Five competitive games on the Patriots schedule: Josh McDaniels vs. Bill Belichick in the Las Vegas top list

The New England Patriots made positive progress in 2021 that helped them get back into the playoffs after a year-long hiatus. However, Robert Kraft’s team is still looking for their first playoff win since winning Super Bowl LIII in 2018. With Mac Jones entering his sophomore year and a few more weapons at his disposal this offseason , the Patriots will look to make more progress in 2022, which will eventually see them get into routine clashes annually.

However, as evidenced by the regular-season schedule, the AFC continues to charge, creating a difficult path ahead for Bill Belichick and company. While this may lead to a more treacherous road, it will be all the more entertaining for us to watch a home. With New England’s full 2022 schedule recently unveiled, let’s take a look at the top five matchups that are on deck later this year.

5. Week 7: vs. Bears (Mon. Oct. 24, 8:15 p.m. ESPN)

The first of the Patriots’ five prime-time games this season is one of the more underrated duels on the schedule. Sure, the Bears are unlikely to contend for a Lombardi Trophy this season, but this Monday night neck-and-neck race features an intriguing quarterback dual.

Justin Fields and Mac Jones were two of the five quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft and came off the board within five picks of each other. Chicago traded multiple picks to move up and pick Fields in 11th overall while the Patriots just waited in the weeds as Jones fell to them in 15th. From a New England perspective, it will be interesting to see if Jones put a little extra juice into this game to prove to a team like the Bears that he was the quarterback they should have acted for instead of Fields.

While both signal-callers are different, they possess high-quality talent, and if both reach their potential in the first round, it could be the start of a head-to-head quarterback duel that will last for the foreseeable future.

4. Week 1: at Dolphins (Sun. Sept. 11, 1 p.m. CBS)

Just outside of goal, the Patriots face an intriguing duel with the Dolphins.

This will be a revamped Miami roster after adding Mike McDaniel as head coach and dramatically improving Tua Tagovailoa’s roster by adding players like wideout Tyreek Hill, tackle Terron Armstead and running backs Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds. This is an improvement from a team that had already defeated the Patriots in 2021. So this could very well prove to be a yardstick game where we’ll find out who the No. 2 team in the division behind Buffalo is.

If the Dolphins’ positional player can get in early on that offense and Tagovailoa leap forward, New England will have their hands full in a dramatically improving division.

3. Week 12: at Vikings (Thursday, Nov. 24, 8:20 p.m. NBC)

For the sixth time in franchise history, the Patriots are playing Thanksgiving. New England last played on the 2012 Holidays when they defeated the Jets 49-19 and will be looking for a similar performance away from home against the Vikings.

Not only do the Patriots get a rare Thanksgiving tie, but they also face a Minnesota team with a new head coach, old friend Kevin O’Connell. The 36-year-old coach was a former Patriots third-round draft pick in 2008 and has more recently risen through the coaching ranks and had just helped the Rams win Super Bowl LVI as their OC.

Much like Mike Vrabel in Tennessee, when Bill Belichick goes up against a former player, it’s always an interesting subplot.

2. Week 13: vs. Bills (Thu. Dec. 1, 8:15 p.m., Amazon)

We’ll have to wait until week 13 to see the Patriots take on the Bills, and it’ll come on Thursday Night Football. Of course, the last time New England played Buffalo was a year ago in the playoffs, where Belichick’s defense couldn’t force the Bills to punt once.

With Jones a little more polished and possibly having improved defense over this 2021 unit, this will be a yardstick game for the Patriots to see if they’re up to the real fight not only with the division’s top team, but with the Current closer come Super Bowl favorites.

1. Week 15: at Raiders (Sun. Dec. 18, 8:20 p.m., NBC)

This is the unmissable top game on the Patriots schedule this season. On Sunday Night Football, we’ll have apprentice versus master when McDaniels takes on Belichick as the Raiders’ new head coach.

Of course, McDaniels has spent most of his football life as offensive coordinator for the Patriots, and there’s arguably no current head coach who knows the inner workings of New England and Belichick better than he does. What advantages does that bring him? Can he exploit any of Jones’ weaknesses after working with him last season? On a similar issue, how will Belichick tackle the McDaniels offense? This chess match is worth the price of admission.

Not only do we get McDaniels vs. Belichick, but there’s plenty of star power that comes with this matchup, especially after the Raiders traded to Davante Adams this offseason.

Given that this game will be played in Las Vegas, it would also come as no surprise to learn that this is the year’s top street destination for traveling Patriots fans.

Leave a Comment