detailed view of the Gillette Stadium sign before a game between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots have played their Week 1 game at home for five consecutive years, starting in 2017. Their last road opener came in 2016 against the Cardinals.

    That’s a noticeably long streak of season opening home games. While there’s no guarantee it ends this year, it’s entering extended territory. At the same time, it’s not an unprecedented run – the Broncos had eight Week 1 home games in a row from 2011-2018. Since league expansion in 2002 the Patriots have had 13 Week 1 home games, tied for the second-most in the NFL in that span.

    Meanwhile, the Patriots closed the regular season at home for four straight years from 2017-2020. That stretch was snapped last year, but they haven’t had back-to-back road finales since 2015-2016. 2016 was also the last time the Patriots both started and ended the regular season on the road.

    As for the opponent in the finale, the Patriots have faced either the Jets or Dolphins in their final regular season game in each of the last eight years. They haven’t wrapped things up against the Bills since 2014, and only twice since the NFL made all Week 17 (now 18) games between divisional opponents. Are we due for a Patriots-Bills finale? We’ll find out on Thursday.

  • Primetime

    Oct 31, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) huddles with teammates against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second half at SoFi Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Chargers 27-24. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 31, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) huddles with teammates against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second half at SoFi Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Chargers 27-24. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    In 2021, the Patriots played four primetime games, their fewest since 2016. How many primetime games will they play this year, and which teams are their most likely opponents in those games?

    One of the matchups against the Bills – especially the game in Buffalo – feels like a lock for a primetime slot. The two faced of on Monday Night Football last year, so that game could shift to Sunday night this year. It wouldn’t be a total surprise if that was the team’s Week 1 matchup.

    Looking at other opponents, the Colts come to Foxborough in a rematch of the Patriots’ first post-bye loss from 2021. That game will likely end up having at least wild card implications, and could get primetime attention.

    The Ravens are slated to return to Gillette Stadium for the first time since the Patriots’ 2020 upset win in a driving rainstorm. That game was in primetime, and the rematch could be too.

    Another game that could work is the Patriots’ first ever trip to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders. The Belichick-McDaniels matchup could be worth some extra attention.

    Trips to Green Bay and Pittsburgh are both on the docket for the Patriots this year – both road games. Those teams regularly end up in primetime based on pedigree alone, and those games could get that treatment. Cncinatti visits Gillette in a game that could get a primetime nod thanks to the current standing of the defending AFC champs and their quarterback Joe Burrow.

    While it may not reach Sunday or Monday night standing, the Chicago Bears’ trip to Foxborough profiles as a potential Thursday night game. The matchup between Mac Jones and Justin Fields will be an anticipated one.

  • Bye weeks

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 27: Empty seats are seen during the game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 27: Empty seats are seen during the game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    For five of the last six years and nine of the last 10, the Patriots’ bye week has fallen in the second half of the season. Last year was their latest ever, coming in Week 14.

    The placement of the bye week isn’t as big of a story this year as it was last year, when we were projected an in-season quarterback change for the team. Still, with the season now a week longer, the closer to the middle that week off is the better.

    There’s also the matter of when the Patriots’ opponents are coming off bye weeks. Last year, they faced three teams coming off their bye, which was the most in the league.

  • Suspensions

    Dec 13, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) against the Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 13, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) against the Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    There’s currently one NFL suspension on the books for the 2022 season. Last week, Arizona Cardinals star receiver DeAndre Hopkins was suspended six games following a positive PED test. So whether or not the Patriots have to face him this year depends on where their trip to Arizona end up falling on their schedule. Last season, the Cardinals averaged 30.2 points per game with Hopkins on the field, and 21 points per game without him.

    The other matchup to watch here is the trip to Cleveland to take on the Browns. New Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is expected to face a suspension to start the season following multiple allegations of sexual assault. While it’s not known exactly how much time Watson could miss, multiple NFL insiders have predicted a lengthy suspension for Watson. The earlier in the season the Patriots play the Browns, the less likely it is they have to face him.

  • Vegas trip

    Nov 14, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; A general overall view of the Allegiant Stadium exterior. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 14, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; A general overall view of the Allegiant Stadium exterior. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    As mentioned above, the Patriots are set to make their first ever trip to Las Vegas at some point this fall. In addition to it being the first time facing Josh McDaniels, Patriots fans may also be looking at this game a an excuse for a getaway to the strip.

    In 2020, the Patriots had were set to face both Los Angeles teams on the road. The league consolidated those two games into one trip, with the Patriots facing the Chargers on Sunday and then the Rams on Thursday. With trips to Vegas and Phoenix on the docket this year, could a similar setup be in play?

  • Red uniforms

    FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 21: Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots reacts after a touchdown run against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on October 21, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

    FOXBORO, MA – OCTOBER 21: Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots reacts after a touchdown run against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on October 21, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

    Although there’s been no official confirmation from the team that the red throwback uniforms will be returning in 2022, there have been significant hints over the last few months that that will indeed be the case. Other teams in the past have used the schedule release to drop uniform news – will the Patriots take that opportunity?