I'm a fan of Roger Goodell. I never thought I'd say it, but the commissioner of the NFL has won me over and it's all because of the coronavirus. Let me explain. I know there are a lot of bad things going on in the world and there's a bunch of people who want to keep pushing fear and negativity. However, Roger Goodell is not one of those people. He keeps rumbling forward and maintaining that football will be played on time this fall. Granted, he is in the advantageous spot of being in the offseason, unlike so many other leagues, but still. Goodell has inspired hope when it is so greatly needed.
Now, I am not naive and I know that Goodell really isn't doing anything heroic here. He's just looking out for himself and his bottomline. Still, throughout these last two months, the NFL really has provided some relief to the psyche of a sports fan. Getting to talk about free agency like usual was a nice escape. The draft being held on time (albeit in a totally different, socially-distanced way) gave us three days of entertainment that we so desperately craved. Now, tonight the NFL released the 2020 schedule and again we have some level of sports content to digest on what would otherwise be another mundane, quarantined night at home.
I know there are a lot of people out there who roll their eyes at the NFL for announcing they will be doing a three-hour, over-the-top announcement of a schedule that isn't to be played until the fall and I get it. It's perfectly NFL and perfectly Roger Goodell. Normally, I'd say yea, this is a bit over-done. This isn't normal though. Are you telling me you'd rather not talk about football tonight? You'd rather sit at home watching another Netflix show or the evening news? C'mon. This is hope and this is fun. So Roger, you've got a fan in New England. I might be the only one.
Without further ado, let's get to the schedule. That's whey we're here. I'll give a quick thought on each game and a way-too-early prediction with the end giving us a 2020 W-L record for the Pats that you can totally hold me to and laugh about when I'm wrong.
Week 1 - Home vs Miami (1 pm, September 13th) - One quick thought that isn't about the game...Why did the NFL announce they'd announce the schedule at 8 pm, but allow teams to announce their own schedules at 7:30? On top of that, we've got reporters out there spoiling some of the schedule at like 5:30. Wasn't the point of this so that we would all have a 3-hour show to watch? I'm kind of annoyed. Anyway, the Pats open up at home vs a Miami Dolphins team that should be much improved with veteran free agent pickups (many from the Patriots themselves) and a rookie QB in Tua Tagovailoa. I'm going to say Tua isn't starting in Week 1 for the Dolphins and for our purposes in this blog, I'm going to say Jarrett Stidham is the Patriots starter under center. The Pats will make a statement to the doubters by coming out and thrashing Miami. Verdict: W
Week 2 - @ Seattle (8:20 pm, September 20th) - What was that about the Patriots not having Prime Time games without Tom Brady? Oh, looks like that was a bunch of crap as this matchup with the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football is the first of 5. Bad news for all of the older folks out there that like to complain about kickoff being too late. So, we've got the Pats heading to the Pacific Northwest to play in one of the loudest stadiums in sports. Too bad that we're going with the "there will be no fans or very few fans" theory for now. Home field gets a little less important this season and will make this a bit easier on Stidham and company. Still, the Seahawks are a good team with a great QB and a great coach. This will be a tough one, but the Pats will pull the upset and strike fear into NFL fans around the country by showing that they can play without Brady. Verdict: W
Week 3 - Home vs Las Vegas (1 pm, September 27th) - It feels weird writing "Las Vegas" when I see the Raiders logo on the schedule. Honestly, I like a lot about what Vegas has done with their team but Derek Carr is just the killer for me. His ship has sailed and that's the reason the team will ultimately be mediocre. Pats win at home to go 3-0. Verdict: W
Week 4 - @ Kansas City (4:25 pm, October 4th) - Look, I'd love to be the optimist and tell you that the undefeated, underdog Patriots will stroll into Arrowhead and take down the defending champs, but even I'm not drinking THAT Kool-Aid. Patrick Mahomes is the new king of the NFL. I've been saying he'd be the guy after Brady and he is. We're in for some battles, but I'd say a lot of those battles will be losses. Verdict: L
Week 5 - Home vs Denver (1 pm, October 11th) - I'm extremely interested in seeing what the Broncos can be this year (a yearly refrain from me for the past couple of seasons). I keep thinking they have the talent and just need good QB play. Case Keenum flopped. Joe Flacco flopped. How about Drew Lock? Can he be good enough to have them competing out west? I'm going to take a very lame and not at all convincing position on this one and say, eh..kinda. He's not going to be bad but he's not going to be good. Pats bounce back with another win. Verdict: W
Week 6 - BYE WEEK - Go be with your family or go do something that your significant other wants to do. Get the brownie points and then return to the couch next Sunday.
