The first month of last season was instrumental to the success of the New England Patriots. Going 3-1 without suspended quarterback Tom Brady helped set the team up for another Super Bowl run. This is the first in a four-part series breaking down the 2017 schedule.
Not many thought the New England Patriots would get off to a strong 3-1 start last year with their best player Tom Brady sidelined due to a suspension. However, they did just that behind reserve quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. That critical first quarter of the season saw the players bond and build confidence without their leader.
However, no team in the NFL has won back-to-back Super Bowl titles since the Patriots last accomplished the feat following the 2004 campaign. Free agency and parity have made it very difficult to repeat. But New England is in much better shape than most defending Super Bowl champions. Here’s an early breakdown of how the first four games of the 2017 schedule look…
Hosting Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, September 7th
You have to go back to 2012 to find the last time the defending Super Bowl champ lost the NFL season opener at home. The Patriots are already listed as 7.5-point home favorites in Las Vegas as they host the Chiefs, and it is hard to imagine them losing in this spot. The last time New England played Kansas City was in the 2016 divisional playoffs and resulted in a 27-20 home victory. Put a W next to this one as well.
Visiting New Orleans Saints on Sunday, September 17th
This is a tricky matchup for New England featuring two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Brady and Drew Brees. New Orleans will be coming off a road game against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football in their season opener, with future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson visiting his former team. New Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks now gets to visit his former team in Week 2 while cornerback Malcolm Butler faces a foe that nearly traded for him. The extra time to prepare for Bill Belichick and short week for the Saints will be a factor. New England improves to 2-0.
Hosting Houston Texans on Sunday, September 24th
While the Texans had a pretty good NFL Draft according to many experts, they may be starting Tom Savage at QB until rookie Deshaun Watson is ready. Regardless, it will not be easy for whoever is under center for Houston at Gillette Stadium, just ask Brock Osweiler. On the other hand, this should be easiest of the first four games for the Patriots. They win by double digits.
Hosting Carolina Panthers on Sunday, October 1st
With a 3-0 start for the third straight year, New England will be a bit overconfident heading into this game. The Panthers took a step back last season and saw the Atlanta Falcons rise to the top of the NFC South, making it all the way to the Super Bowl. We all know what happened there. But the Patriots will be playing a dangerous opponent in Carolina that could get back to the Super Bowl. The teams have split the past six meetings, including a 32-29 New England win in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Look for Cam Newton and the Panthers to pull off the upset at Gillette.