The Patriots 2023 campaign has finally been unveiled as the NFL released the full schedule for this upcoming season on Thursday night.
For the Pats, an inaugural game in Germany against the Colts stands out as a highlight but it's just one game with 16 others that will provide their own challenges and opportunities as New England tries to get back into the playoffs following a one-year absence.
Compared to recent years, 2023 seems like a balanced and manageable slate of games, with travel mostly spaced out, one late-season short week that comes with an extended break shortly afterwards and enough big games at the end of the season to keep the Patriots in contention if they play their best football after Thanksgiving.
Here are five key takeaways from this year's docket.
Four Prime Time Games
The Patriots will appear on national television in prime time four times this season, starting with a Week 2 date with the Dolphins in Foxborough that will air on Sunday Night Football. From there the Patriots have a long break from night games, lasting until early December, at which point they'll play three of them in a row.
That stretch begins with a Thursday Night Football trip to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers there for the second year in a row. That will be followed by an extended break before suiting up at home against the champion Chiefs on Monday Night Football in the season's marquee home game that will receive a deserved spotlight.
They'll complete the three-game national stretch on Christmas Eve against the Broncos in Denver.
These aren't just three night games in front of national audiences, they're also three-straight conference games, part of a six-game streak to end the season with New England facing a run of AFC opponents, three who made the playoffs last season.
With a game in Frankfurt and three prime time matchups on the final stretch to the playoffs, the Patriots will determine their fates in 2023 under some bright lights.
The Pats have a handful of long flights this season, including travel to Frankfurt, Dallas, Denver and Las Vegas, but all four are fairly well divided up, with the exception of games against the Cowboys and Raiders that come in a span of three weeks, with just a home game against the Saints in between. That will be the toughest travel portion of the season.
There are just two instances of back-to-back away games, the first coming in Weeks 3 (at Jets) and 4 (at Cowboys) and the second coming in Weeks 16 (at Broncos) and 17 (at Bills). Neither should require the team to move their operation out of Foxborough as they did last season with back-to-back games against the Cardinals and Raiders, or in 2020 with back-to-back games in Los Angeles.
With the bye week coming after the trip to Germany and another extended 10-day break just a few weeks later, this year's travel shouldn't be quite as daunting as recent years, providing the players with valuable recovery time, especially towards the end of the season.
The toil of three-straight night games is another challenge to consider during this critical stretch in December, as well as playing three of their last five on the road.
Once again it will be a late trip to Buffalo for the season's penultimate weekend.
AFC East Two-Packs
The road to the playoffs runs through the important division games and this season the slate of AFC East opponents differs from the last two years. 2021 and 2021 saw them face the Dolphins early and late, playing two in the middle of the year against the Jets and then two late in the year against the Bills.
This year the AFC East contests will come in three separate back-to-back two-packs, starting with Miami at home in Week 2 and then at the Jets in Week 3. It will be Buffalo at home four weeks later followed immediately with a trip to Miami. Finally, the season will close out with a trip to Buffalo followed by a to-be-determined date in Foxborough against the Jets to cap off the regular season.
Those two-game intervals are nicely dispersed throughout the season and should be the most telling check-in games regarding the team's playoff aspirations. Those final two division games of the year are likely to be the defining contests of the year.
The Goat and the Eagles
Robert Kraft announced on Thursday morning that Tom Brady would return to Foxborough for the team's 2023 home opener and now we know that it will be a matchup against the NFC's Super Bowl representative, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Brady won one Super Bowl against the Eagles and lost another, as there's some fun history between him and the opponent to highlight, not to mention some of the other notable games like 2003's Week 2 turnaround win or the surprising 31-28 nailbiter against AJ Feely in 2007.
Brady will be of little help to the Patriots from the stands this time around though, as Philly is one of the hottest teams in the league after locking up Jalen Hurts to a long-term deal this offseason and adding some intriguing talent in this past April's draft.
New England will get an immediate sense of how they match up with one of the most talented teams in the league and one featuring the kind of mobile quarterback that has given them fits in recent years. Rookie Christian Gonzalez could be thrown immediately into the fire against Philly's dangerous receiving corps, while the Eagles defensive front should test the Patriots' offensive line right out of the gate.
Patriots To Make Germany Debut In 2023
The New England Patriots will play their Week 10 regular season home game in Frankfurt, Germany on November 12, 2023, against the Indianapolis Colts. The game will be the Patriots' first in Germany as part of the 2023 National Football League's (NFL) International Games.
The Patriots-Colts game slated for Frankfurt in Week 10 was announced earlier in the week, as this year's international game was not a schedule-day surprise but it's still one that will be a huge focal point of the Patriots 2023 season.
They'll face a Colts team in transition, possibly with rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson under center by this point in the season. Jonathan Taylor and the Indy running game are always a problem and one that ran away from the Pats in 2021. But as was the case last season, who knows what the matchup will look like after nine weeks of the regular season have taken their toll.
Regardless, this game will represent the start of a new era for the New England Patriots and hopefully the start of a long relationship with Germany and the first in a long line of games to be played there.