The New England Patriots open the 2013 season at Ralph Wilson Stadium to play their division rival, the Buffalo Bills. The last time New England opened in Buffalo was in the 2003 season as Buffalo throttled the Patriots 31-0. The Patriots of course recovered from that startling loss and won the Super Bowl that year behind a brilliant Tom Brady and a daunting defense.
A new regime has begun in Buffalo with new head coach Doug Marrone and new quarterback Kevin Kolb. Even if the Bills draft a quarterback, Kolb is likely to start in Week 1, if the often-injured quarterback can stay healthy. While the crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium is always rowdy and a road game within the division is never a walk in the park, the Pats should take down the Bills with relative ease.
Prediction: Patriots 31, Bills 20
There will not be much time for the Patriots to celebrate their opening weekend victory as the New York Jets visit Gillette Stadium on Thursday night. With Darrelle Revis shipped off to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tom Brady should have no problem airing it out to his new receiving crew. The Jets are a mess on both sides of the football with Mark Sanchez enduring his worst season in 2012. The Patriots openly despise the Jets and will gladly run up the score (remember Thanksgiving night last year or the 45-3 shackling on Monday Night Football in 2010?) on Rex Ryan and his “gang green” squad.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Jets 13
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will travel to Gillette Stadium in Week 3 with their new and improved secondary, featuring Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson, who were both acquired in the off-season. The Bucs ranked dead last in passing defense a season ago, but the additions of Revis and Goldson should shore up their secondary. A major question mark for this Bucs team, though, will be the play of quarterback Josh Freeman. Freeman excelled in his rookie season but then hit a sophomore slump in second year in the NFL. Last year, Freeman started off hot but sizzled late in the year, putting doubts in the mind of head coach Greg Schiano. I expect this to be a tightly contested battle but it is almost foolish to pick against Tom Brady at home in the regular season.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Buccaneers 20
The Patriots will play their second NFC South opponent in as many weeks as they travel to the Georgia Dome in Week 4 to play the Atlanta Falcons, who finished with the No. 1 seed in the NFC a season ago as they reached the conference championship game for the first time since 2004. Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan posts an astonishing 33-5 record at home, making this arguably the toughest game on the Patriots’ schedule. Ryan and his offense are well known for their long drives down the field that chew away much of the clock. New running back Steven Jackson will help extend these ceaseless drives with his hard-nosed style of running, similar to what Michael Turner did for Atlanta the past five seasons. Just like I do not like to pick against Tom Brady at home, I do not pick against “Matty Ice” at home often either.
Prediction: Falcons 23, Patriots 20