The Patriots will open the year against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 11 and wrap up their season against the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 7 or Jan. 8. In-between will be 15 games of varying difficulty, with New England’s bye coming in Week 10.
ESPN.com on Friday offered a “bold prediction” for every team following the schedule release, and ESPN Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss centered his around New England’s Week 18 matchup in Orchard Park.
Here’s what Reiss wrote:
The Patriots will need to beat the Bills in the regular-season finale to secure a playoff berth, and it will be intriguing to see how it unfolds if Buffalo has already solidified its own playoff seeding. The Patriots’ 2021 season ended in embarrassing fashion at Buffalo in a 47-17 playoff loss, and in this scenario, they would have a chance to write a different story a year later.
The Bills are the favorites to win the AFC East, with DraftKings Sportsbook installing Buffalo at -225 to repeat as division champions. The Dolphins have the second-shortest odds at +450, while the Patriots sit at +550, ahead of the long-shot New York Jets (+2200).
New England hasn’t done much this offseason to inspire confidence, as Bill Belichick and company were relatively inactive during free agency, and their draft class received lackluster reviews. But quarterback Mac Jones showed potential during his rookie season in 2021, leading the Patriots to the playoffs with a 10-7 record one year after New England went 7-9 in its first season without Tom Brady.
So, perhaps the Pats will play meaningful football into January, regardless of their flaws.