The Patriots 2010 regular season schedule is out and there are some bright spots and rough spots. According to their opponents’ combined records from last season, the Patriots have the 6th hardest schedule in the NFL (the Texans have the hardest). Comparatively, the Jets have the 18th hardest schedule, the Dolphins the 17th hardest, and the Bills have the 16th hardest schedule. Here are some games and situations that jumped out to me:
- The Patriots open the season Sunday, Sept. 12, at home against the Cincinnati Bengals @1 pm. Both teams were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season by wild card teams.
- In Week 2, the Pats play a late-afternoon game against the Jets. The Jets will be without newly-acquired WR Santonio Holmes due to his 4-game suspension, so the Patriots catch a bit of a break there.
- The Pats have four prime-time games, two on Sunday Night Football on NBC and two on Monday Night Football on ESPN. Surprisingly, the Colts are NOT one of those prime-time opponents. The Pats play the Colts at 4:15 Sunday, Nov. 21. However, that puts the Patriots at somewhat of a disadvantage because just 4 days later they’ll be traveling to Detroit to play the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. Can the Pats play their best against the Lions after playing what’s always an emotionally-charged, hard-fought game just four days prior? Will the game prep for the Lions suffer due to the prep necessary to play the Colts? Will the Colts preparation suffer? It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Luckily, the Patriots host the Colts this year and don’t have to travel to Lucas Oil Stadium.
- The Bye is during Week 5. The following week, the Pats will host the Ravens and try and get some redemption for that horrid playoff performance this past season. They will be in better position to do that with a week off and not having to travel. The Ravens host the Broncos prior to playing the Pats.
- The Pats only have two back-to-back away games. In Week 9 they travel to Cleveland to play the Browns at 1 pm and then travel to Pittsburgh the following week to play the Steelers in Sunday night prime-time at 8:20 pm. The Steelers will most likely have Big Ben in the lineup when they play the Pats.
- After playing Detroit on Thanksgiving, the Pats have a little extra time to prep for the second meeting against the Jets, which will be on Monday Night Football (Week 13, Monday, Dec. 6).
- Week 15, the Patriots will host the Packers for NBC’s prime-time Sunday night game. This will be the first time the Pats will the Packers in the regular season since Favre left the team.
- The Patriots close the final two weeks of the season against division rivals. Dec. 26 they play Buffalo in Orchard Park and close the season hosting the Miami Dolphins, which could determine the AFC East Division Champion.
- When the Dolphins and Patriots have home games against each other works to the home team’s advantage this year. The Week 4 match-up in Miami on Monday Night Football is early enough in the season to still be hot compared to what New England will feel like around that time, and the Week 17 match-up in New England will bring the frigid temperatures that have helped falter the Phins in the past.
With the AFC East being greatly improved, the schedule is likely harder than what last season’s records indicate. There are some tough stretches but the Pats also catch some breaks. The team’s upcoming draft picks are going to have to play above normal rookie play if the Pats are going back to the playoffs this year. It should be an interesting season this year!