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Predicting the New England Patriots Record

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Sunday. Football officially returns on Thursday night, but for once, the New England Patriots have to wait until Sunday. It's a weird feeling. Nonetheless, the 2019 version of the Patriots debuts Sunday afternoon at home against the Houston Texans. As bad as the AFC East is this year, and every year, the Patriots still have a pretty formidable schedule. Of the 10 non-divisional games, more than half of their opponents were playoff teams last year; including both conference championship runner-ups. The Patriots will have their work cut out for them. All that aside, another divisional crown is inevitable, and an eighth consecutive trip to the AFC Championship game seems likely. Here's how I see the season playing out. 

AFC East (NYJ, BUF, MIA) (5-1)
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have absolutely owned the AFC East since Brady took over in 2001. They boast a remarkable 76-20 record. Despite all of the concern and panic with the Patriots roster, that dominance will continue this year; mainly because the Bills, Jets and Dolphins all suck and will continue to suck. The Jets and Bills have just stopped trying to field good teams and are planning for the future. Both have young QB's who may eventually turn the team around, but it won't be this year. The Dolphins lost some key pieces and Ryan Tannehill is coming off of an ACL injury.

Despite all of that, the Patriots will still manage to lose a game. It happens every year. Since Brady took over, the Patriots have swept AFC East opponents on just two occasions -- 2007 and 2012. At Miami is always a struggle. The Jets, despite being terrible, always manage to play the Pats tough. Divisional games are difficult regardless of talent discrepancy, simply because of the familiarity between the teams. At Buffalo on Monday night could be a tough environment because Buffalo hasn't hosted a MNF game in forever, so you know the degenerates they call "Bills Mafia" will be riled up. However, the last time the Pats played in Buffalo in prime time, Randy Moss adopted Buffalo's entire defensive backfield. The Pats will drop 1 divisional game, but still cruise to another divisional crown. 

AFC South (JAX, IND, HOU, TEN) (3-1)
The AFC South hasn't fared much better than the AFC East against New England during Brady's tenure -- frankly, nobody in the league has. Brady is 24-5 combined against this division. It used to be the Indianapolis Colts and everybody else, now it's the exact opposite. The Colts are arguably the worst team in that division. If Andrew Luck is healthy, that changes things, but that remains to be seen. The Pats should handle the Colts at home with ease. It's a Thursday night game and those short weeks always favor the home team, even more so when the home team is superior. Starting off the season with Houston and Jacksonville is difficult. Fully healthy, both teams should be playoff bound. I think they'll take care of business week 1 at home against the Texans, but week 2 is another story. Jacksonville is going to be looking for revenge from last year's AFC Championship loss. On the road, against a motivated team with one of the top defenses in the league is a tall task. That is a game where they will miss Julian Edelman. In Tennessee will be difficult as well, but that comes later in the year when the Pats are typically starting to play their best football. 

AFC Divisional Winners (PIT, KC) (1-1)
Pittsburgh is more talented, but that hasn't seemed to matter at all when these teams have faced off recently. Mainly because Mike Tomlin is a buffoon, and Brady owns the Steelers just as much as the Rooney family. The Steelers are so preoccupied with beating the Patriots, they tend to overlook other opponents; (cough) Jacksonville (cough). All that being said, this will finally be the year the Steelers best New England, in the regular season. It should've happened last year. New England's offense will be a little less explosive than in year's past which will prevent them from keeping up with Pittsburgh in Heinz Field. 

Kansas City is one of the few teams that have given the Brady and the Patriots problems, and recently I might add. They torched them last year and also in 2014. The speed of their skill players has given the Patriots headaches. However, this game falls in a good spot on the schedule. New England will be coming off of a Thursday night home game the week prior, so they will have over a week to prepare for this one. Also, the Chiefs will be coming off a game against the Jaguars, so they could be a bit banged up. If this game were at Arrowhead, I'd be more nervous but it's very difficult to pick against the Patriots at home, on extra rest. 

NFC North (GB, CHI, DET, MIN) (3-1)
This may be the best division in football. There are three legitimate playoff contenders and a young Chicago team that will be a tough matchup every week. Thankfully, the two best teams in this division, Green Bay and Minnesota, are both coming to Foxboro. The Pats will split the two games with them. Aaron Rodgers has never played in Gillette Stadium -- shocking, I know -- so that will be a treat. That game will likely finish with both teams in the 30's. Don't expect the same against Minnesota. The Vikings will be a problem because of their defense. At Detroit in week 3, on Sunday night, is going to be very difficult. Detroit has a potent passing attack, and their head coach, former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, will have some familiarity with the Patriots scheme which can only help. However, I don't expect Belichick to allow Patricia to beat him, and the Patriots will likely be coming off of a loss in Jacksonville the previous week; and they rarely lose consecutive games. Chicago will be difficult because of their talent defensively. I just think they are still a couple of years away from being good, and Mitchell Trubisky is still a wild card. 

Add 'em up folks, that's a 12-4 record. That should be good enough for a 1st round bye in the playoffs, but the losses to Jacksonville and Pittsburgh will prevent the Patriots from earning home field advantage. 


Disagree? Tell me about it on Twitter @mcvay34

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