The NFL will release its 2020 schedule Thursday night at 8 p.m. live on NFL Network, although you can expect a few leaks to come throughout the day.
From a Patriots perspective, it will be interesting to see how things look for the first season without Tom Brady. On a league-wide scale, it will be interesting to see how the schedule is set up when it comes to potentially having games cut and having a 12 or 14-game season because of COVID-19.
It’s been reported the first few weeks will be non-conference games and then the divisional games back-loaded, since those are most important.
New England will have home games against the Bills, Jets, Dolphins, Broncos, Raiders, Cardinals, Ravens and 49ers, and then away games against the Bills, Jets, Dolphins, Chiefs, Seahawks, Rams, Texans and Chargers.
Here are five things to look for when the schedule is released.
1. When are the West Coast games scheduled?
The Patriots will play three games on the West Coast — Seahawks, Rams and Chargers — and it’s likely two of them will be back-to-back to allow for the team to spend a week out there practicing in between to avoid two cross-country trips in two weeks. New England has done this twice in recent memory when it practiced in San Diego before playing the Chargers the week after playing the Packers in 2014. And then before playing the Raiders in Mexico City in 2017, the team stayed in Colorado following playing the Broncos. While having three straight games on the West Coast is extremely unlikely, two in a row seems like a very good bet. It’s also likely they wouldn’t have the games close together, so potentially one early in the season (especially since two are non-conference games) and then two in the middle.
2. How many primetime games will the team get?
For years the Patriots have always received the most primetime games possible, but that is likely to change this year with Brady now in Tampa Bay. With that being said, there are a still a number of games that will be in primetime. Some that come to mind are the home games against the 49ers and Ravens and then away games against the Chiefs and possibly Seahawks. But overall, expect a lot more 1 p.m. games than in recent years.
3. What does the start to the season look like?
With Jarrett Stidham expected to be the starter, how will the first few starts of his career look? Will it be against some of the tougher teams on the schedule, and on the road, or will it be a few of the easier games, especially at home? How the start of the season goes will not only be important for Stidham, but the team as a whole.
4. Will there be a marquee game in Week 1?
Usually, the Patriots are involved in one of the better games the first week of the season, but that might not be the case this year. It seems unlikely to have them face Kansas City in the season opener when it raises its Super Bowl banner, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see a random game against a team like the Cardinals, Chargers, Broncos or Raiders.
5. Comparing Patriots schedule to Buccaneers
Everyone in New England is certainly going to be keeping tabs on Brady and Rob Gronkowski in Tampa Bay, so how many times will the two teams be playing at the same time? Unlike New England, Tampa Bay will get a ton of primetime games, which decreases the number of games that will overlap. Our best guess is there will be at least three or four games that are scheduled for the same time forcing people in New England to choose, which will be an interesting subtopic once the season gets going.