Personally speaking, I've never expended a lot of energy worrying about or analyzing the Patriots schedule. To mashup two different but related favorite phrases from my God King, you play the schedule and it is what it is.
Winners manage it the best they can. So, for example, if in 2017 the league sends you to Denver, followed by a game against Oakland AT Mexico City, you spend the week in between practicing in high altitude at the Air Force Academy, prepare better then your opponent and win 33-8.
But 2020, the first post-Tom Brady season, struck me as one unlike any we were used to. At least not since the Dark Ages of the early 21st century.
Consider that the last time the Patriots weren't the center of the prime time football universe was their first championship year of 2001. Coming off a 5-11 season and with the bloom coming off the rose that was Drew Bledsoe, they were given one Sunday Night game and an incredible 12 games scheduled for Sunday at 1pm EST. Since then, one o'clockers have become as rare in New England as wins by the Browns. The nation's fixation on the Patriots has made them a staple of afternoon and night time games, much to the chagrin of Pats season ticket holders who got sick of having to call in sick all those Friday, Monday and Tuesday mornings when they didn't get home until 2AM after another late night game.
Though they understood. The national obsession with Tom Brady's success and the desire of 300 million people to watch the Dynasty implode dictated the NFL schedule. The Patriots were America's wrestling heel. Hoping they'd finally get their comeuppance put asses in the seats, eyeballs on the screen and set ratings records.
All of which was supposed to end once Tom Brady left. Then, we were told, would finally make the public bored and the Patriots the one thing they hadn't been in recent memory: Irrelevant.
Yeah. About that ...
Patriots.com -The Patriots are once again set to appear in five prime time kickoffs on national television – somewhat of a surprising development to many observers who believed the exit of QB Tom Brady via free agency would dampen the networks' enthusiasm for Patriots football. Apparently not. New England has three 4:25 nationally televised kickoff times as well. ...
Meanwhile, New England also faces both of last year's Super Bowl contestants – winners Kansas City and runners-up San Francisco – to bookend the month of October, which also sees the Patriots take an earlier-than-normal bye week before Halloween. That means a long, hard stretch of games awaits the Patriots in November and December.
A particularly tough patch has New England facing six road games over eight weeks, but the first two of those are very short trips within the division.
Welp. So much for the notion that the country was obsessed with Tom Brady only and they'd quickly turn their attention to Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson once he left for Tampa. And the Patriots would be marginalized back to the days when they were putting Tommy Hodson and Hugh Millen under center. You don't get rid of the most hyper-relevant team of two decades that easily.
For what Twitter polls are worth, I threw this question out there Thursday morning.
I based the numbers on the fact the "most interesting" team in the league, Kansas City, played eight of their games Sunday at 1. And the objectively least interesting, by far worst team in the league, Cincinnati, had 13 of their games at 1PM. So the point of the inquiry was whether the NFL was assuming America was no longer interested in the Patriots in the apre-Brady era.
It turned out that almost two thirds - 65.7% to be exact - of my mostly Patriots-centric Twitter followers thought that 10 or more of their games would be aired in the NFL's afternoon Gulag like the soap operas your mom calls "My Shows." Barely a third of them thought the NFL would have enough interest to put half their games in the afternoon and night.
Yet the truth turned out to be five prime time games and three more at 4:25. By way of comparison, last year, coming off their sixth championship, they had five prime timers and five 4:25 games. So much for the Tom Brady Factor. Let the Jarrett Stidham Era begin.