By the time you’re reading this, the first Sunday regular season games are just hours away! While we’re all excited to see how the Patriots do this Sunday, 31 other teams will be playing as well, and it’s important for Patriots fans to know what teams to cheer for.
In the NFL, no matter how big of a fan you are, your team only represents three percent of the league. With there being 32 teams split into two competitive conferences, most of the games you watch during the span of the regular season will not feature your favorite squad. That is why, as Week 1 is getting closer and closer, it is necessary to craft a complete rooting guide for Patriots fans to follow while Mac Jones and the exciting offense are not on the gridiron.
Before We Begin: Retrospective On Past Games
With the NFL Kickoff game already being played, let’s talk about the result of that and how it affected the Patriots.
Bills vs. Rams, Final Score: BUF 31- LAR 10
- With the Buffalo Bills being AFC East rivals of the Patriots, a loss here would have been more than ideal. Following a defensive blunder and offensive collapse by the Rams, the result did not tip in the Patriots’ favor. Furthermore, the Bills’ competence on both side of the ball showed the size of the challenge ahead for the Patriots. The Patriots will be entering their Week One matchup against the Dolphins needing a win in order to stay tied in the division.
- Luckily, there are 16 other games to play, and the Patriots will have plenty more opportunities to pass the Bills in the division. The Patriots should only control what they can control and hope for the best.
Part 1: The Obvious Games
There are some games that don’t need to be included here but let’s just clarify them in case someone needs help.
Patriots vs. Dolphins
- This goes without saying, but go, Patriots! Mac Jones will be able to show the public how his off-season work has been paying off under the bright Miami sun. The Patriots have already taken a plane to Palm Beach Atlantic University; located about an hour north of Miami. This short trip will give the players a chance to adapt to the warm Florida climate and potentially perform better on Sunday.
- Since Tua Tagovailoa is yet to show any scary traits, I expect this game to be a close one. I already talked about how the Patriots’ defense should prepare for this crucial opening game, but it is mostly going to come down to how the offense does. Unless their unchartered struggles against the Dolphins remain prevalent, the Patriots have a very decent shot at success for this game.
Ravens vs. Jets
- Go, Ravens! With Zach Wilson out four weeks with an unfortunate preseason injury, backup Joe Flacco will be the Jets starter until Week 4, which does add some intrigue as the Ravens are going up against a QB who brought them a Super Bowl. The Patriots can use the weakness of the Jets to get an early headstart on the division. All Patriots fans watching should be cheering on the Ravens and newly-rehabilitated Lamar Jackson.
- The Ravens are clear favorites to win this matchup. Flacco will be lucky to pass for over 150 yards considering his current state, and Lamar will have a chip on his shoulder after enduring significant criticism this off-season among controversial contract extension talks. I would not be surprised to see this being a four-score game in the Ravens’ favor.
Part 2: The NFC Games
The following games have very little effect on the Patriots since they don’t apply to AFC seeding. Fans could cheer for either team and it wouldn’t matter.
Eagles vs. Lions
- Fly Eagles Fly! The Patriots will be playing the Detroit Lions in Week 4 of the regular season. A loss here for Dan Campbell’s Lions could be a morale boost for the Patriots as they begin to prep for Detriot in a few weeks.
- The Eagles are definitely the favorites for this matchup. Fans got an inside look through Hard Knocks at how tough and promising this Lions team is, but on paper, the Lions do not look nearly as competitive as they were portrayed in the HBO series.
49ers vs. Bears
- Go Niners! A loss here for Chicago would minorly impact the team for the October meeting with the Patriots. Earlier this off-season, the Bears hired Matt Eberflus. The Patriots will need him to be under as much pressure as possible for their Week 7, Monday Night Football matchup.
- The 49ers are clear favorites to walk away with a win. Justin Field will be playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in football. He will also be throwing to one of the worst receiving groups in football. A win here for Chicago does not seem plausible.
Saints vs. Falcons
- Go Falcons! Patriots fans and Falcons fans have not been great to each other following the 28-3 incident, but everybody would love to see Marcus Mariota succeed with Atlanta. Every now and then it’s good to cheer on the underdog, and there is no better team to do it with than Atlanta, who are favorites to pick first overall for the 2023 Draft.
- In all likelihood, the Saints will win this game by a substantial margin. The only weakside of the New Orleans offense is the offensive line, who will be hoping to contain Atlanta’s pass rush following the injury of Trevor Penning. Even with the absence of Penning, the Saints offensive line is still superior to that of many teams, and I doubt that it will be a major issue.
Packers vs. Vikings
- Go Vikings! Not many Patriots fans will be jumping for joy to see Aaron Rodgers win this one. I, for one, would rather see Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson make highlight connections than see Aaron Rodgers and Allen Lazard make them. Since these are both NFC teams, the win here will have no change on AFC seeding with the Patriots. Patriots fans can sit back and relax with this one.
- This game might be closer than some people expect. The Packers are question-marks heading into this season, having one of the worst receiving cores in the NFL. Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson beat the Packers the last time they properly met, and this game might come down to a last-minute field goal or touchdown. Expect this one to be a thriller.
Buccaneers vs. Cowboys
- Go Bucs! Tom Brady, the Patriots legend, is coming out of an extremely hectic off-season, and he’ll have more pressure and scrutiny than usual, but I’m sure he will deal with it in a Tom Brady way. Considering all that has happened with Brady this off-season, seeing the team get off on the right foot would be the best-case scenario.
