The greatest dynasty in NFL history came to a close last season as the New England Patriots missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008 -- the first year head coach Bill Belichick did not have Tom Brady as his quarterback. New England, which finished 7-9 last season, went on a spending spree in free agency -- adding Matt Judon, Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Jalen Mills, Nelson Agholor, David Andrew, Davon Godchaux, Kendrick Bourne, Kyle Van Noy, and Lawrence Guy. The Patriots also may have found their next franchise quarterback in Mac Jones in the first round of the draft, as Jones will compete with Cam Newton for the starting job. New England is on a vengeance to reclaim the AFC East after having its 12-season division title streak snapped.
Here's a full rundown of the Patriots' 17-game schedule, including key matchups and a season prediction:
2021 Patriots schedule
vs. Buccaneers (SNF)
at Falcons (TNF)
at Bills (MNF)
|18||at Dolphins||Jan. 9||1 p.m.||CBS|
Patriots key games
- Week 4 vs. Buccaneers: The greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL returns to Foxborough for the first time. Tom Brady, who won six Super Bowls in 20 seasons with the Patriots, faces his former team in what will be the revenge game of the season. No need to say more as Brady squares off against Belichick.
- Week 13 at Bills: If the Patriots are going to capture the AFC East throne, this matchup in western New York will be one of the must-see games in the division. Buffalo defeated New England 24-21 in Orchard Park last year en route to the division title. Belichick and the Patriots defense will face a daunting challenge against Josh Allen and the dynamic Bills offense.
- Week 10 vs. Browns: Baker Mayfield and the resurgent Browns come to Foxborough, looking to beat the Patriots at New England for the first time since 1992. Since the Browns returned in 1999, they are 0-4 on the road against the Patriots. Cleveland, a contender for the AFC title, will be fired up for this one -- which would also be a statement win for New England if the Patriots can beat the Browns.
Patriots toughest matchup
Week: 18 | Date: Jan. 9 | Time: 1 p.m.
Opponent: at Miami Dolphins
Even in the dominant years with Belichick and Brady, the Patriots have struggled in Miami. New England has lost three of its past four in Hard Rock Stadium, including a 22-12 loss in Miami last year that eliminated New England from the playoffs. If the Patriots are going to reclaim the division title, beating a talented Dolphins team on the road is a must.
Patriots projected win total
2021 record prediction: 9-8
The Patriots spent a lot of money in free agency to compete with the Bills and Dolphins in the AFC East, but did they do enough? New England has Cam Newton as the starter -- for now. If the Patriots offense struggles early on, when does Belichick go to Mac Jones?
Newton has better wide receivers in 2021, but not enough to move the needle. The Patriots have a tough schedule, specifically since the play the AFC East and the Colts and Titans are no pushovers in the AFC South. A winning record may be enough to get a playoff berth this year.