We continue our 32-team 2015 NFL Season Schedule Breakdown Series in the AFC East with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots who have had the Lion’s Share of press in this offseason for the wrong reasons.
Here, we’ll examine the difficulty of the Patriots schedule and make a simple ‘Win’ or ‘Loss’ NFL pick for each game and then see if there are any bets which look good in the Season Team Win Total Futures Book and Week 1 marketplaces as well as assessing their chances of repeating as AFC East, AFC and NFL champions this coming season.
The Patriots Are the Team Rest of the AFC East Always Aspires to Become
The $1 million fine and two lost Draft Picks the New England Patriots (17/2 to win Super Bowl, Bovada) and Head Coach Bill Belichick incurred in the wake of the Deflategate mess won’t hurt the team on the field or on the 2015 schedule in any way, but the Suspension of star QB and Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady for the first four games of the season by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell—which has been appealed by Brady and the Patriots—may end up being perceived as costing New England a game in its overall record this season, but it likely won’t affect who ends up winning the AFC East (the Patriots, again), or by how many games. Granted, the New York Jets—whose schedule we’ll look at tomorrow—Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins have all had very nice Offseasons, and both the Bills (9-7, 343 PF-289 PA) and Dolphins (8-8, 388 PF-373 PA) made nice strides last season. But there is an (ever-changing) Upper Echelon in the NFL and the Patriots have been in it for the last decade, in large part because of genius Belichick and future hall of Famer Brady.
So, even if the Patriots appeal works and the NFL’s Golden Boy’s 4-game Suspension 4-game Suspension to start the season is cut in half, Brady will still be missing the 2015 NFL Season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers at home in Foxboro at Gillette Stadium (Thursday, September 10; NBC, 8:30 p.m./5:30 p.m PT), meaning that backup Jimmy Garoppolo will get his Moment in the Sun. And, with a half a year to prepare for the game, Eastern Illinois University product Garoppolo being better than many think and the game being the Home and Season Opener, expect the Patriots to triple their efforts not to lose to the Steelers in Week 1.
As far as more Negatives for New England, the team saw All Pro CB Darrelle Revis sign with the rival Jets and NT Vince Wilfork head to the Houston Texans. But, choosing Texas DL Malcolm Brown with the 32nd Pick in Round 1 of the NFL Draft will wash away the Wilfork stain, and New England picked OLs Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason in Round 4 to add some depth and provide more protection for the aging Brady and re-signing WR Danny Amendola may have been the best thing the Patriots have done since defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. Those expecting a big dropoff by this team will be disappointed as Belichick will find a way to win the majority of the tough, non-conference dates while no matter how much these other teams have improved in the AFC East, getting to play the Dolphins (+400 to win AFC East, Bovada), Bills (+425) and Jets (+750) each twice each year is a good thing for New England and should be again in 2015. Last season, the Patriots (-150 to win AFC East, Bovada) went 4-2 against its’ AFC East opponents, and expect about the same or better this season with the games at Buffalo and Miami obviously being the spots for potential Losses. Let’s look at New England week by week.
Week 1—Thursday, Sept. 10 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT)
No Brady, no good but Jimmy Garoppolo don’t care, although having to face the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5, 6-2 on Road in 2014) isn’t ideal and the Patriots did lose their season opener last year (also in New England) to the Dolphins, 33-20, so Belichick and staff will look to avoid that reality again against QB Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh (25/1 to win Super Bowl, Bovada), which will look to establish its ground game here in Gillette Stadium with RB Le’Veon Bell with All Pro WR Antonio Brown providing a downfield and First Down threat for the visitors when necessary. The Steelers will definitely pose a challenge for the hosts here on Opening Night (Week 1 NFL Odds: Patriots -2½; Total: 48½, GTBets), but the site, Fear (last year’s 0-1 start), Anger (Deflategate embarrassment), Coaching and presence of vets on Offense like TE Rob Gronkowski and WRs Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and Amendola should provide enough Offense to squeeze out a narrow victory without Brady.
