Patriots game-by-game predictions
An early best guess at how the 2012 season might play out for New England
Predicting the outcome of the New England Patriots' 2012 schedule is a tough task because so much can change on a week-to-week basis in the NFL.
When going through this exercise in 2010, this prognosticator was 9-7.
In 2011, the predictions resulted in an 11-5 mark.
With that in mind, take these for what they're worth:
2012 Predictions: Mike Reiss breaks down the Patriots' season, game by game
Sunday, Sept. 9, 1 p.m. -- Patriots at Titans (CBS)
So much for opening against division foes to promote rivalries. This will mark the Patriots' third regular-season trip to Tennessee since the Houston Oilers franchise relocated there in 1998. One storyline to follow in the preseason will be who emerges at quarterback for Tennessee -- Matt Hasselbeck or 2011 first-round pick Jake Locker. The last trip to Tennessee was the 2006 season finale, when the Patriots felt safety Rodney Harrison was the victim of a cheap shot by receiver Bobby Wade.
Score (record): Patriots 31, Titans 21 (1-0)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 1 p.m. -- Patriots vs. Cardinals (FOX)
The Cardinals won't have to worry about snow on this visit, unlike 2008 when they arrived in late December, didn't seem interested in playing a game and ended up getting delayed on the airplane when attempting to return home. They had issues protecting the quarterback last season (54 sacks allowed), but also have one of the game's best receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, so this game could answer some early questions for New England when it comes to pressuring opposing quarterbacks and with cornerback Devin McCourty turning things around.
Score (record): Patriots 35, Cardinals 17 (2-0)
Sunday, Sept. 23, 8:20 p.m. -- Patriots at Ravens (NBC)
This is a rematch of the AFC championship game in what should be an electric environment at M&T Bank Stadium. It's a tough spot for the Patriots. Similar to the opener against Tennessee, it marks just the third time the Patriots have visited Baltimore in the regular season, highlighting how the start of the 2012 season features some not-often-visited locales. The Ravens' defense, now led by former Patriots coordinator Dean Pees, always seems to play New England tough, even if the results don't always show it (Patriots are 7-1 all-time versus Ravens).
Score (record): Ravens 24, Patriots 21 (2-1)
Sunday, Sept. 30, 1 p.m. -- Patriots at Bills (CBS)
Similar to last year, the Patriots get the early-season trip to western New York, likely taking bad elements out of the equation. This will be the first look at how free-agent defensive end Mario Williams changes things for the Bills' defense, and if his presence possibly helps Buffalo sustain better to bridge the gap to the Patriots atop the AFC East. Williams should make the Bills' defense better, but there are still questions about quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Score (record): Patriots 27, Bills 24 (3-1)
Sunday, Oct. 7, 4:15 p.m. -- Patriots vs. Broncos (CBS)
The last time Peyton Manning was back at Gillette Stadium, he was signing autographs for fans and commented on how nice everyone was to him. With Manning returning as Broncos quarterback, he shouldn't expect such a warm greeting this time around. The Broncos will obviously have a different look on offense, but the bigger question from this view is whether their defense has made enough improvements to hang with New England.
Score (record): Patriots 35, Broncos 28 (4-1)
Sunday, Oct. 14, 4:05 p.m. -- Patriots at Seahawks (CBS)
A natural storyline -- the new Patriots coach (Bill Belichick -- 2000-present) against the old Patriots coach (Pete Carroll -- 1997-99). The most underrated fans in the NFL (aka The 12th Man) will make life tough for quarterback Tom Brady and his silent snap count; they chart false start penalties on the scoreboard in Seattle as a measure of pride. Every season seems to produce an unexpected loss, and with Matt Flynn (who previously carved up New England) now on board, let's call for the upset.
Score (record): Seahawks 28, Patriots 24 (4-2)
Sunday, Oct. 21, 4:15 ET -- Patriots vs. Jets (CBS)
This is the latest the Patriots and Jets have waited to meet in a regular season since 2005. By this point, it will be a bit clearer how the Jets are using quarterback Tim Tebow, and how it could affect the Patriots' preparations. This is just the second AFC East game of the season for the team, and there's the added dynamic of the clubs facing each other one month later on Thanksgiving. Cornerback Darrelle Revis called Bill Belichick a jerk this offseason. Think those comments get revisited this week?
