July is finally here, and that means one very important thing: we have made it through the dark times, and are just a few weeks away from the NFL season kicking off again with training camp. So in anticipation of the start of the NFL preseason, we are going to make some way-too-early predictions about the record that the Patriots will finish with after the conclusion of the 2018 regular season.
This prediction is way too early because a lot can happen between now and the start of the season that could drastically change the outlook for a team. For example, injuries are a huge factor that always pop up during training camp. For the Patriots, losing Edelman in the third preseason game last summer certainly had an impact on the way many thought their season could go. In addition, there are other factors of uncertainty, such as Edelman’s current suspension. The NFL is still considering his appeal as of this moment, and whether he remains suspended or not will have a significant impact on the Patriots season outlook. But it’s almost football season and I know we are all excited so let’s get into it.
Week One: NE vs. Houston Texans (L)
This is a tough opening week matchup for both teams. Each has high expectations and will be fresh off the preseason. They played a tight matchup in Foxboro last season with New England coming out on top in a nail-biting finish. Houston is likely to take this matchup, however, as the Patriots will be entering the season with a lot of new pieces and will need time and real competition to figure out all their moving parts, just like last season’s opening game against Kansas City.
Week Two: NE @ Jacksonville Jaguars (L)
This rematch of the AFC Championship is an early season treat for NFL fans. The young and cocky Jaguars will be looking for redemption after giving away their shot at a Super Bowl last season. The Patriots are more experienced and have as much talent, but they will likely still be going through growing pains as they try to settle in.
Week Three: @ Detroit Lions (W)
This will be an early test for Matt Patricia as he goes up against his former team and mentor. The natural thought is that Patricia will be able to beat the Patriots because he knows their system and how they run their offense and defense. However, this is not the first time Belichick has faced one of his former assistants; he has a career record of 11-6 against his proteges. He will find new things to throw at Patricia, who is still going to be getting used to his new team.
Week Four: NE vs Miami Dolphins (W)
The Patriots will face former teammate Danny Amendola as he returns to Foxboro for the first time. While Patriots fans will be thrilled to see Amendola again, they will also be treated to New England’s first division win of the season. The Dolphins have looked better under Adam Gase, but they still have serious questions at quarterback with Ryan Tannehill, and their offense did not markedly improve over the offseason.
Week Five: NE vs. Indianapolis Colts (W)
The Colts have been in an awkward limbo for years due to the odd saga of Andrew Luck’s injuries. The success of their team is predicated heavily on his health, as he is easily the most talented offensive weapon they have. However, their roster overall is lacking significant talent, and will not be able to keep up with New England.
Week Six: NE vs. Kansas City Chiefs (W)
This was a hard game to predict because the Chiefs could be a playoff team just as easily as they could be at the bottom of the AFC. They have some ridiculously talented players with Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill on offense, and Eric Berry, Justin Houston, and Dee Ford on defense. However, they have Andy Reid to balance that out. Reid is a brilliant game-planner, and almost always has a good system in place. However, his game management skills are laughable, and he may not be able to harness the talent at his hands. The key will be whether Patrick Mahomes can play to his level of talent. If he can, this could just as easily be a loss for New England. However, this prediction is entirely based on the assumption that he will struggle as a first-time starter.
Week Seven: NE @ Chicago Bears (W)
The Bears could surprise some teams this year after a poor 2017 campaign. While Mitch Trubisky did not blow anyone away as a rookie, he showed some flashes and has a lot of room for improvement. He has a new crop of receivers around him with Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel which could help him have more success. The Bears defense also has some talent, especially in their linebacking corps. However, they are still a team on the rise and will struggle against New England.
Week Eight: NE @ Buffalo Bills (W)
The Bills have reset their roster and their culture under Sean McDermott. However, their roster is lacking serious talent and will need time to develop its young players. They did squeak into the playoffs last season, but they still have a long way to go to become contenders.
Week Nine: NE vs Green Bay Packers (L)
Watching two of the best players to ever play their position on the same field is always a great experience, and this will be no exception. This will likely be a game that comes down to the wire, with Aaron Rodgers coming out on top because of his ability to beat the Patriots defense. The Packers defense has some serious holes, particularly at the cornerback position, and Tom Brady will have great success. However, Aaron Rodgers’ mobility will be too much for a slow Patriots linebacking corps, and he will be the deciding factor.
Week Ten: NE @ Tennessee Titans (L)
The Titans are going to head into this season underrated, but they have some serious talent on both sides of the ball. Their offense has Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, Corey Davis, Taylor Lewan, and Jack Conklin. Their defense has Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Kevin Byrd, Brian Orakpo, and Derrick Morgan. The issue will be putting all of that talent together. New head coach Mike Vrabel has the mindset and the energy to pull off an upset over New England. This would be a shock, but the Titans have the talent to do it.
Week Eleven: Bye Week
Week Twelve: NE @ New York Jets (W)
The Jets surprised everyone last year by having a mediocre year instead of finishing the year at the bottom of the barrel. They added Sam Darnold to a team that has a couple of extremely talented players, including personal favorites of mine, safety Jamal Adams, and linebacker Darron Lee. However, they are still lacking serious talent among their offensive skill players and will need to have a level of focus and discipline that I don’t think Todd Bowles will be able to provide.
Week Thirteen: NE vs. Minnesota Vikings (W)
This is a game that the Patriots should lose. They are playing a team with a heavy amount of talent, including Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen, and Eric Kendricks. In all honesty, I wanted to limit that least to just a few players and then I realized just how deep the team actually is. They have the talent, the youth, and the skill to beat the Patriots. However, this is a game that always pops up on the Patriots schedule where they play at a championship level against a young upstart team and prove why they are one of the best teams in the league.
Week 14: NE @ Miami Dolphins (W)
The Patriots have always struggled in Miami and this will be no exception. Despite the team’s obvious issues, Gase will have the team figured out by this point in the season and will have them ready to go against a New England team coming off of a draining win over Minnesota. However, their talent is still not sufficient to beat the Patriots, and New England will sweep the season series.
Week Fifteen: NE @ Pittsburgh Steelers (W)
This is another game that could potentially be a loss for New England simply based on the talent level of their opponent. However, the Steelers have never been able to put it all together against the Patriots, even with Ben Roethlisberger, Leveon Bell, and Antonio Brown all playing together. The Patriots improved defense will likely have success against a tired Ben late in the season, and their offense will be no match for the Steelers defense.
Week Sixteen: NE vs. Buffalo Bills (W)
The level of competition in this game will be entirely based on whether or not the Bills are still in contention for a playoff spot. If they are, then they could put up a decent fight against New England. However, in the end, they are not talented enough to overcome the Patriots unless AJ McCarron somehow develops into a franchise quarterback.
Week Seventeen: NE vs. New York Jets (W)
Like the Patriots week 16 matchup, this game’s intensity will entirely depend on both the Jets playoff chances and the Patriots seeding opportunities. If the Patriots seeding can be altered by this game, then they will win. In 2015 they backed into the playoffs and lost a week 17 matchup in Miami that sent them to Denver to play (and lose) the AFC Championship game. If any sort of home-field advantage is on the line, the Patriots will come out to play.
As mentioned, this prediction could entirely change in a month or a month in a half if anything drastic happens during training camp. However, it is a fun exercise to see what the teams look like on paper now, and how they perform during the season.
Until next time – B$