Patriots Week 1 Predicted Result: Win (1-0)
Week 2—Sunday, September 20 at Buffalo Bills (CBS, 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT)
This will probably be the game in which not having Brady will hurt New England the most. The Bills beat the Patriots here at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park in the Regular Season finale (17-9), but like the Steelers game, Head Coach Belichick will have more than enough Time to scheme for this AFC East showdown—maybe the toughest game in the AFC for New England this year—and the Bills will possibly in their second week of having Matt Cassel at QB and will also have a number of new working parts on Offense (RB LeSean McCoy, WR Percy Harvin) and a decent Defense. Remembering they lost here in the 2014 Regular Season finale—a semi-meaningless game for New England—and having that game actually having been the Patriots last Regular Season Road game to date—despite being nine months removed—it will definitely help in preparation for the Patriots. And should New England lose to the Steelers in Week 1, this game will be even harder on the Bills. New England wins another close one here because of the little things and because so many expect this to be such a tough game for the Super Bowl champions. But this is a toss-up in reality.
Patriots Week 2 Predicted Result: Win (2-0)
Week 3—Sunday, September 27 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (CBS, 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT)
A little schedule relief for New England, which may at this point in the season, realize it has a really good and solid backup to Brady and maybe the team’s QB of the Future in the 23-year-old Garoppolo (6-3, 223 pounds). Facing the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13, -163 Point Differential) in an AFC interdivisional tilt from Foxboro, or “Foxborough” if you need More Fiber in your diet, Sanchez, expect the Jaguars (200/1 to win Super Bowl, Bovada) to play good for a quarter before New England (4/1 to win AFC, Bovada) pops 4 TDs on them through a balanced Rushing and Passing attack. For Jacksonville to get to 20 points here against the Super Bowl champions at Home would be quite a surprise, and if New England went 1-1 or maybe 0-2 in Weeks 1 and 2, it will be mad and pummel Jacksonville (100/1 to win AFC, Bovada) in this particular spot on the schedule.
Patriots Week 3 Predicted Result: Win (3-0)
Week 4—Sunday, October 4 — Bye Week
Week 5—Sunday, October 11 at Dallas Cowboys (CBS, 4:25 p.m. ET/1:25 p.m. PT)
Two good things are guaranteed here for the Patriots in Week 5 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington: 1-They’ll be coming off a week’s rest; 2-And, the Super Bowl champ Patriots will have QB Tom Brady back in the fold, hopefully for the rest of the season from this point forward. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook NFL Games of the Year opened New England 1½-point favorites in the inter-conference Battle of Giants, and with this game probably meaning so much to Dallas and QB Tony Romo, being at Home and with the Patriots maybe a bit rusty and figuring how to gel again with Brady back, the Cowboys and WR Dez Bryant could definitely get the win in this spot especially with their improved defense and it meaning so much to the hosts.
Patriots Week 5 Predicted Result: Loss (3-1)
Week 6—Sunday, Oct. 18 at Indianapolis Colts (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT)
The marquee game on New England’s schedule is this Prime Time TV date at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis against QB Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts (15/4 to win AFC, Bovada), a team which has made some major improvements in the Offseason, signing RB Frank Gore (49ers) and WR Andre Johnson (Texans) and selecting WR Phillip Dorsett (Miami-Fla) in Round 1 of the NFL Draft, among many other things. Jay Kornegay, Ed Salmons and his staff of oddsmakers over at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook here in now perpetually cloudy Las Vegas, opened the Colts as 3-point favorites over New England in their renowned NFL Games of the Year, but it seems that Indianapolis always struggles with the Patriots—like it did in last year’s AFC Championship Game (45-7)—so I see the Dependability and Familiarity between Edelman, Amendola and Gronkowski with their QB (Brady) will be the slight difference over Colts QB Luck and his Familiarity with new guys Johnson and Dorsett and WR TY Hilton. This should be big “Tight End” game too, for what’s it worth and seems also like an Over from a millions miles away. Patriots win, like 37-34 or something.