Score (record): Patriots 31, Jets 23 (5-2)
Sunday, Oct. 28, 1 p.m. -- Patriots at Rams in London (CBS)
Tom Brady felt the team's previous trip to London, in 2009, was a bonding experience for the team. The Patriots won big over the Buccaneers that year and should be favored again over the Rams, who have a changing of the guard under first-year coach Jeff Fisher. The Patriots' prior experience on this trip should help them.
Score (record): Patriots 33, Rams 17 (6-2)>> BYE WEEK <<
Sunday, Nov. 11, 1 p.m. -- Patriots vs. Bills (CBS)
The Bills once again get a tough break in catching the Patriots coming off the bye, which has been commonplace of late in this series. One can practically hear Bill Belichick's message to the team now, "This is the start of the second half of the season and we have three of our next four games against AFC East teams. This is when clubs will separate themselves from each other in the division."
Score (record): Patriots 35, Bills 24 (7-2)
Sunday, Nov. 18, 1 p.m. -- Patriots vs. Colts (CBS)
Colts owner Jim Irsay has said that his club is in a multi-year rebuilding phase, so for the second straight year, this rivalry game has less sizzle than the norm. The primary intrigue comes with likely No. 1 pick Andrew Luck at quarterback, and what he might be able to do against the Patriots' defense. Dwight Freeney gives Tom Brady nightmares, but he wasn't a factor last year. Hard to believe a Patriots-Colts game is one of the least appealing on the schedule, which reminds us to appreciate the Patriots' consistent run of excellence.
Score (record): Patriots 31, Colts 13 (8-2)
Thursday, Nov. 22, 8:20 p.m. -- Patriots at Jets (NBC)
Preparation on a short week shouldn't be a huge issue because the teams will have faced each other Oct. 21. The Jets will be coming off a trip to St. Louis, while the Patriots will have been at home (versus the Colts), which seems like a fair exchange, from a Patriots' perspective. This was where the Patriots turned their 2011 season around, taking a depleted lineup to the Meadowlands and recording a defining victory to sweep the season series. Asking for another season sweep seems like too much.
Score (record): Jets 27, Patriots 21 (8-3)
Sunday, Dec. 2, 1 p.m. -- Patriots at Dolphins (CBS)
It is rare for the Patriots to not face a division foe until the first week of December. Last year, the Patriots visited the Dolphins in the opener. Meanwhile, the same question that has hovered over the Dolphins since Dan Marino retired -- who's the quarterback? -- will go a long way toward determining whether Miami can hang with the AFC East's elite. The Dolphins are still searching for answers at the position after all these years.
Score (record): Patriots 24, Dolphins 17 (9-3)
Monday, Dec. 10, 8:30 p.m. -- Patriots vs. Texans (ESPN)
This starts a stretch with three of the final four games at home, which sets up nicely for the Patriots. The Texans have the retractable roof at home and play in the AFC South, where bad conditions aren't the norm. So this looks like a good spot for the Patriots to face an explosive offensive attack, as the Texans will be playing their third straight road game.
Score (record): Patriots 30, Texans 24 (10-3)
Sunday, Dec. 16, 8:20 p.m. -- Patriots vs. 49ers (NBC)
The 49ers have one of the toughest defenses the Patriots will face, but similar to the Texans the week before, this looks like a spot that is favorable for Bill Belichick's crew. The 49ers don't often play in tough Northeast conditions and they'll be coming to Gillette Stadium in mid-December for a prime-time game. Get your Randy Moss masks ready. The 49ers already will have seen plenty of the Patriots on film from having hosted the Dolphins the week before (the Patriots and Dolphins meet on Dec. 2).
Score (record): Patriots 21, 49ers 10 (11-3)
Sunday, Dec. 23, 1 p.m. -- Patriots at Jaguars (CBS)
This brings back memories of the 2006 game in Jacksonville, the Patriots' last trip there, as that one was played at the same time of year -- on Christmas Eve. Hard to know what to make of the Jaguars under first-year coach Mike Mularkey given the questions surrounding 2011 first-round draft choice Blaine Gabbert and whether he can be a franchise signal-caller. At this point, it seems fair to say the Patriots are in a different class.
Score (record): Patriots 35, Jaguars 13 (12-3)
Sunday, Dec. 30, 1 p.m. -- Patriots vs. Dolphins (CBS)
Welcome home, Joe Philbin, the classy Longmeadow, Mass., native who takes over as the Dolphins' head coach this year. The Patriots often play their best football after Thanksgiving and they're tough to beat at home, especially this late in the season. At this point, there's no reason to think things will be different this time around.
Score (record): Patriots 30, Dolphins 17 (13-3)
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