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The Gauntlet – The Patriots’ Toughest Matchups Down the Stretch

Chris Smith
Chris Smith on Twitter
1 year ago at 1:49 pm ET
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

The Gauntlet – The Patriots’ Toughest Matchups Down the StretchDavid Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The preseason saw little in the way of optimism for the New England Patriots. Yet at the halfway stage of the season, the Patriots remain just a half-game behind AFC East leaders, the Buffalo Bills.

With the Bills expected to sweep the division before the season started, their inconsistencies have opened the door for the Patriots to steal a stunning AFC East title.

In fact, NJ online gambling odds have changed to reflect this. It’s clear that the momentum has swung toward New England, but what does this team need to do to win their division and make the playoffs?

Here will be the season-defining matchups for Coach Belichick and these Patriots.

Week 12 – Titans at Patriots

The NFL breathed a collective sigh of relief when Derrick Henry went down with what’s expected to be a season-ending injury. In the eyes of many, Henry was carrying the Titans and was on pace to shatter multiple NFL records, as well as being in the conversation for MVP. The team announced Henry would undergo foot surgery with no timetable for a return.

However, a week after Henry’s injury, the Titans would go on to destroy Super Bowl contenders, the Los Angeles Rams in a 28-16 defensive mauling. Was it a fluke? Potentially, but only a fool would count the Titans out. 

What has turned into a potentially easy game down the stretch has now reverted to being one of New England’s toughest matchups. There’s no doubt that the Titans will want to show the world that they’re not a one-man team.

If New England can pull off a win against the Titans, it could put them in the driving seat for the AFC East title.

Week 12 will be crucial in the story of the Patriots’ 2021 season because this is easily their toughest four-game stretch. If they make it through relatively unscathed, good things might be on the horizon. It all starts with Tennessee in chilly New England.

Week 13/16 – Buffalo Bills

With the Dolphins and Jets posing no threat in 2021, it’s a two-horse race for the AFC East title. Markdown December 7th and December 26th as the two games that could decide the division.

The Patriots and the Bills play each other both at home and on the road. Before the season started, most people had the Bills as Super Bowl contenders. Back then, things weren’t looking so good for New England.

However, with the Bills losing on the road against the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars, the Patriots’ season suddenly looks a lot brighter.

Truthfully, it depends which Buffalo turns up. If it’s the, quite frankly, scary team that turned out against the Packers and the Chiefs, New England could be toast. If it’s the one that showed up in the debacle in Jacksonville, the Patriots have a real chance of slaying this team.

Going 2-0 would be a dream, but a 1-1 split would be considered a major step forward for this young Belichick team.

Week 15 – Patriots at Colts

The Colts have been a strange team all year. They’ve consistently lurched from good to awful. This has left them more than three games behind the Titans in the AFC South.

In one of the football’s weakest divisions, the Colts will have it tough against the Patriots. New England will be coming off their bye week into this game, which should give them an edge.

But as Colts quarterback Carson Wentz has proven throughout his career, he’s more than capable of pulling an incredible performance out of the bank. Jonathan Taylor has also been a leading light this season. Against the Jets, he posted 19 carries for 172 yards, with an average of 9.1 yards per carry.

Stopping the run will be key for the Patriots if they want to win this game.

What Else is on the Schedule?

This NFL season has been a strange one. Strong teams have regularly put in a dominating performance only to trade it away against some of the leagues’ weakest. No game on the Patriots’ remaining schedule can be taken for granted.

Even games against the Jets, the Dolphins, and the Jaguars could serve as unexpected oil slicks as we enter the final weeks of the season.

Can the Patriots make the playoffs? It would be surprising if they didn’t at least make it in as a wild card, but the division title is firmly within sight. How well they do in the playoffs is another question altogether.

What Belichick teams have demonstrated in the past is that you never know when the Patriots can cause an upset.

Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

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