The New England Patriots won the AFC East division title for the fifth consecutive season in 2013. It was the 11th division title under head coach Bill Belichick and the second time under Belichick that New England won the division five straight seasons. The NFL released its schedule tonight, and after reviewing the Patriots’ schedule, there are two easy conclusions:
2. The Patriots will win the AFC East title for the sixth consecutive year, the 12th under Belichick, and they will contend for a top seed in the AFC come playoff time.
The Patriots’ 2014 schedule:
Week 1: Sept. 7 1:00PM @ Miami Dolphins
Week 2: Sept. 14 1:00PM @Minnesota Vikings
Week 3: Sept. 21 1:00PM VS Oakland Raiders
Week 4: Sept. 29 8:30PM @ Kansas City Chiefs
Week 5: Oct. 5 8:30PM VS Cincinnati Bengals
Week 6: Oct. 12 1:00PM @ Buffalo Bills
Week 7: Oct. 16 8:25PM VS New York Jets
Week 8: October 26 1:00PM VS Chicago Bears
Week 9: Nov. 2 4:25PM VS Denver Broncos
Week 10: BYE WEEK
Week 11: Nov. 16 8:30PM @ Indianapolis Colts
Week 12: Nov. 23 1:00PM VS Detroit Lions
Week 13: Nov. 30 4:25PM @ Green Bay Packers
Week 14: Dec. 7 8:30PM @ San Diego Chargers
Week 15: Dec. 14 1:00PM VS Dolphins
Week 16: Dec. 21 1:00PM @ Jets
Week 17: Dec. 28 1:00PM VS Bills
Looking at the schedule, the Patriots should pretty easily win their first four games. They should roll over the Dolphins, Vikings and Raiders; the Chiefs were overrated last season, and the Patriots should dispense with Alex Smith and company pretty easily.
The first game the Patriots could really conceivably lose is Week 5, at home against the Bengals, but the Patriots should probably win that game too. After the Bengals, the Patriots get the Bills and Jets in Weeks 6 and 7. I know division games are tough because of familiarity and the teams know they mean more, so the players are all amped up, but the Patriots shouldn’t lose those games.
Week 8 is at home against the Bears, which admittedly could be a tough game if for some reason they stop drinking the Patriots water and actually looked ahead to Week 9 against — drumroll please — Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
That game could be important, not because of Brady vs. Peyton, but because it is highly probable the Patriots and Broncos are fighting it out for the No. 1 seed in the AFC come playoff time, and that head to head win could go a long way towards achieving that goal.
At least the bye week comes somewhat late in the season (Week 10), and after the Patriots tangle with the Broncos and right before the Patriots have to play another really good team — the Andrew Luck led Colts.
The Patriots are lucky that their division is not great (Bills, Dolphins and Jets), but their out of division schedule is not terribly hard either. The Patriots could easily finish the regular season 14-2 or 13-3, win the division and secure a first round bye for the playoffs.