- Tom Brady, who has never lost to the Cowboys in his life, will continue his legendary ways. Much like the NFL Kickoff game last year, this one if going to come down to the final seconds. Nonetheless, Brady will pull through victorious, and fans at Foxboro will be able to cherish another Brady win.
Part 3: The AFC Games
The final part, Part 3, is covering the most important games for conference seeding. The Patriots will be fighting with several other teams for the last seed in the playoffs, and it all start on Week 1. Here we go!
Steelers vs. Bengals
- Go Steelers! The Patriots will play the Bengals late this season, and they will also be competing with them for playoff seeding. The Steelers also play the Patriots this season, but they are a far less competitive team than the Bengals and are not a playoff team at the moment.
- The Bengals are more than likely going to win this one. There has been speculation that they will be having the dreaded ‘Super Bowl hangover’, and they’ll want to prove a point coming out of the gates. If we’re being honest with ourselves, as much as we want it to happen, Mitch Trubisky is not going to outplay Joe Burrow. If the Steelers want to win this one, they’ll have to rely on Najee Harris to carry the ball like a beast. I don’t see them winning, but Najee having a great game will bring this one closer than it should be.
Browns vs. Panthers
- Go Panthers! The Browns are AFC rivals with New England, and a loss for them would pave the way for the Patriots to remain ahead of them in the standings. With Jacoby Brissett taking the rock for the first 11 games of the season following the Deshaun Watson suspension, the Browns will be lucky to reach .500 on the season. They shouldn’t be major problems for the Patriots, but it’s always good to be safe.
- The Panthers might honestly be favorites for this one. It’s hard to tell since we haven’t seen Baker play fully healthy in a while, but I would rather put my money on a skeptical Baker Mayfield than a lousy Jacoby Brissett.
Colts vs. Texans
- Go Texans! The Colts are a similar skill level as the Patriots and they are also in the AFC. Patriots fans are going to be keeping their eyes on the Colts performance for the entire season. A loss here would be a major boost for the Texans and a major upset for Indianapolis; exactly what Patriots fans need.
- Needless to say, the Colts are going to win by a fair margin. Offensive Player of The Year, Johnathan Taylor, will demolish the Texans defense, and I don’t believe that Davis Mills can neutralize the damage on the other side of the ball. Colts by a million
Jaguars vs. Commanders
- Go Commanders! This is the same case as we’ve talked about before. The Jaguars are in the AFC; the Commanders aren’t. The Jaguars will be led by new coach Doug Pederson and second-year QB Trevor Lawrence. Considering all that the Jaguars have gone through in the last twenty years, I want to see them succeed. But if success means any Patriots failure, then I hope they continue on their mediocre ways.
- This game will be close. The Commanders are a strange group, to say in the least. I can’t make my mind up on them, and analysts seem to be predicting them all over the place. I have the Jaguars winning this one in an overtime win.
Giants vs. Titans
- Go Giants! The Titans were the first seed in the AFC last year, and they’ve been completely under the radar for the entire off-season. I think they have the potential to be a playoff team, but they probably won’t be as strong as they were last year. I see Ryan Tannehill taking a huge decline this year and Malik Willis grabbing the reigns to the team mid-season. The Patriots obviously will need them to lose for seeding purposes.
- In a wild upset, I’m going to predict the Giants to win this one. Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley will make statements this game, and Ryan Tannehill will begin the start of his downfall. 35-10, Giants win.
Chiefs vs. Cardinals
- Go Cardinals! The Chiefs are pretty much a lock to make the playoffs this year, but would love to see Kyler Murray beat Patrick Mahomes. Cardinals Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury will have a lot to prove against his former QB at Texas Tech, and Andy Reid will be hoping to bounce back from a heartbreaking loss in the AFC Championship last year.
- I have the Chiefs running away with this one in a thrilling fashion. Kyler is going to show up following his hefty extension, and Mahomes is going to play an incredible game as well. Despite Kyler’s performance, the roster for the Cardinals simply doesn’t match that of the Chiefs. This shouldn’t be a nail-biter.
Raiders vs. Chargers
- Go Raiders! A lot of Patriots staff members and free agents decided to move to Las Vegas last year, and it will be fun watching some familiar names attempt to beat the Chargers. Former Offensive Coordinator for the Patriots, Josh McDaniels, will be the Head Coach for this Raiders team. It should be interesting to see how his scheme has changed since his tenure in Foxboro. With that being said, the Raiders are still rivals of the Patriots. If they continue to be the second-home for Patriots players in the future, I would expect a bitterness to arise between the two teams. In a perfect world, both teams would lose.
- I have the Chargers winning this one. Davante Adams and Derek Carr will be great, but third-year Justin Herbert will be even better. Expect this one to be an absolute offensive showdown. I have the Chargers getting their Week 18 revenge, winning by ten points.
Broncos vs. Seahawks
- Go Hawks! The Broncos don’t have much connection the Patriots besides their AFC status, so this won’t be a particularly important game. This will still be a fun one to watch, however, because Russel Wilson will be reuniting with his former team on national television. The NFL scheduling deparment did a great job with this one.
- The Broncos will probably win this one by upwards of twenty points. The Seahawks have Geno Smith throwing the football, and it isn’t going to end up great. This will be a great game for the storyline of the NFL season, but individually, it’s going to be a snoozefest.
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