Bad news Patriots fans, the fall of 2019 looks like it could be a rough one. With ‘only’ five national TV games during the 2018 season, most of which were bunched together early on, it felt like we got somewhat of a reprieve from the usual late nights of football season. There was even a rare 1PM playoff game! Other fan bases have no clue how tough it is to stay up late, week after week, watching your team win.
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2019 could have a lot of late nights in store for New England. The Patriots list of opponents is deep with playoff teams and has storylines galore. Now, the schedule won’t be released until April, but I wanted to get a jump on things, so I took a look at the Pats scheduled opponents, and ranked them in order of most to least likely to be a National TV game. This includes Sunday Night, Monday Night, and Thursday Night football, but not the FOX or CBS 4:25 ‘Game Of The Week’.
I would say the first 5 are near-locks to draw primetime coverage, while 6 through 9 are more probable than not. After the five national TV games last year, I’d give an over/under of 6.5 for the Patriots this year, and still probably take the over. If you disagree with any of my rankings, and I’m sure there will be some disagreement, let me hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth, Anyways, onto the list, starting with a no-brainer…
1. Vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Rematch of two of the top 10 games in the NFL last year, and one of the most epic AFC Championship Games in recent memory. If it’s not the opener, it will definitely be an early season Sunday Night game.
2. @ Philadelphia Eagles
It will be the first regular season meeting between the teams since Super Bowl LII. Expect it to be later in the season, since no matter what happens with the teams in 2019, there will still be juice in this matchup.
3. Vs. Cleveland Browns
How many editions of ‘Brady vs Baker’ will we get? The quarterback matchup alone lends this one to a national audience. Add to the mix Odell Beckham, who the Patriots reportedly were interested in this offseason, and this game has a real chance to open the season on Sunday Night Football. If for some reason this game is scheduled late in the season for non-prime time, a Browns playoff push should make it a prime flex-game candidate.
4. @ Houston Texans
A matchup between a pair of AFC playoff teams from a year ago, plus the Texans always play the Patriots close. Even though this has been a 1PM game the last few years, a now-fully healthy Deshaun Watson will help draw eyeballs.
5. Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers may be in an unconfined free-fall, but they always play the Patriots tough. While the Pats have a shot at returning to the Super Bowl, this will probably be the biggest game Pittsburgh plays all year (again). It’s also the first regular season game for the Steelers in Foxboro since the 2015 opener.
6. @ Miami Dolphins
Miami will be terrible, but there are storylines galore here. The Patriots losing 5 of their last games in South Beach, the ‘Miracle In Miami’ rematch, Flores vs Belichick, etc. This game screams Thursday Night Football, especially early in the year.
7. @ Baltimore Ravens
They used to be perennial opponents, but the Patriots and Ravens haven’t played since 2016. In the lead-up to a near playoff matchup last season, it’s clear there is a demand for a resumption of the rivalry, especially with Lamar Jackson replacing the corpse of Joe Flacco at quarterback for Baltimore.
8. Vs. New York Giants
It’s a shame the Giants aren’t better, because this game usually draws the eyes of the nation when both teams are competitive. If New York has even a borderline playoff team, I think there is a decent shot this could have ended up as the opener. While the Giants are far from a title contender, the Jets are still the Jets, and if the NFL wants to capitalize on a Boston-New York market matchup this season, this may be their best chance at a good game. I mean, its Patriots-Giants.
9. Vs. Dallas Cowboys
America’s Team of old vs America’s Team of now. The amount of people hate-watching this game will be great for ratings. However, CBS has protected this game in the past, and with Romo now in the booth, I’d expect them to do all they can to keep it again. Probably looking at a 4:25, ‘Game Of The Week’ start for this one.
10. Vs Cincinnati Bengals
“We’re On To Cincinnati” again.
11. @ Buffalo Bills
The Patriots trip to Buffalo was in prime time last year, and we actually got a decent game for about 45 minutes before the Patriots pulled away in the 4th quarter. I’m not sure they get Monday Night again, but certainly could be a Thursday Night draw.
12. Vs. Miami Dolphins
See #5, but this one has a bit less build-up since the Patriots usually handle business with ease when facing the Dolphins in Foxboro.
13.@ New York Jets
The Jets, with their new star running back and new uniforms, will probably get elevated to a few prime-time opportunities. Another ‘passing the torch’ meeting between Tom Brady and Sam Darnold could draw a Thursday Night slot.
14. @ Washington Redskins
The Patriots don’t often go to Washington, and are an all-time 1-1 in our nation’s capital. Still, with the Redskins looking like a rebuilding team without an established quarterback, the league would be dumb to force this game on the fans.
15/16. Vs Buffalo Bills, New York Jets
Anything besides a Patriots blowout in these games will be a national headline. A box-score kind of game for non-Patriots fans.
Sure, there may be some late nights ahead. But enjoy them while you can Patriots fans, because after Tom Brady retires, it could be all 1 o’clock starts from September to December. Hope you like Ian Eagle!
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