Patriots Week 6 Predicted Result: Win (4-1)
Week 7—Sunday, October 25: vs. New York Jets (CBS, 4 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT)
The first of two back-to-back AFC East Home games at Gillette Stadium, New England will be glad to be back Home and will be cognizant of the fact it beat the Jets (18/1 to win AFC, Bovada) by a total of just a combined 3 points (17-16 @ NYJ, 27-25 @NE) last season. Despite the fact it looks like a good year for New York AFC (4-12 in 2014) to finally knock off Brady and the Pats, the reality that the Jets will be going with either Ryan Fitzpatrick or Geno Smith at QB and it will take some time for this team to get used to each other and actually start winning, means this is likely a win for the hosts despite the Jets adding maybe more than anyone in the NFL from March to May, including former New England All Pro CB Darrelle Revis, Fitzpatrick, QB Bryce Petty (Baylor), WR Devin Smith (Ohio State), DL Leonard Williams (USC) and CB Antonio Cromartie (Cardinals). This could be entertaining though.
Patriots Week 7 Predicted Result: Win (5-1)
Week 8—Thursday, Oct 29: vs. Miami Dolphins (CBS/NFL Network, 8:25 p.m. ET/5:25 p.m. PT)
New England will face Miami at Home at Gillette Stadium here at the perfect time with The Fish finally starting to play the hard part of their schedule after an extremely gracious start from the Schedule-maker. Here the forecast is for Brady and New England (4/9 to win AFC East, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) to hand Miami its second loss of the year. The SuperBook has made the host Patriots a 6-point favorites in this contest in its NFL Games of the Year odds and that seems like a steal, knowing that New England will be glad to be playing the Jets and Dolphins back-to-back at Home instead of the Cowboys and Colts back-to-back on the Road. Miami could be coming off a tough game against the Texans the previous Sunday which may have been its first Loss of the season and a deflator, so to speak.
Patriots Week 8 Predicted Result: Win (6-1)
Week 9—Sunday, November 8: vs. Washington Redskins (FOX, 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT)
This inter-conference affair will be the Patriots third straight Home game (against a beatable team to boot) and with this game being in Foxboro and the Redskins (100/1 to win Super Bowl, Bovada) coming off a really bad 2014 season (4-12, -137 PD) and always seemingly having a QB Controversy, this is a game New England should win handily, as one team has figured out what Offense is and how to do it while the other continues to be a perpetual enigma and a team everyone likes to see on their schedule. An easy win.
Patriots Week 9 Predicted Result: Win (7-1)
Week 10—Sunday, November 15: at New York Giants (CBS, 4:25 p.m. ET/1:25 a.m. PT)
The Patriots possibly pick up their fifth win in a row and some steam here at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey in Week 10 against the team and QB (Eli Manning) they lost to in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI by a grand total of just 7 points (17-14, 21-17). Expect the G-Men to put a scare into New England, but with the way the patriots Defense has slowly improved through the years, it could be that oft-overlooked aspect which helps them topple New York AFC here on their home turf. The Giants have been devolving over the past several seasons while New England has steadily improved to the point where it is today—NFL champions.
Patriots Week 10 Predicted Result: Win (8-1)
Week 11—Monday, November 23: vs. Buffalo Bills (ESPN, 8:25 p.m. ET/5:25 p.m. PT)
One of the most important games on the Buffalo Bills 2015 Regular Season schedule, this Monday Night Football date from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts may see the Bills coming in on a win streak and possibly even with some revenge on its minds should the above prediction of a Loss in Week 2 in Orchard Park come to fruition. Buffalo will come into this game enjoying the longest of possible rests in the NFL (10 days), but with the game at Gillette Stadium and New England possibly on a nice winning streak of its own and possibly looking for Homefield Advantage in the AFC Playoffs—which it may be fighting the Colts for at this point—the lean is to the home team with the superstar QB, although Buffalo may shock the world and win this one with a little Luck and some timely TOs. In my mind this game (Patriots -6½, NFL Games Of the Year, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) will be much much more important for Buffalo at this point in the NFL Season as reality starts to set in that it may still just be a .500 team again.
