HOUSTON, Texas — The New England Patriots' loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday night was both heartbreaking and encouraging.
Nick Folk's 56-yard missed field goal was the heartbreaking part. The encouraging part was that the Pats hung in there and fought until the end against the reigning Super Bowl champs.
This week, New England travels to Houston to face the 1-3 Texans, who lost 40-0 to the Buffalo Bills last week. While both New England and Houston have the same record, this is a game the Patriots should win and likely need to win if they want to be trending toward the playoffs by the end of the season.
Locked On: Patriots podcast host Mike D'Abate sits down with NEWS CENTER Maine's Sam Rogers to talk about Brady's return to New England, as well as the positive takeaways the team can bring to this Sunday's game against Houston.
Weeks 13 & 16 against Buffalo
The Buffalo Bills are the betting favorite to win the AFC East. The team led by Josh Allen made it to the AFC Championship game last season and is expected to make it to that point again, if not advance to the Super Bowl. For that reason, beating Buffalo at least once would give New England a huge lift in its goal to reclaim the division throne or make the playoffs as a wildcard. Both teams will have plenty of time to prepare for their first meeting on Monday, Dec. 6. New England enters its bye week after the game and will see the Bills in Foxborough again the day after Christmas.
Weeks 6 & 12 hosting Dallas and Tennessee
The game against Brady will bring all the attention, but another good offensive team will come to town a few weeks later when the Cowboys play the Patriots on Oct. 17. If Thursday’s game showed anything to the NFL, it’s that Dallas's offense will be one of the best units in the league and could make this matchup for New England one to circle in the first half of the season.
The Titans come to Gillette on Nov. 28 and will bring yet another impressive collection of offensive weapons. Running back Derrick Henry and wide receivers Julio Jones and A.J. Brown will give steady quarterback Ryan Tannehill enough weapons to return to the playoffs and give the Patriots defense all they can handle in week 12.
Week 10 vs. Cleveland: Hype around the Browns has been a consistent trend this preseason. Quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. give defensive coordinators a lot to game plan for if they're on their game. The storyline of this Browns team might be the defensive play, led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Garret. It will be another test for the Patriots in the middle of the season.
Week 18 @ Miami.
The Patriots' Achilles heel in recent memory has been playing on the road against the Dolphins. With a divisional race that is expected to be closer than years past between Miami, New England, and Buffalo, this season finale could give the Patriots a playoff spot with a win, or even clinch the division. Potentially.