After racing out to an 8-0 record, the Patriots upcoming schedule features five tough opponents with a combined record of 23-15. The Pats blasted some of the worst teams in the league over the first two months of the season, but New England is about to finally face some real competition that at the very least can give them an interesting game.
It starts this weekend with a trip to Baltimore, who should be rested coming off a bye week after beating the Seahawks two weeks ago. After their own bye week, the Pats will visit the Eagles and then return home to face the Cowboys. Then it's back on the road to Houston before wrapping the stretch up with an AFC power battle against the Chiefs. With three games on the road and some of their toughest conference competitors, we'll have a much better sense of who the 2019 Patriots are by mid-December and there will likely be a loss in there somewhere.
It's likely this five-game stretch will determine the AFC playoff picture and give us a clear sense of the Patriots strengths and weaknesses. This week's Samsonite Make Your Case Question of the Week is…
Which opponent in the next five games is most likely to defeat the Patriots?
Mike Dussault says…
The Ravens are flying high after beating the Seahawks two weeks ago and now have had plenty of time to lock in on what the Patriots do well and what they don't. Their rushing attack is averaging over 200 yards on the ground per game and if there's been one spot that's been an occasional weakness for the Patriots defense, it's against the run.
Overall, the Patriots are the better-rounded team, but given the current circumstances the Ravens need this game more than New England does. The conditions seem prime for the Ravens to make what they'll view as a statement win.
None of the Patriots weaknesses have cost them a game yet this year and that can be a bad thing. As we get into late November and December, the Patriots will start putting together their best football of the year. Meaning that if a loss is going to happen, it's coming sooner than later. And if it happens this week it can be spun into a positive as it forces the team to re-focus on the stretch run and eliminates any talk of an undefeated season.
There's no question the Ravens must avoid turnovers against the Patriots, but if they play safe with the ball and continue their success on the ground, Baltimore will be the ones to finally knock the Pats off.
Paul Perillo says …
The Eagles have quite simply not been a very good team this season, but the potential for Philadelphia to be dangerous exists. First, no one would argue that the Eagles have talent, and a coach in Doug Pederson that has already proven capable of matching wits with Bill Belichick. Second, there is some desperation in Philly due to the inconsistent start, and if the Eagles are to be postseason contenders they will have to start stringing together some wins. What better way to right the ship than a home victory over the Patriots?
Carson Wentz is another quarterback with the mobility to keep the Patriots pass rush guessing, but unlike Lamar Jackson he also has the ability to win from the pocket with accurate throws. His group of weapons is starting to get healthy, and if DeSean Jackson can join Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor the potential for a high-powered attack is there.
The Patriots will also be coming off their bye week, which hasn't always been a good thing over the years. New England has lost three times coming off the bye in the last eight seasons, and some of the wins were tighter than expected against weak teams. That's still a good record, but not as impressive as normal.
This five-game stretch features some tough opponents who should be able to compete with New England. Philly will be as tough as any of them.