Patriots Week 11 Predicted Result: Win (9-1)
Week 12—Sunday, November 29: at Denver Broncos (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT)
It wouldn’t be a normal NFL Regular Season if there weren’t a Tom Brady-Peyton Manning showdown now would it? Here at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, that’s exactly what we have on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, with the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook making the Broncos 1½-point favorites over the visiting Patriots heading in here in their NFL Games of the Year. With Denver (12/1 to win Super Bowl, Bovada) being one of the Patriots main two competitors in the AFC (Broncos 5/1 to to win AFC, Bovada), the Travel, 3-hour Time Difference for New England players’ Body Clocks (EDT to PDT), Altitude, Spot on the Schedule and possibility that Denver (8-0 Home in 2014) may need the game more than New England, this seems like one the Patriots get beat in, with the Broncos (10-2 in AFC in 2014) showing they may be Old, but that they seldom if ever lose here at Home in loving Denver.
Patriots Week 12 Predicted Result: Loss (9-2)
Week 13—Sunday, December 6: vs. Philadelphia Eagles (FOX, 4:25 p.m. ET/1:25 p.m. PT)
Surprise! The NFC East proves to be a mini-nemesis for Brady and the Patriots and Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles (20/1 to win Super Bowl, Bovada) could find a way to steal a win at Gillette Stadium in Week 13 and may need the game more than New England if this forecast rings anywhere close to being true. This will be the third straight tough game on the schedule for New England and Head Coach Belichick who will be returning from a trip out west to Denver the week before (Reverse Acclimation Time), and despite the fact the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook opened the Patriots up as 5½-point favorites in this game, the NFC has gradually become the better conference over the past couple of years with the emergence of the Seattle Seahawks (20/1 to win Super Bowl, Bovada) and the aforementioned Dallas Cowboys (10/1 to win Super Bowl, Bovada). And a team like these Eagles trying to bust into that top tier of teams in the NFC like the Eagles could very well upset New England here with a strong defensive performance, but Philadelphia (10/1 to win NFC, Bovada) will need to play a solid first 30 minutes and be in the game or leading at Halftime. But it can do it, as this is where the schedule (Bills-Broncos-Eagles) may begin to start wearing the Super Bowl champion Patriots down some.
Patriots Week 13 Predicted Result: Loss (9-3)
Week 14—Sunday December 13: at Houston Texans (CBS, 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT)
NRG Stadium in Houston is the site of this Week 14 game which could be a problem for Brady and the Patriots, having to travel to Texas, losing an hour in the Time Zone differences (ET to CT) and facing a team which will likely need the game more than them just to have a chance of making the NFL postseason. This could be a surprisingly tough spot for New England, especially off the Bills-Broncos-Eagles back-to-back-to-back, and with former NT Vince Wilfork going up against his old teammates and the Texans (22/1 to win AFC, Bovada) better than most casual observers think, although the Texans will have to find out if new acquisition Brian Hoyer (Browns) or Ryan Mallett is better at leading this football team. Because of the Houston’s possible Hunger for the ‘W’ and the reality this is the fourth straight tough game for the Patriots—the roughest patch of the schedule—the Texans get the lean but honestly, they are one team in 2015 that could be a Boom or a Bust...and it’s hard to tell that right now in mid-May. We’ll give Head Coach Bill O’Brien and his team the benefit of the doubt for now. But Now passes quickly. This also should be close and could be deemed a toss-up, although oddsmakers will likely make New England 2- to 3-point chalks in its second trip to the Lone Star State
Patriots Week 14 Predicted Result: Loss (9-4)
Week 15—Sunday, December 20: vs. Tennessee Titans (CBS, 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT)
An early Christmas present from Ole’ Saint Nick for the Patriots, a Home date in Gillette Stadium with the lowly Tennessee Titans (2-14 in 2014, 1-7 Road, - 184 PD, L10 straight), a team with one of the weakest overall Rosters in the league and a fanbase losing confidence, despite the fact that there is now some Hope in the Volunteer State and with this organization after the Titans (200/1 to win Super Bowl, Bovada) drafted Heisman Trophy-winner Marcus Mariota (Oregon) with the #2 pick of the NFL Draft to hopefully be the team’s QB for The Now as well as coming Future seasons. It will take a great deal of Time for Tennessee (75/1 to win AFC, Bovada) to improve, and this should be a somewhat easy win for the Patriots at Home in Foxboro.
