Tom Brady and the Patriots now know when and where they’ll play in 2014. (USA TODAY Images)
Wednesday night marked the first look at next season after the league announced the 2014 Regular Season schedule, and looking at how things shaped up for the Patriots, it seems like Tom Brady and company should face a tough run when they hit the field in the months ahead.
Here’s a quick rundown of each week with some thoughts on each game:
WEEK 1: 9/7 – New England at Miami – 1:00pm CBS
To kick things off, the Patriots will open the year down in Miami in what will likely be a tough Division battle. Playing a game in Florida that early in September is never an easy feat, and this is only the third time during the Bill Belichick era that the team has played a game down there in the opening month of the season. The last time they played there this early was back on September 12th, 2011, which was a 38-24 win. Prior to that you have to go all the way back to September 24th, 2000 in a 10-3 loss in a game where Drew Bledsoe finished just 16-of-33 for 161 yards and an interception.
Fans talk about the lack of talent at that position for Brady, but looking back at that game the leading receivers were Terry Glenn (5 catches, 65 yards), Troy Brown (4 catches, 38 yards), and their tight end back then was Eric Bjornson (2 catches, 15 yards). From there receivers Chris Calloway (1 catch, 17 yards), Tony Simmons (1 catch, 9 yards), fullback Harold Shaw (2 catches, 11 yards), and Kevin Faulk (1 catch, 6 yards) rounded out the other pass-catchers. Not exactly a talented group, and that certainly contributed to the 5-11 finish in Bill Belichick’s first season as head coach.
But that was then, and looking at how last year’s final trip to Miami ended, it was ugly. The team suffered a 24-20 loss back on December 15th last season, and it was a tough one. Tom Brady walked out of his press conference after dropping an expletive following that defeat, and it ended up being a loss that ultimately cost them hold field advantage during the playoffs.
WEEK 2: 9/14 – New England at Minnesota – 1:00 CBS
Week two will see the Patriots with another road game, with a trip out to Minnesota to take on the Vikings. They’ve played Minnesota just four times during Belichick’s tenure and just once out there, but they’ve won their last three meetings against them. Should they fall to the Dolphins to start the season, the importance of this game may be even greater.
WEEK 3: 9/21 – New England vs Oakland – 1:00 CBS
The Patriots won’t play their first home game at Gillette this year until week three, and they’ll get a visit from the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are an up and coming team and it will be tough to tell exactly how tough this match-up will be. But the crowd should be fired up when they get out there for the first time.
WEEK 4: 9/29 – New England at Kansas City – 8:30pm ESPN (Mon Night)
Week four will see the Patriots head back out on the road for a nationally televised game on Monday night against the Chiefs, and Arrowhead Stadium is definitely one of the more difficult venues to play in. The Patriots have played there twice going back to 2000, playing there in both 2004 and 2005. Their most recent game in ’05 out there ended in a 26-16 loss, which was Tom Brady’s only defeat against them in four total meetings. Since this is a Conference game, it could potentially hold some additional importance down the road considering the fact the Chiefs will likely be a playoff team.
WEEK 5: 10/5 – New England vs Cincinnati – 8:30 NBC (Sun Night)
The Patriots will return home in what will likely be another tough game against the Bengals, who were incredibly physical in their previous meeting last season. It will be New England’s second straight night game, with the schedule makers not cutting them much of a break coming off of a short week against the Chiefs. Cincinnati showed last season that they’re willing to be physical against the Patriots, and one would have to believe this could be another tough one.
WEEK 6: 10/12 – New England at Buffalo – 1:00pm CBS
After opening up against the Bills last season, these two teams won’t face each other in 2014 until week six. By this time we should have a good feel for both teams, and we’ll find out if the Bills are finally on the verge of being a contender in the Division, or if they’ll be the same team the Patriots have had their way with over the last decade.
WEEK 7: 10/16 – New England vs NY Jets – 8:25pm CBS (Thurs Night)
Nothing like a mid-October nationally televised game against your hated rivals and yet another AFC East match-up coming off of a short week. The Jets should be starting to fall apart right around now, and you would have to think Geno Smith may have succumbed to pressure from the fans who likely have spent the first part of the season screaming for Michael Vick to be in the line-up. It should be a beautiful mess, and fortunately the Patriots will play this one in front of the home crowd in their first meeting of the season.
