Patriots Schedule Analysis: Thoughts On Each Matchup Of 2020 Season

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The New England Patriots’ 2020 schedule officially was released Thursday night. Here’s a closer look at each matchup (all times ET):

Week 1: vs. Miami Dolphins (Sunday, Sept. 13, 1 p.m.)
The Patriots’ 2019 regular season concluded with a stunning home loss to Brian Flores’ Dolphins. They won’t need to wait long for their shot at revenge.

New England will kick off its 2020 campaign by hosting Miami, which loaded up its roster with notable free agents this offseason — including former Patriots Kyle Van Noy, Ted Karras and Elandon Roberts — and added one of the most talented quarterbacks in this year’s draft class in Tua Tagovailoa.

It seems improbable that Tagovailoa would be handed the keys to Miami’s offense in Week 1 — Ryan Fitzpatrick likely will begin the season as the Dolphins’ starter — but this game should feature the first start of Jarrett Stidham’s NFL career, assuming the second-year Patriots signal-caller beats out Brian Hoyer in training camp.

Week 2: at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday, Sept. 20, 8:20 p.m.)
The Patriots and Seahawks only play wildly entertaining games. Their last three matchups were the infamous “You Mad Bro?” game in 2012, Super Bowl XLIX and a 2016 thriller at Gillette that ended with a Seattle goal-line stand.

COVID-19 restrictions could have an especially significant impact on this one. The Seahawks boast one of the loudest home crowds in American sports, and it remains to be seen whether NFL games — especially ones this early on — will be played in empty stadiums. Take the fans out of CenturyLink Field, and that environment becomes a whole lot less hostile for visiting teams.

Week 3: vs. Las Vegas Raiders (Sunday, Sept. 27, 1 p.m.)
The Patriots won’t visit Sin City this season, but they will host its new residents in Week 3.

Week 4: at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, Oct. 4, 4:25 p.m.) 
An early-season matchup with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, who defeated the Patriots in Foxboro last season en route to a Super Bowl title. The note about Seattle’s crowd noise applies here, as well. Arrowhead Stadium isn’t nearly as imposing without its legions of red-clad Chiefs fans.

The Patriots certainly wouldn’t mind having a more subdued atmosphere for those marquee road games, especially if they’re starting an inexperienced quarterback in Stidham

Week 5: vs. Denver Broncos (Sunday, Oct. 11, 1 p.m.)
Second-year quarterback Drew Lock leads a potential-laden Broncos offense (Phillip Lindsay, Noah Fant, Courtland Sutton and rookies Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler) in Denver’s first visit to Foxboro since 2014.

Week 6: Bye

Week 7: vs. San Francisco 49ers (Sunday, Oct. 25, 4:25 p.m.)
This probably is the most highly anticipated date on the Patriots’ schedule: Jimmy Garoppolo’s first game back at Gillette Stadium since the fateful Halloween 2017 trade that sent him to San Francisco. And he’ll likely be squaring off against Stidham — the original Tom Brady heir apparent versus the current one.

Garoppolo will be the least of New England’s worries in this game, though, as the Niners return most of the 2019 squad that rode suffocating defense and a steamrolling run game to Super Bowl LIV. General manager John Lynch replaced his three key departures (left tackle Joe Staley, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and receiver Emmanuel Sanders) with a marquee trade addition in Trent Williams and two first-round draft picks in Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk.

It’s a bit surprising this game didn’t receive primetime billing.

Week 8: at Buffalo Bills (Sunday, Nov. 1, 1 p.m.)
Are the Bills, who won 10 games last year and added star wideout Stefon Diggs this offseason, ready to challenge the Patriots for AFC East supremacy? They’ll get their first crack at the 11-time defending division champs when New England heads to Orchard Park in Week 8.

Week 9: at New York Jets (Monday, Nov. 9, 8:15 p.m.)
“Seeing ghosts,” Round 2? The Patriots and Jets will play on Monday night at MetLife Stadium for the second consecutive season. New England hasn’t lost to its AFC East rival since 2015 and won in emphatic fashion in last year’s primetime matchup, bamboozling Sam Darnold into four interceptions in a 33-0 rout.

Week 10: vs. Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, Nov. 15, 8:20 p.m.)
Last year’s Ravens game — a 37-20 loss in Baltimore in Week 9 — kicked the Patriots’ downward spiral. Entering at 8-0, they proceeded to lose five of their final nine games, failing to crack 25 points in eight of them while their top-ranked defense struggled against some of the league’s more potent rushing attacks. We’ll see if they can slow down reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and Co. in this primetime rematch.

It’s also worth noting that New England’s 2020 schedule is the NFL’s toughest based on opponents’ 2019 records. Baltimore’s is the easiest.

Week 11: at Houston Texans (Sunday, Nov. 22, 1 p.m.)
The Patriots traditionally have dominated Bill O’Brien’s Texans, but they stumbled in their last trip to Houston, losing 28-22 last December. New England will see old friend Brandin Cooks in this one, as Houston acquired the speedy wideout after trading away DeAndre Hopkins earlier this offseason.

Week 12: vs. Arizona Cardinals (Sunday, Nov. 29, 1 p.m.)
This will be the Patriots’ first look at the Kyler Murray- and Kliff Kingsbury-led Cardinals, who added another weapon to their offense by fleecing O’Brien in the Hopkins trade and used their top draft pick on defensive Swiss Army knife Isaiah Simmons.

One stat that might surprise you: Though Kingsbury was known for his wide-open, pass-happy teams at Texas Tech, Arizona actually ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards per play (5.0) in his first year as head coach, trailing only Jackson’s Ravens.

Week 13: at Los Angeles Chargers (Sunday, Dec. 6, 4:25 p.m.)
The NFL schedule-makers opted to stack New England’s two Los Angeles games in back-to-back weeks. This will be their first trip to sparkling new SoFi Stadium and could feature a matchup against sixth overall pick Justin Herbert.

Week 14: at Los Angeles Rams (Thursday, Dec. 10, 8:20 p.m.)
Expect the Patriots to spend an abbreviated week in the L.A. area ahead of this meeting with their Super Bowl LIII foe.

Week 15: at Miami Dolphins (Sunday, Jan. 20, 1 p.m.)
Will Stidham have better luck in South Florida than his predecessor? Brady went 8-10 in road games against Miami with final losses in his final seven trips. The Patriots, who will be coming off a 10-day break thanks to the timing of the Rams game, also could get their first look at Tua in this one.

Week 16: vs. Buffalo Bills (Monday, Dec. 28, 8:15 p.m.)
A division title could be in the balance when Josh Allen and the Bills visit Gillette Stadium for a Monday night showdown.

Week 17: vs. New York Jets (Sunday, Jan. 3, 1 p.m.)
The Patriots will close out the regular season with three consecutive AFC East games. That hasn’t happened since 2014.

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Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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