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What Lies Ahead For the Patriots After the Bye Week?

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The Patriots made it through the first nine weeks of the season with a 7-2 record, and sit atop the AFC for at least one week.

That is a week they get to use for rest, with a bye week ahead on the schedule. A well-deserved week off after a 43-21 curb-stomping of the Denver Broncos in Week 9.

The team will use the week to self-scout, while scouting their upcoming opponents. They will also hope to get healthy, with defensive end Chandler Jones (hip) still not able to play in games.

Once the week of rest is done, the Patriots dive head-first into a tough stretch to finish the season. Here's what it looks like, with some of my thoughts after.


Schedule

Week 11: at Indianapolis Colts; 8:30pm ET Sunday, November 16 (Sunday Night Football)
Week 12: vs. Detroit Lions; 1:00pm ET Sunday, November 23
Week 13: at Green Bay Packers; 4:25pm ET Sunday, November 30
Week 14: at San Diego Chargers; 8:30pm ET Sunday, December 7 (Sunday Night Football)
Week 15: vs. Miami Dolphins; 1:00pm ET Sunday, December 14
Week 16: at New York Jets; 1:00pm ET Sunday, December 21
Week 17: vs. Buffalo Bills; 1:00pm ET Sunday, December 28


Three out of four on the road

Sound familiar? The Patriots started the season with a stretch of three road games in four weeks, and they get the same look in their first four games after the bye. Two of those four games will be in prime time, and the Patriots are facing some good quarterbacks in that stretch: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and San Diego Chargers Philip Rivers each rank in the top 10 in passer rating this season, and in the top five in touchdown passes.


Three straight division matchups to close out the season

By this point, the Patriots are usually getting ready to print up their first set of AFC East Champion hats and t-shirts. With the Miami Dolphins (5-3) and Buffalo Bills (5-3) nipping at their heels, the Patriots still have not established a significant lead in the AFC East race at the midway point in the season. Having already lost to the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, these final three games on the Patriots' schedule could prove to be of utmost importance. They will certainly be scoreboard watching this weekend.


Prime time

The Patriots will have two more prime time games air on national television, bringing their total to five on the season; they are 2-1 in the previous three prime time games. The Colts (5-3) and the Chargers (5-4) could both be tough outs, but Bill Belichick has a good track record against both (2-0 against Luck, 5-1 against Rivers).


Toughest remaining opponent

The Dolphins still look like the Patriots' toughest opponent. Not only did they give the Patriots a tough matchup in Week 1 by getting a ton of pressure on Tom Brady, but their offense also had one of its better games of the season with 33 points that could have easily been more. The Patriots are a much different team now than they were in Week 1, but the Dolphins have also started to hit their stride lately with a three-game winning streak. If either team keeps playing the way they played on Sunday (New England won 43-21 over Denver, and Miami won 37-0 over San Diego), they will be tough to stop down the stretch.


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