Week 7 - Home vs San Francisco (4:25 pm, October 25th) - The return of Jimmy G! The prodigal son! The one who got away! The man we hope Jarrett Stidham can be! Oh well. The Niners are coming to the East Coast in what would have been a lot cooler of a matchup if it was Brady vs Jimmy (with either one in either uniform). They are the Super Bowl losers which means that they should be on a downturn, but I don't see it. That organization is on the rise, if anything. I'm honestly glad we get this one at home because otherwise, I'd be thinking Bay Area butt-kicking. Instead, I think the Pats lose a close one. Verdict: L
Week 8 - @ Buffalo (1 pm, November 1st) - This is going to be as big of a game as New England vs Buffalo has ever really been. The Bills think they can take the crown in the AFC East now that their master, Mr. Brady, is gone to Florida. The Pats are going to want to let the Bills know that they are still little brother. I'm thinking this is extremely, extremely close and the Pats come out of Orchard Park with a victory while #BillsMafia drowns their sorrows at the tailgates, as is tradition. Verdict: W
Week 9 - @ New York Jets (8:15 pm, November 9th) - Back in primetime for Monday Night Football to pull off the yearly tradition of embarrassing the Jets. Brady, Stidham or Matt Cassell wearing a suit after reporting live for NBC Sports Boston, it doesn't matter. The Jets are the Jets and the Pats will still roll. Verdict: W
Week 10 - Home vs Baltimore (8:20 pm, November 15th) - Ahh, the rivalry game. It doesn't get much better than Pats-Ravens on the big stage and after last season's pathetic loss in Baltimore, New England needs revenge. This should be a fun one to watch as Lamar Jackson and company have one of the NFL's most high-flying offenses and their defense should be good again. When the Pats pull off a thrilling win, New England fans are going to finally buy in. Jarrett Stidham and Bill Belichick will be feeling the love. Verdict: W
Week 11 - @ Houston (1 pm, November 22nd) - For some reason, the Patriots in Houston (against the Texans, not in the Super Bowl) doesn't feel good. It feels like it's always sort of a weird game where they lose, or there is a key injury or something. I'm thinking they buck that trend this year against a weakened Houston squad who quite honestly, could have their coach fired by this point in the season. Verdict: W
Week 12 - Home vs Arizona (1 pm, November 29th) - What's the old saying up here in New England? Football season doesn't start 'till after Thanksgiving? Yep, that's it and things don't look good. Arizona is improved and they upset the Pats at home to break New England's winning streak at 4. Verdict: L
Week 13 - @ Los Angeles Chargers (4:25 pm, December 6th) - The Chargers had a bad 2019 due to injuries, inconsistency and bad luck. There's still a lot of talent on this roster and at this point in the season, rookie Justin Herbert will be taking snaps. While I don't think that highly of Herbert, Bill Belichick reportedly did in the lead up to this year's draft and therefore, he's probably going to be good. Herbert leads a pesky Chargers group to a late victory over New England in the new SoFi Stadium. Verdict: L
Week 14 - @ Los Angeles Rams (8:20 pm, December 10th) - It's put up or shut up time for the Pats as they've now hit a rough patch and are getting ripped back home by fans and media alike (not that the media doesn't rip them regardless). They've gotta avoid their third straight loss on a short week while keeping themselves in charge of the division and headed towards the playoffs. The Rams are no easy test and after an extended period of time out in LA, the Patriots adjust to the timezone change but can't show up on Thursday Night Football. A streaky season is starting to make them look like frauds. Verdict: L
Week 15 - @ Miami (1 pm, December 20th) - In the Brady-era, the game in Miami is a loss. Every time, it seems. However, we're getting used to the fact this is totally uncharted territory we're in. This team is going to be a lot different and the product on the field could literally be the polar opposite in terms of scheme, tendencies etc (while still being winners). In this particular instance, the Pats are in a free fall the likes of wish we haven't really seen. The season started so well and it's slipping away. Miami smells blood in the water. Tua will have taken over for Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins will probably be feeling pretty good about their direction and their chances. Still, the Pats come in and take care of business to get back in the win column. Verdict: W
Week 16 - Home vs Buffalo (8:15 pm, December 28th) - This feels a little late in the year for a Monday Night Football game, no? Also, since when does a team get TWO Monday Night Football tilts? I guess that's a thing this year with a few organizations. Weird, but I'll take it. Unfortunately, the Bills get the season split and stay tight in the division heading to the final week. Verdict: L
Week 17 - Home vs New York Jets (1 pm, January 3rd) - Gone are the days of taking Week 17 off to rest up for the playoffs (at least for now). New England keeps their foot on the gas as they beat the Jets at home to clinch the division and take momentum into the postseason. Verdict: W
Final Record: 10-6
I've said some things about the Patriots that I didn't mean. I've said they'll regret letting Brady walk (I stand by that), and they'll end up 6-10. That last part was a little rash. I'll still take the Pats to win the division, grab a 3 or 4 seed and maybe even make some noise in January. It's not going to be a perfect season by any means. It'll be a streaky rollercoaster of highs and lows. One thing we can guarantee is entertainment.
Other Notable Non-Patriots Games for Patriots Fans
- Any Tampa Bay Buccaneers Game (they don't play at the same time as the Pats until Week 15) - I'm going to be a split allegiance guy. Sorry, not sorry.