|Breaking Down the 2009 Schedule||04.14.09 at 7:39 pm ET|
Best Game — Nov. 15 at Indianapolis
How can you not love another midseason trip to Indy? This marks the third straight year the Patriots and Colts will meet in November, and there’s no reason to think this year’s game won’t be another classic contest. New England almost knocked off Indianapolis last season in Lucas Oil Stadium without Tom Brady, and have lost two of the last three games in Indy. The players — and coaches — have changed, but as far as we are concerned, this remains the most compelling rivalry the NFL has to offer.
Worst Game — Oct. 25 at Tampa Bay in London
It might be unfair to call this the worst game of the year. Let’s just call it the most inconvenient road game in recent franchise history. (At least New England didn’t lose a home game in the deal…) Robert Kraft loves this trip because it’s a chance for the NFL — as well as the franchise — to expand the brand overseas, but there has to be plenty of eye-rolling in the personnel department over this one. Bill Belichick wasn’t thrilled a few years ago when a preseason trip to China was announced (it was later called off), and that was a game that wasn’t even going to count in the standings. We can only imagine what he thinks of this idea.
Homecoming — Sept. 14 vs. Bills
It’s highly unlikely Tom Brady will play in any of the four preseason games, so we’ll have to wait until the Sept. 14 season-opener against the Bills to get a real sense of how his knee will respond to real action. Brady will be tested immediately, as Buffalo has a better-than-average pass rush led by Aaron Schobel, who has sacked Brady more times than any opposing player and has a Facebook group that proves it. The quarterback who get an even sterner test three weeks later when the Ravens — and All-World safety Ed Reed — visit Foxborough.
Most Intriguing Matchup, Players — Sept. 14 vs. Buffalo
Terrell Owens vs. Randy Moss. In the past when the two have met, they’ve engaged in a contest of can-you-top this. No reason to think this should be any different. In front of a national television audience, it’ll be Owens’ first game with his new team. Meanwhile, Moss and Tom Brady will be reunited for the first time since the 2008 season-opener. Getcha popcorn ready.
Most Intriguing Matchup, Coaches — Oct. 11 at Denver
The contest between Belichick and Josh McDaniels will be interesting for several reasons, not the least of which is that it’s the only game this year that features Belichick coaching against a former assistant. (Whatever will we do with no Eric Mangini stories to write about?)
Easiest Stretch — Sept. 14-Oct. 4
It might be a stretch to call this series of games easy, but it is a stretch that includes three of the first four games of the season, all of which are at home. Buffalo, Atlanta and Baltimore (two playoff teams last season) all come to Foxborough in the first month. The competition is stiff, but if New England can take care of business at Gillette, they should be in good shape heading into a difficult stretch.
Toughest Stretch — Oct. 25-Dec. 6
In the span of seven weeks, the Patriots travel to London, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Miami — just over 20,000 miles worth of travel. Ooof. If they can get through the middle of the season in good shape, they should be OK for a four-game span over the final month that includes four easily winnable games — at home against Carolina (Dec. 13) and Jacksonville (Dec. 27) and on the road against Buffalo (Dec. 20) and Houston (Jan. 3).
Homecoming, Part II — Sept. 27 vs. Atlanta
It’ll mark Matt Ryan’s return to New England. Ryan, a former star at Boston College, helped lift the Falcons into the playoffs as a rookie, but first found glory in New England as a hero with the BC Eagles. Expect to see more than a few No. 12 BC jerseys with “RYAN” across the back that afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
Happy Returns — Nov. 30 at New Orleans and Jan. 3 at Houston
The Patriots will be playing at the Superdome for the first time since they beat the St. Louis Rams, 20-17, at Super Bowl XXXVI. In addition, they will travel to Reliant Stadium to meet the Texans. It will also mark their first game back at Reliant since they defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII, 32-29.
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