Fresh off a historic comeback in Super Bowl LI, the New England Patriots are storming into the 2017-2018 season with key acquisitions on both sides of the ball. Though raising some eyebrows with all these seemingly “win-now” pick-ups, the Patriots know their window with Tom Brady at the helm are dwindling down.
Let’s take a look at the key games on the schedule:
Kansas City CHIEFS – September 7th
After complaints from the Carolina Panthers about opening on the road after a Super Bowl loss, the Atlanta Falcons were spared the Super Bowl rematch to open the season. Instead, Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs will travel to Gillette Stadium to open the season. The Chiefs have not been able to take a game from the Patriots since the opening of Gillette Stadium and this one is shaping to not look different. Alex Smith will have to deal with the new look secondary of Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore while their defense will have their hands full with the new Patriot’s WR corps including the addition of Brandin Cooks. It’ll be a close one in the start but the Patriots break away and take this one 31-13.
Key Stat – Defending Super Bowl champions are 11-2 on opening night.
Atlanta FALCONS – October 22nd
This game has been circled on all NFL fans’ calendars since the schedule has been released. It’s impossible to forget the famous “28-3” comeback that has made the first 3 quarters of Atlanta’s first Super Bowl experience in 20 years laughable. The fact however is that Atlanta pushed the Patriots to the brink of defeat before Brady led an unthinkable comeback. The Falcons will be looking for revenge and are itching to set the record straight. However, it’ll be a different story on a fall night in Massachusetts and the Falcons will suffer a similar fate to the Super Bowl. The Patriots get a late FG to put this out of reach and take this victory 24-20.
Key Stat – Atlanta’s pass defense was 25th in the league in 2016 giving up 371.2 yards per game. The Patriots pass offense was 4th in the league with 386.3 yards per game.
@Denver BRONCOS – November 12th
For the fourth straight time, the New England Patriots will travel to Mile High Stadium when these two teams meet. The Patriots were able to take last year’s meeting 16-3 and no doubt will have the advantage this year as question marks remain around the Denver offense. This meeting won’t be high scoring but there is no way that the Broncos will be able to keep up with the Patriots offense. The Patriots take this one on a cold night in Denver 21-10.
Key Stat – Denver’s offense checked in at 27th in the league last year with 323.1 yards per game.
@Pittsburgh STEELERS – December 17th
A trip to Pittsburgh in cold December will be the Patriots’ hardest challenge during the regular season. The Patriots have taken the last four games against the Steelers but Pittsburgh seems poised to take the AFC throne from New England with their three-headed monster of Ben, Bell, and Brown. These two met in the AFC Championship last year with the Patriots taking the victory 36-17. The Steelers lost their star RB Bell late in the first quarter and sputtered without him. It’ll be interesting to see how the Patriots defense handles a healthy Steelers attack but the Patriots take this one 38-27.
Key Stat – Under Bill Bellichick, the Patriots are 60-12 (.833) in the month of December.
The Patriots will run into trouble with their AFC East opponents as usual but look poised to close out 2017 with their best shot at redeeming their 18-1 season.