As the Patriots prepare for life after Tom Brady, their fans were treated with an appetizer for this season. This past Thursday, New England had their schedule announced.
There are a few really exciting potential contests, including at Seattle in September, at Kansas City in October, hosting Baltimore in November, and two games in Los Angeles over just five days. While these games are definitely appealing on paper, they will not define the Patriots season.
New England's 2020 campaign will come down to the final two games. They will be home against divisional rivals Bills and Jets to close out their regular season. While it is impossible to predict the exact stakes for the Patriots, recent history highlights these games tend to make or break New England’s season.
In 2015 the Patriots were 12-2 going into their final two games of the regular season. They were on the road against the Jets and Dolphins. The Patriots would lose in overtime to New York, and then drop their final contest in Miami. With a 12-4 record the Patriots slipped to the Number 2 seed and that led to them traveling to Denver for the AFC Title game. They wound up losing a game they would have won had it been played at Gillette.
In 2018 the Patriots would close out their season at home against the Bills and Jets. New England looked lost after back to back December loses to the Dolphins and Steelers. They needed to win these games to get back on track, but also clinch the all important first round bye. They would beat the Bills before clobbering the Jets. They rode that momentum all the way to a Super Bowl championship.
The Patriots will probably not be battling for the first overall seed in the conference, but they definitely could be in a dog fight for a division title or a Wild Card berth. These last two divisional games could be the difference between New England making the playoffs or watching from home.
They also might not be in that situation this year. New England could be in position to win and finish over .500, or try to spoil the Bill’s chances of postseason play. Whatever the exact scenario is, the Patriots will want to finish the season strong. If nothing else, to give Jarrett Stidham and the rest of the organization confidence heading into the offseason that they are in a good position.
So while other matchups this year will most likely produce more riveting football, do not overlook the importance of weeks 16 and 17. If you need more convincing on the importance of these games, just remind yourself how last year’s regular season concluded.
Follow Chad on Twitter @shutupchadjones