by Scott Benson

Well, we’re under two weeks before they don the pads on Route 1 in anticipation of another season of Patriots football. Even the midst of another lovely summer, the Pats thoughts begin to flood now, from roster machinations to rookie contracts to position battles all the way to the Great Unknown; how quickly do teams who lose an undefeated season in the last minute of play rebound, usually?

Then there’s the schedule. When they release these things in April, I can’t relate to them. Pittsburgh in November? That’s seven months from now! But when the troops are finally gathering for the battle, the whole thing becomes more urgent, somehow. Now we’re only two months from the opening game.

Thus, the following. I thought we’d look at the Pats regular season draw for 08, crack a few jokes, stumble upon an observation maybe, and kill some time before camp. Even better, I thought I’d break that up into quarters, in order to get four posts instead of just one. That way, the average person (who’s not reading this right now) will check the page and think, “hey, this guy really tries to keep the page updated” when in all actuality, I’ve really just broken one column into four pieces to make myself look more prolific.

A little Behind The Music: Patriots Daily action for you there. Now. Let’s get started, shall we?

Game One: Sunday, September 7
Kansas City Chiefs at Patriots
1:00 PM, CBS

A 1:00 PM home opener with the Chiefs? What is this, 1974? Will the late Charlie Jones and Johnny Morris be calling the game? One word: awesome. If every game was played on Sunday at 1, this would be a much better world. This seems like a made-to-order draw for the Pats; Kansas City is coming off a 4-12 season with Brodie Croyle (0-6 lifetime) at quarterback. They also traded their best player. Heard enough? By the way, I like to think this is a picture of Herm Edwards sharing life lessons with a group of restless Chiefs season ticket holders. Probably in the conference room of the closest Quality Inn to the Interstate. It’s cramped and stuffy and as usual, Herm’s running long.

Annnnnd that’s what you have to look forward to if you’re a Chiefs fan.

The Pats and Chiefs last met in 2005, when Kansas City rolled up 400 yards on the Patriots defense on their way to a 26-16 win in Arrowhead. Man, 2005 sucked.

Game Two: Sunday, September 14
Patriots at New York Jets
4:15 PM, CBS

The Patriots in New Jersey? Sounds pleasant. The second of four straight cupcakes to start the season, though. The Little Fellas will tell you they’re much improved because they signed everything that moved in March, but you and I both know that since 1968, they’ve been nothing but hot air.

I guess that was a gas, actually. Anyway, speaking of gas, under coach Eric Mangini, the Little Fellas are 1-4 against the Pats.

Game Three: Sunday, September 21
Miami Dolphins at Patriots
1:00 PM, CBS

After a benign opener, the storyliners will be at full tilt by Week Three. A return to the Scene of the Crime followed by Tuna Returns IV! Or is it III, V or VI? Don’t you find that fascinating, Craig? I do. No, really. Here’s the thing, though. Bringing Bill Parcells to town generally works, doesn’t it? Eventually, you end up in the playoff mix. Hard to argue that. The good news is that he’s never done it in just three weeks.

Miami is 7-9 against the Belichick Patriots, which is actually a hell of a record for an AFC East team during that time. In six of the eight seasons played in this decade, the Dolphins have won at least one game against New England.

Sunday, September 28
Bye Week

Everybody sees all the Niners and Rams and Dolphins on the schedule and figures the Pats have it easy this year, but this is the first reminder that – in the words of Jackson Browne – nobody rides for free. Who wants a bye week in Week Four? That’s freaking thirteen straight weeks of football before the playoffs. What? That ought to be enough incentive to have one of the two best records in the conference, and the accompanying first week playoff bye. They’ll need it. The fans even get stiffed here – honest to God, the rest of the league’s schedule this week might be the worst slate of games I’ve ever seen. Cleveland at Cincinnati might be the most compelling. The Bengals, is what I’m saying! That Cincinnati!

Game Four: Sunday, October 5
Patriots at San Francisco 49’ers
4:15 PM, CBS

Okay, combined 2007 winning percentage of the Patriots’ first four opponents? .218. The Niners are the iron of that group with 5 wins last year, but the biggest concern here might be the distance the Patriots will have to travel in order to cream them. The first leg of TWO two-game West Coast swings this year. I don’t care if it IS four games with the AFC and NFC West (like Ted Williams, they batted .406 last season). Thirteen straight games and two doubleheaders on the left coast ain’t pie. At the very least, we should get a breakout performance by would-be Niners draft pick Jerod Mayo in exchange.

Some have suggested that the Pats will opt to stay out west after the Niners game, as they are due in San Diego the following Sunday. In other words, typical California: they can check out anytime they like, but they can never leave.

The Niners and Pats last met in January of 2005, as the Pats were headed to their second straight world title (New England handled the Dennis Erickson-led 2-13 Niners, 21-7). It was the only time the two teams have played in the Belichick Era.

1st Quarter Outlook

Best Case Scenario: 4-0 (duh).
Reasonable Alternative: None.
Worst Case Scenario: Even if they ended this stretch 3-1, you’d still have to kick. Like you wouldn’t be bitching if they lost to the Jets? Granted, a team evolves over a season, but combined, their opponents were winning two of ten last year while the Pats were setting records. Will New England stumble that badly out of the gate so as to make these early games truly competitive?
Progress of NFC Schedule: One down, three to go.
Progress of AFC Schedule: Three down, nine to go.
Progress of AFC East Schedule: Two down, four to go.

Next: How about later this week, we take on the next four games of the schedule?