Yesterday, the 2017 schedule was released and much like that day in June when we salivate over the EPL fixture release in England, here the NFL release all the schedule including Monday Night match ups.
Teams can decipher the short weeks, the quick turnarounds, Thanksgiving and Christmas battles. For New England you look at the trips away in the division, as well as match ups that include journeys to Mexico to face the Oakland Raiders as well as trips away to Pittsburgh and Denver.
Week 1 - 7th Sept, v Kansas CityThe league's official kick off as the reigning Super Bowl champions host a pretender in the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday 7th September. Likely you see the champs win out with a fit again Gronkowski and new toys for Brady to play with, whilst Stefan Gilmore starts shutting down Jeremy Maclin (not hard).
Prediction : Win, 1-0
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Week 2 - 17th Sept, @ New OrleansThe Malcolm Butler derby, but will he be wearing the black of the Saints or the white of the Patriots. Either way Butler would love to make a statement but we also have Brandin Cooks returning to the Superdome and with our offensive superiority you cannot see a Saints side admittedly still in transition winning, although they are wasting the twilight years of Drew Brees.
Prediction: Win, 2-0
Week 3 - 24th Sept, v HoustonThis was a Week 3 victory last year with Jacoby Brissett getting his win. Houston will be a different side with J. J. Watt returning and the Texans did give the Patriots a scare in the playoffs and this could well be a banana skin, but this is dependent upon what continuity and productivity the Texans have at quarterback be it Tom Savage or someone else. The Patriots lay an egg once a season, this may be it.
Prediction: Loss, 2-1
Week 4 - 1st Oct, v CarolinaThe Panthers whilst they have the game changer in Cam Newton, they are about their front 7 on defence against our O-line. This turf war is where Blount may come to the fore, whilst the Panthers may not have enough weapons on outside to worry the secondary.
Prediction: Win, 3-1
Week 5 - 5th Oct, @ Tampa BayA short week against a bristling Bucs side who look to kick on and this should be an entertaining game for the neutral, however, the experience and dominance of Patriots will be too much although the speed of their wide receivers may provide match up problems for Gilmore and Butler (if he remains).
Prediction: Win, 4-1
Week 6 - 15th Oct, @ New York JetsThe first divisional game is against the weakest side of the division, an ageing side with no identity on offense and is ear marked to be one of the favourites for wooden spoon and Number 1 seed in 2018 draft.
Prediction: Win, 5-1
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Week 7 - 22nd Oct, v AtlantaThe Superbowl rematch where the Falcons will want redemption for blowing a 28-3 lead before Brady turned on his after burners and led the Patriots to his and their 5th Super Bowl. Again a high scoring affair but the Patriots won without Gronk, and they will find a way to win again but could be one of the regular season games of the year.
Prediction: Win, 6-1
Week 8 - 29th Oct, v LA ChargersThis could be a tricky game, the Chargers will be playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder searching for their identity in their new home. But for all their injuries sustained last year they might have made the play offs in a competitive division, but if they can maintain a healthy roster they still have Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon will only get better and the defence is one of the more under-rated units in the NFL.
Prediction: Win, 7-1
Week 9 - Bye Week
Week 10 - 12th Nov, @ DenverA week off is followed by a week up at altitude in Mile High. The Broncos are far removed from the defensive class that won the Super Bowl led by Von Miller. A lot of that team remain but on offense they are a question mark with one of Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch under centre. A week off leads to the Patriots triumphing again.
Prediction: Win, 8-1
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Week 11 - 19th Nov, @ Oakland (in Mexico)Arriba! A road trip to Mexico versus perhaps one of the main challengers to the Patriots AFC dominance. Derek Carr back from a broken leg, a returning Marshawn Lynch as well as Amari Cooper and that defence that swallowed up offensive lines. Another game at altitude but having played there the week before, you can imagine the Patriots being more prepared than the 'home' team. A great game nonetheless but the Patriots might have too much.
Prediction: Win, 9-1
Week 12 - 26th Nov, v MiamiHome for Thanksgiving, the Patriots do not lose to the Dolphins at home. It will be very cold and Tannehill will freeze again in the spotlight against Brady.
Prediction: Win, 10-1
Week 13 - 3rd Dec, @ BuffaloThe Bills are like the Jets a bit of a mess, this is one of the more hostile atmospheres the Patriots will face throughout the season but we have Gilmore returning and he will pick off Tyrod Taylor once in this game. By this point you imagine the offensive juggernaut rolling into Buffalo for another W.
Prediction: Win, 11-1
Week 14 - 11th Dec, @ MiamiMonday Night Football in South Beach. A glamour game for sure but the Patriots have a bad history in Florida recently as if the Patriots are aware of this record and the Dolphins elevate their game for this with good reason. Could be one of those games where that extra 5% from the Fins may undo the Pats.
Prediction: Loss, 11-2
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Week 15 - 17th Dec, @ PittsburghTwas the week before Christmas and all through the Burgh, not a creature was stirring as Le'Veon Bell ran for 150 yards on a Patriots side that could not contain the offensive weapons that Pittsburgh have. Sometimes you have road games you look at the schedule and mark out as difficult venues to go to. The Steelers away is one of those and a loss is nothing to be sad about although two in a row is not something Bill Belichick does.
Prediction: Loss, 11-3
Week 16 - 24th Dec, v BuffaloMerry Christmas New England. You get one of the weaker offences at home on Christmas Eve and the chance to perhaps wrap up home field advantage by then throughout the play offs. Happy Holidays Mr. Kraft
Prediction: Win, 12-3
Week 17 - 31st Dec, v New York JetsThe year and the season end at home against another weak division rival who may well be tanking for the overall pick. Perhaps this will be Jimmy Garrapollo's final snaps in a Patriots jersey or Tom Brady further cements his regular season wins records. Another division title. Another 12+ win season. The dynasty continues to reign and another deep play off run begins.
Prediction: Win, 13-3
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Predict the other AFC divisions belong to Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans
Wild cards: Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans