I’ve got the Patriots going 15-1.
They’ll probably drop a game somewhere along the way to an AFC East opponent — most likely Darrelle Revis and the New York Jets — during the 2015 NFL season, which saw its schedule released Tuesday evening. Maybe it’s to the revamped Texans, with old friends Bill O’Brien, Vince Wilfork, and Brian Hoyer/Ryan Mallett manning the hope in Houston. I can see a hiccup in Week 5 when New England travels to Dallas to face the Cowboys the Sunday following an early bye week.
Otherwise? Please. The crews at Gillette should easily have an extra week to dismantle the ice from the NHL Winter Classic before the Patriots host the divisional round of the playoffs.
We’re still eight days from the NFL Draft, not to mention in perpetual limbo in regard to the ongoing shenanigans of the Deflategate findings. But the schedule is out, a window into presuming how the defending Super Bowl champions will fare in pursuit of crown No. 5. ESPN’s Mike Reiss went as far as to predict every score on the Patriots’ 16-game schedule, and has the Pats going 11-5, including a 30-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 6, the first meeting between the two teams since Bob Kravitz blew the PSI whistle following the AFC Championship game.
Really? The only thing I know about that game is that when there’s a grudge to be had — and oh, boy, do Bill Belichick and friends have a grudge — the Patriots usually follow the “no mercy” rule of the Cobra Kai. NBC’s Cris Collinsworth might start shaking uncontrollably midway through the second quarter in that one.
The season officially kicks off Thursday, Sept. 10 when the Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium. It will be the first season-opener on which the team will raise a championship banner (no, the idiotic “16-0” pennant doesn’t count) since 2005. From there, it seems most have the Patriots finishing no worse than the 11-5 that Reiss predicts. The Steelers have the most difficult strength of schedule next season in the NFL. The Lombardi Trophy winners have the 22nd.
“[The Patriots] get an early bye in Week 4, and they’ll get what seems like a bunch of byes from Week 7 to the end,” The Sporting News’ David Steele writes in his schedule analysis. “They play all of four games against 2014 winning teams, all in a row: Bills (Monday night), at Broncos (Sunday night), Eagles, at Texans. Only one of them, the Broncos, made the playoffs. Weeks 7-9 are three straight home games against the Jets, Dolphins (Thursday night) and Redskins. Their toughest stretch is all of two games, after their bye, at Cowboys and at Colts.”
It should be noted that those Colts have the second-easiest strength of schedule next season in the NFL at .416, based on their opponents’ collective winning percentage from 2014. The Patriots have the 29th most difficult home schedule (a paltry .398), but the seventh most-difficult road slate.
The most difficult of those away games may be at Dallas. Or, at the New York Giants (Week 10). Or, at the Texans (Week 13). Or, frankly, who the hell knows.
Here’s how the season might play out though:
Thursday, Sept. 10: Patriots vs. Steelers, 8:30 p.m., NBC
The last time the Patriots lost a home-opener, it was 2001 vs. the Jets, when Mo Lewis inserted his name into New England lore. The last time they lost a season-opener at home was in 2000 vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The last time they lost a home or season-opener at Gillette Stadium was never. Win.
Sunday, Sept. 20: Patriots at Bills, 1 p.m., CBS
Rex Ryan is probably already calling Buffalo season-ticket holders and asking them to get loud for this one. Who the hell is the quarterback again? Win.
Sunday, Sept. 27: Patriots vs. Jaguars, 1 p.m., CBS
Otherwise known as the “My boss gave me these tickets” game. Win.
Sunday, Oct. 4: BYE
The earliest possible bye week? THE LEAGUE HAS IT OUT FOR THE PATS.
Sunday, Oct. 11: Patriots at Cowboys, 4:25 p.m., CBS
Lots of points between the Patriots and Cowboys. Lots of high chairs between the Krafts and Jerry Jones. Win.
Sunday, Oct. 18: Patriots at Colts, 8:30 p.m., NBC
There are going to be a lot of football jokes before this game. Deflated football jokes. Seeing as it’s an NBC game, everybody’s funny man Jimmy Fallon will probably work every tired skit involving football jokes from January back into “The Tonight Show” repertoire. The Indianapolis Star’s Gregg Doyel will say something particularly “edgy.” Take the over, whatever it might be. Win.
Sunday, Oct. 25: Patriots vs. Jets, 1 p.m., CBS
There may or may not be a Revis video montage at Gillette when the Jets come into this game with a 4-1 record, igniting dreams of relevancy in East Rutherford, New Jersey. They get one more week of it before diving into a funk that would make even Rick Kotite laugh. Loss.
Thursday, Oct. 29: Patriots vs. Dolphins, 8:25 p.m., CBS
Has the league suspended Ndamukong Suh yet? Win.
Sunday, Nov. 8: Patriots vs. Redskins, 1 p.m., CBS
Nothing says “We’re serious about winning” like a quarterback competition between Colt McCoy and a broken down Robert Griffin III. Win.
Sunday, Nov. 15: Patriots at Giants, 4:25 p.m., CBS
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. In other news, 68-year-old Tom Coughlin is still Giants head coach. Win.
Monday, Nov. 23: Patriots vs. Bills, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Ted Wells finally releases his Deflategate findings in the hours before the Monday night contest against the Bills. “Outside the Lines” reporter Kelly Naqi reports the Patriots will lose a first-round draft pick in 2016 and are fined $400,000 for the incident. Adam Schefter follows this up with a report that the team, in fact, received an ice cream cake from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with a Hallmark card featuring a teddy bear that read, “We’re Beary Sorry.” Win.
Sunday, Nov. 29: Patriots at Broncos, 8:30 p.m., NBC
A reporter should ask Belichick how he prepares the team to play in the thin air of Colorado. He loves that. Win.
Sunday, Dec. 6: Patriots vs. Eagles, 4:25 p.m., FOX
Anyone who previews this game as a “Tim Tebow Homecoming” is a moron. Win.
Sunday, Dec. 13: Patriots at Texans, 1 p.m., CBS
Houston is an intriguing team to watch in 2015, coming into the season with the league’s seventh-based defense in terms of points allowed, headlined of course by All-World defensive end J.J. Watt, who also welcomes future Patriots Hall of Famer Wilfork to Houston. Quarterback Hoyer can keep their heads above water, and maybe Mallett can thrive, but the Texans should still really keep the varsity jackets in storage for a little while longer. Win.
Sunday, Dec. 20: Patriots vs. Titans, 1 p.m., CBS
At most, worth popping into Best Buy to catch the score while you’re shopping. Win.
Sunday, Dec. 27: Patriots at Jets, 1 p.m., CBS
The Jets still haven’t won a game since beating the Patriots in October. Win.
Sunday, Jan. 3: Patriots at Dolphins, 1 p.m., CBS
The Jimmy Garoppolo Tradition. Win.
There you have it. Fifteen-and-one. San Francisco should be a blast for Super Bowl 50.
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