Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Projecting best opening possibilities
By Mike Reiss
The NFL regular-season schedule will be announced tonight (8 p.m. ET), which is highly anticipated. It’s always fun to begin thinking about planning the fall.
The Patriots have opened on the road the past three years -- at Buffalo in 2013, at Tennessee in 2012 and at Miami in 2011.
Will it be four in a row on the road? Or will the Patriots open at home for the first time since 2010 (vs. Bengals)?
We’ll find out tonight. Until then, let’s have some fun and give our ranking of the best possible/most likely season-opening games:
1. Jets (home/away) -- The last time the Patriots opened with the Jets was in 2007 (Randy Moss splitting triple coverage), and the last time they opened with the Jets at home was 1988. After opening with AFC East rivals Miami (2011) and Buffalo (2013) in two of the past three years, perhaps the Jets are next up in the rotation. Darrelle Revis facing his former team would be one of the biggest storylines of the opening week. Nothing like a rivalry game to kick things off.
2. Chiefs (away) -- The Patriots' first trip to Arrowhead since 2005 is highly anticipated as it is one of underrated venues in the NFL. These teams met in the 2008 opener in Foxboro and Patriots fans need no reminder as to what happened that day.
3. Raiders (home) -- Deja vu from the 2005 opener? We don't get to see the Raiders a lot here in New England (five times since 1985). They've made a lot of moves this offseason and a chance to see how it measures up to the Patriots would be a solid early-season storyline for a team that doesn't draw as much media attention.
4. Bengals (home) -- A repeat of the 2010 opener would be entertaining as running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis returns to Foxboro for the first time as a member of the Bengals. One-on-one matchup of note: Revis vs. A.J. Green.
5. Dolphins (home/away) -- Not the most exciting matchup, but an opening-week AFC East game would add some juice to it. The last time the Patriots opened the season hosting the Dolphins was 1990, and since the Patriots visited the Dolphins to open the '11 season, it seems more likely this game would be at home.
6. Chargers (away) -- Purely for selfish purposes, we'd prefer to save this one for a bit later in the year. Why burn a trip to San Diego in September? But in terms of the game itself, a lot to like, including Danny Woodhead facing the Patriots for the first time as a Charger.
7. Colts (away) -- A rematch of the AFC divisional round playoff game with Andrew Luck looking to record his first win over Tom Brady? Would likely be a prime-time consideration and a game the league wants to save for a bit later in the season.
8. Broncos (home) -- Probably will land in November in prime-time, so it gets bumped down the list based on the thought that the NFL wouldn't want to burn another Brady/Manning showdown in Week 1.
9. Bears (home) -- Rare to see the Patriots open against an NFC team. The last time it happened was 2000, Bill Belichick's first game as coach when the Patriots entertained the Buccaneers.
10. Lions (home) -- Similar to the Bears matchup, it would be something different for an opener. Revis vs. Calvin Johnson alone might be worth the price of admission.
11. Packers (away) -- Not much better than a trip to Lambeau Field. Since the merger, the Patriots have never opened the season on the road of an NFC foe. Until the streak is broken, we'll keep it lower on the list.
12. Vikings (away) -- With a new facility being built for the Vikings, this game will be held at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. Because of that, it might be a bit easier to project that the Vikings will be opening on the road.
13. Bills (home/away) -- After opening in Buffalo last year, the Patriots should get a different draw this time around.