The 2014 NFL schedule originally scheduled for April 17th, changing to April 22nd and now slated for the last week of April has created endless anticipation and anxiety among fans and players.
Here is a look at the Patriots opponents for their home and away schedules:
Home: Jets, Bills, Fins, Broncos, Raiders, Bengals, Bears, Lions
Away: Jets, Bills, Fins, Packers, Vikings, Chiefs, Chargers, Colts
The Patriots face a more than daunting away schedule in 2014, much like 2009 when the team was 2-6 on the road during an identity crisis season; The 2014 Patriots stand a far better chance of having a good win-loss record on the road. Here is a look at most anticipated matchups for the Patriots during the 2014 season.
Green Bay Packers:
The most challenging game on the Away schedule is the trip to face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. If you are an ardent fan and are nervous about this road trip, DONT BE! The Patriots minus Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Wes Welker, and Aaron Hernandez went into Baltimore and destroyed the defending champion Baltimore Ravens 41-7 in a game nobody expected to win on the road. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers duel in week 15 of 2010 was put on hold after Rodgers sat with an injury during the Packers' 31-27 loss in Foxboro on SNF. Rodgers has gotten praise for being one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL in recent years, the media is so infatuated by the former first round pick that they assume he is top five. Rodgers is good, but when comparing Rodgers to Tom Brady, its like comparing Michael Jordan to Isaiah Thomas. The game between two of the top quarterbacks and possibly the best two teams in their respective conferences will likely be a Monday Night Football, Sunday Night Football or even a Thursday Night Football matchup.
The most challenging game on the Home schedule is against five-time MVP Peyton Manning and the AFC runner up Denver Broncos. The New England Patriots will welcome the Broncos to Foxboro for the fourth consecutive year, outdueling Manning in the previous two meetings and demolishing the Broncos during the Divisional Round of the 2011 playoffs. The Patriots rivalry with the Broncos has intensified in recent years, with New England playing the Broncos for seventh time since the 2008 season. If New England wants to advance to the Superbowl during the 2014 season, they must play better than they did during their 26-16 loss in the AFC Championship game in Denver, when the offense sputtered and the defense minus Aquib Talib for the second straight year was absolutely powerless against Manning. The Broncos have brought in a lot of big name players during their 2014 free-agent hull to build up their team after a hilarious Superbowl defeat by the Seahawks. If the Patriots can defeat the Broncos and take care of their other business, they will likely be the number one seed heading into next seasons playoffs.
One of the other interesting road matchups for the Patriots are the Indianapolis Colts, and New York Jets.
Indianapolis Colts:LeGarrette Blount breaking tackles against the Colts in the 2013 AFC Divisional Playoff Round.
The Indianapolis Colts were defeated at the hands of the Patriots during the Saturday Night Football version of the 2013 Divisional Round playoffs, 43-21 when the Patriots unleashed Legarrett Blount to run 300 yards and four touchdowns on the night. Andrew Luck was ineffective as well during his second playoff defeat, throwing four interceptions, a fumble and getting sacked four times. The Patriots return to Indianapolis for the first time since their 21-17 upset loss to the New York Giants in SB XLVI.
New York Jets:
The Patriots-New York Jets rivalry is as intense as ever as the Patriots picked up former Jets superstar cornerback Darrelle Revis to a two-year $32 million contract during last month's free agency period. New York Bums are among the worst teams in the NFL and the Patriots are the elite class of the NFL, so the Jets picked up some big name stars during free agency including ex-Titan running back Chris Johnson, ex-Broncos receiver Erick Decker, Brandon Moore, and ex-Eagle quarterback Michael Vick. The Jets have created respectable buzz among their chances of getting back to the playoffs during the 2014 season, and the Jets remain a team the Patriots must avoid sleeping on. The Jets-Patriots are likely to play on a Monday Night Football, Sunday Night Football or Thursday Night football contest. It is a high possibility the Patriots-Jets open their 2014 season in Week 1 in Foxboro or New York.
Matt Cassel, a former Patriots back-up to Tom Brady (2005-2008) will face Brady head-to-head in a big time matchup. In 2011, the New England Patriots were scheduled to face the Kansas City Chiefs, led by quarterback Matt Cassel. Cassel was injured the week prior to the week 12 meeting between the two teams on Monday Night Football. The Patriots won 34-3 behind Rob Gronkowski's stellar two-touchdown performance and the Patriots defense forced four turnovers during the victory. In 2012, Cassel was signed to the Vikings on a three-year deal and is a part of a quarterback competition heading into the 2014 season. The Brady-Cassel, Brady-Hoyer and Brady-Rodgers matchups are among the most anticipated head-to-head matchups that have never happened before that are scheduled for 2014.
The least interesting opponents scheduled for the 2014 season remain the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, and two meetings between the division rival Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills. Most (if not all) of those games will likely be slated for 1:00pm kickoff or 4:00pm kickoff.