As the Patriots began OTAs last this week their 2019 schedule was released. When you break it down it looks a far easier task than last year. Similar teams, but those teams have become weaker with off season moves. This means once again the Patriots should be in the playoffs for a record breaking 16th season.

The Patriots will open their season at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. The change comes as the NFL have chosen to start the season with a Thursday Night Football game between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. This is as part of the NFL 100 promotion celebrating the leagues 100th season.

The steelers are a much different looking side as they have been in the past. A literal off-season from hell for Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff. After Le’Veon Bell chose to sit out the entire 2018 season, he moved on to the NY Jets, and star WR Antonio Brown forced a trade to the Oakland Raiders. In the past this has been a crucial fixture in deciding home field advantage for the playoffs. But this year it may be nothing more than a game the Patriots win on their way to another playoff appearance, while the Steelers could miss the playoffs for a second year running.

The AFC East

There’s the usual 6 games in the division against the Jets, Dolphins and Bills. The Jets on the surface have gotten stronger with the offseason signing of running back Le’Veon Bell. Sam Darnold, heading into a second season, should show signs of improvement at QB after a full season leading the offense.

The Bills are very much the same as last year. A few new signings in Cole Beasley from the Cowboys and Frank Gore from the Dolphins will add weapons for Josh Allen. He will be the starting QB for the Bills again this season.

Finally the Dolphins round out our division. However, with former Patriots defensive coach Brian Flores taking over, their focus isn’t so much on winning this season. They are focused on tanking for the number 1 draft pick in 2020 to hopefully draft Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa. A campaign the fans and local media are calling #TankforTua. So although normally a tough game in the heat, this year the Pats could get the win down in Miami.

Looking at the division again this year, the Patriots should be confident in grabbing 6 wins from 6. Though I could see the Jets stealing the win in week 7 on Monday Night Football. Miami could be a tough game down there. But this year, with the way Miami will be setting up to tank, we should come away with the win.

The Tough games

Looking at the schedule there are a few potential tough games that I can see the Patriots losing. The Patriots will welcome the Cleveland Browns to Gillette in week 8. The new look Browns aren’t going to be the push overs they have been in the past. With a potentially good QB at the helm, and some very good weapons out wide like Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry to partner an already good established Tight end in David Njoku. They also have a good running attack with Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson Jr. One of the saving graces for the Patriots is that the Browns will be coming to Foxboro, a place were not a lot of teams come and win.

In week 11 the Patriots travel to Philadelphia for a big game against the Eagles. This is a team that I think poses the greatest threat to the Patriots for a loss. They are hard to play in Philly. They have a very good QB in Carson Wentz when healthy, some good wideouts having added Golden Tate to that depth chart, and a very good TE in Zac Ertz. But their defense is something the Patriots can and have exploited in the past, like Super Bowl LII.

The last of the potential tough games for the Pats is week 14 when the Chiefs come to town. A team that doesn’t seem to fear coming to Gillette stadium as we saw week 1 in 2017. The night the Patriots raised their 5th championship banner. The Chiefs will be a different team than that of 2018.

While Pat Maholmes is showing signs of greatness, they are already without Kareem Hunt, who was cut after an off-field incident. They may well be without Maholmes main strike weapon Tyreek Hill after his own off-field indiscretions. They’ve lost some main parts on the defense as well. Releasing safety Eric berry and LB Justin Houston, along with trading defensive end Dee Ford.

Potential Challenges

One game that may challenge the Patriots is the week 9 game away to Baltimore. While the Ravens aren’t what they used to be, they still have a good defense that may challenge the Patriots. They also have an enigma at QB with Lamar Jackson. While his passing game isn’t the best, he has the ability to extend the play with his legs and can break through for big chunk plays, or touchdowns in the redone.

This season will see somewhat of a marquee match up for the Patriots if for nothing more than TV ratings. The Dallas Cowboys come to town for the 1st time since 2015 in week 12. The Patriots also haven’t lost to the Cowboys since 1996 in a game that ended 12-6. While it will rate well throughout the country, this is a game the Patriots will expect to win. But it could be the type of game that exposes the Pats, especially since Ezekiel Elliot’s running game could cause problems for the defense.

My Prediction

When I look at the schedule for 2019, I honestly can see the Patriots going 15-1. That loss most likely being against the Eagles in week 11. Obviously, with the way the team is presently constructed, a lot of work through the draft and trades is needed to build a roster to compete like last year’s. Never the less, they have Tom Brady. And while last year wasn’t his best, the Patriots adapted to play a style to suit the roster they had.

Obviously they could lose more than the 1 game I have picked. An unexpected loss at Washington or the Texans wouldn’t surprise me. One thing is for sure, after last season, and the panic from media and fans alike during the pre-season, I put my trust in the coaching staff lead by Bill Belichick to deliver a roster or game plan capable of making it to another Superbowl in 2019, continuing this amazing dynasty that is heading towards its 3rd decade. Unbelievable.

For the record Prediction: 15-1(loss to Philly)

Jamie Brown