Patriots Week 15 Predicted Result: Win (10-4)
Week 16—Sunday, December 27: at New York Jets (CBS, 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT)
A surprisingly tough contest last season—New England eked out a 17-16 victory here at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey against the J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets! in Week 16—in this spot so expect the Patriots to be a little more prepared this time around against New York AFC (50/1 to win Super Bowl, Bovada) in a game against a still rebuilding team and one the visitors may need to try to secure Homefield Advantage in the AFC postseason. And, this could very well be the one that pushes New England Over its’ posted (10½ -105, Bovada) Team Season Win Total this season. Winners simply find ways to win.
Patriots Week 17 Predicted Result: Win (11-4)
Week 17—Sunday, January 3: at Miami Dolphins (CBS, 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT)
The biggest game on the 2015 NFL schedule for the Miami Dolphins, unfortunately comes in the Regular Season and Home finales against Brady and the Patriots here in Miami Gardens’
Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. The SuperBook NFL Games of the Year opened up this AFC East game with New England as 1½-point favorites, and that seems like a Wise bet to make here in May although you may have to wait half-a-year to collect and by then we may all be in the throes of The Next Ice Age, Bubba. Everyone is expecting much from the Dolphins this season, but as we looked at here last week at Sportsbook Review, Miami has an absolutely brutal 2nd Half Schedule and this team is still young, plays in a market with only average expectations for its professional football team and still needs to prove it can become more of an Offensive team with the capability of coming from behind. Last year in this game in Miami (Week 15), the Patriots (5-3 Road in 2014) clobbered the Dolphins, 41-14 thanks to a 27-0 2nd Half and 24 3rd Quarter points (on 4 straight Possessions)—the most in New England franchise history in a 3rd Quarter. Good teams consistently win on the Road and it’s safe to say that if you’re the defending Super Bowl champions, you must be at least a “Good” team.
Patriots Week 17 Predicted Result: Win (12-4)
The two biggest games in my mind on the New England Patriots schedule this season come back-to-back in Weeks 5 and 6 when it has to travel to Dallas (Arlington) and Indianapolis to play the Cowboys and Colts, respectively (Oct. 11 and Oct. 18). Somehow the Patriots get through through those first four games in which (for now) Brady is scheduled to serve his Suspension—which few have acknowledged has both the Jaguars and a Bye Week in its midst—with wins over the Steelers in Week 1 and at the Buffalo Bills in Week 2—a game which could build team confidence for the entire season, as well as for backup QB Garoppolo—and is the fulcrum to helping this team’s Season Team Win Total go Over 10½ -105 (Bovada).
So, the final forecast? New England finishes with the same exact record (12-4) it did last season as well as the same exact records both on the Road (5-3) and at Home at Gillette Stadium (7-1) with that lone Home ‘L’ a somewhat surprising one to the NFC’s Eagles in Week 13 in a rough spot on New England’s 2015 schedule. Although they may be the NFL’s most hated team, have been caught taping other team’s practices and deflating footballs in the AFC Championship game last season, no team in the league has shown they can evolve more than these Patriots over the last couple of decades and serious sports bettors should expect no less from them and try to keep the Emotions out of the evaluation process while placing their NFL picks. Because so many dislike New England and Brady and now know they cheated doesn’t translate to them being worse on the football field in 2015. If anything, it may make the Patriots more mad, hungrier and driven with even more intent on proving to the NFL’s other 31 teams this coming season that they can also win without deflated footballs.
New England Patriots Projected Final Record: 12-4
New England Patriots Season Team Win Total Pick: Over 10½ -105 (Bovada)
New England Patriots NFL Games of the Year Picks: Patriots +3 vs. Colts, Week 6, Patriots -6 over Dolphins, Week 9, Eagles +5½ over Patriots Week 13 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)