The New England Patriots are rumored to be getting all their interconference play out of the way first, along with the rest of the NFL.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up the world of sports immensely, and as the NFL season begins to approach, the league is adjusting the schedule to keep up.
For the fans that haven’t noticed, every team’s NFL schedule is crafted very meticulously. Each team plays their division rivals twice, a certain AFC division, a certain NFC division, and two other teams from their own conference that match their prior year’s division finish.
This year, the Patriots will be playing each team from the AFC West and the NFC West, along with the 2019 first-place winners of the AFC South (Texans) and AFC North (Ravens), in an arranged order that will be released to the public later Thursday evening.
However, according to long-time NFL insider and Seattle radio host John Clayton, a significant shake-up is coming this season in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, per ESPN.
As a guest on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan discussing the league’s preparations for the virus, Clayton said:
“The season will start with the inter-conference games first … Because you can see that if they have to shorten the season to 12 games, you wipe those out.”
If his report is true, every team will play their out-of-conference matchups for the first four games of the season.
In the case of the New England Patriots, those teams are the Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, and San Francisco 49ers.
It might seem strange, but the logic is this: The out-of-conference games, in the grand scheme of the season, are the least important to a team’s playoff seeding. The Patriots don’t need to worry about the Seahawks’ playoff spot, nor do the Steelers about the Packers, et cetera.
The NFL is hedging their season; if the pandemic lasts a little too long for the season to start at the beginning of September, the first four games could be chopped off with less consequences than if they had included interdivisional games.
The order of games doesn’t usually have a major influence on the outcome of a team’s season, but with the chance of losing those games altogether, this schedule change has huge implications for New England.
The NFC West is arguably the toughest division in the league at the moment.
The 49ers are coming off a Super Bowl appearance and have maintained their key weapons while adding two first-round picks in the draft.
The Seahawks are always a threat with Russell Wilson at the helm and are helped by the return of running back Chris Carson.
The Rams didn’t have a great season in 2019, but QB Jared Goff, DT Aaron Donald, and head coach Sean McVay have proven to be dangerous when they need to be.
Finally, the Cardinals could be a dark horse contender for a deep playoff run after adding DeAndre Hopkins and some great draft pieces to a fast-developing QB in Kyler Murray.
The Patriots’ schedule was ranked the hardest by some analysts, but in the event that these four games get chopped off, it could be among the easiest in the league.
Now, a 12-game year would definitely bring its own issues that we’d have to adjust to, but at the moment, a shortened season looks like it could actually benefit New England.
In the event that the 2020 season starts as normal, the only consequence is that the Pats could be looking at a discouraging 1-3 start … or even worse. The team hasn’t had a losing record coming into Week 5 in almost two decades, for the record.
We’re all hoping that the 2020 NFL season doesn’t get delayed or compromised in any way, but if it does, at least Pats Nation can find a small silver lining.