WEEK 8: 10/26 – New England vs Chicago – 1:00pm FOX
Week eight will see a visit from the Bears, who should definitely be a tough opponent. They finished 8-8 last season but most expect the Bears to be a playoff contender this season. New England has won their last three meetings against them, including a 36-7 rout back in 2010 out in Chicago. Hopefully that trend continues this season.
WEEK 9: 11/2 – New England vs Denver – 4:25pm CBS
Mark this one down on your calendar, as it will likely be quite a game in this rematch from that AFC Championship loss out in Denver. It’s interesting that this is a nationally televised game with a 4:25pm start instead of the marquee match-up of Sunday night. Instead that nod went to the Ravens visiting the Steelers, but considering the Patriots are already playing five night games, most fans will likely be glad this one doesn’t have the later start when the team plays their first game in November. Once again, this could be an important match-up with playoff implications when it comes to head-to-head match-ups, and after spotting them a lead in their previous regular season match-up, hopefully Tom Brady and New England’s offense get things going a little sooner this time around.
WEEK 10: 11/9 – BYE WEEK
No football this week, and coming off of what may end up being an emotional game against the Broncos, this will likely be a great time for the team to get a break and get ready for the stretch run. They’re fortunate to have a bye week this late in the year, and considering how last season panned out injury-wise, hopefully it’s a good time to start getting healthy before they start trying to close out the year on a high note.
WEEK 11: 11/16 – New England at Indianapolis – 8:30pm NBC
Coming off of a bye week the Patriots are back on the national stage with a trip out to Indianapolis against Andrew Luck and the Colts. They’ve had their way so far with Luck at the helm, and hopefully that trend continues this time around.
WEEK 12: 11/23 – New England vs Detroit – 1:00pm FOX
This is a game that fans should be nervous about considering how brutal the Lions’ pass rush is and how big of a test it will be on New England’s secondary against Detroit’s Calvin Johnson. This may be the first time we get to see one of the key benefits of signing Brandon Browner, with Browner’s length (6’4″) likely playing a big role in matching up against the 6’5″ beast that Johnson is. This may be a tougher match-up than some may think, and it should be quite a game.
WEEK 13: 11/30 – New England at Green Bay – 4:25pm CBS
Not much else to say other than this is going to be a tough game against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. This is the time of year where the importance of each week becomes even more magnified as does the intensity, and Lambeau Field will likely be rocking and trying to make things tough on the visiting team during what will be just the second trip there of his career for Tom Brady.
WEEK 14: 12/7 – New England at San Diego – 8:30pm NBC
The Patriots will head out on the road yet again, this time all the way out to the west coast in another Sunday night match-up against the Chargers. Tom Brady hasn’t lost out there since 2002, which was a 21-14 loss back on September 29th of that year. This will be their first game of the December run, and it should be another tough one.
WEEK 15: 12/14 – New England vs Miami – 1:00pm CBS
By now we should know a lot more about these teams compared to their previous meeting, and it’s going to be interesting to see whether the Dolphins will finally have established themselves as a contender in the AFC East as well as a potential playoff team. By mid December the weather should favor New England, and by now the execution should also be better than it was for the Patriots compared to the start of the season. This is the time they’ll need to be playing their best football, and the Dolphins could potentially make a game of things.
WEEK 16: 12/21 – New England at NY Jets – 1:00pm CBS
The big question at this point will be whether the Jets will be a contender, or if they’ll be in complete disarray and playing out the stretch with Rex Ryan . It’s hard not to believe the latter will be true, but that won’t change the fact that playing at the Meadowlands is never an easy place to play. Hopefully the Patriots are playing well at this point, because with one week to go there could potentially be some important playoff seeding at stake.
WEEK 17: 12/28 – New England vs Buffalo – 1:00pm CBS
For the second straight season, the Patriots will close out the season with a home game against the Bills at Gillette Stadium. Last season’s match-up ended with a 34-20 win by the Patriots in a game that saw LeGarrette Blount rack up 189 yards on 24 carries, but obviously he won’t be around for this one. Hopefully the Bills will be playing like the Bills at this point, and if all goes well New England will be gearing up for a January run with a secondary that’s shutting teams down and a receiving group that has emerged as a bigger strength than people expected.
Although, then again, we still have the NFL Draft to come before we really know what kind of team will be filling in the outline that the league provided Wednesday night, along with future roster cut downs and likely a couple of additional free agent acquisitions.
But football certainly is a little closer now that we know where and when these games will be played. Unfortunately we still have a few months to go before we start seeing how it all plays out.