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LEADING OFF

Happy Friday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I signed up for Facebook 15 years ago this week. But I still kind of miss AIM. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

Are you ready for some football?

With the New England Patriots set to kick off the NFL season Sunday against Pittsburgh, I asked the Globe’s senior NFL writer Ben Volin for some insight on how the defending Super Bowl champs will do this season. (Disclosure: I’m a Giants fan.)

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You can find all of the Globe’s sports staff’s picks for the season here, but if you want to sound smart at work today, read on.

Q: First, why was I stuck watching a boring Packers/Bears game last night rather than the Patriots?

Ben: I think the NFL wants to start scheduling its kickoff games more than five months in advance, in order to book big extravaganzas and other events surrounding the game. So now instead of waiting until after the Super Bowl to plan the game, the league can pick the matchup months ahead of time.

Q: Let’s get down to business. What are the best and worst case scenarios for the Patriots this season?

Ben: Best case is 14-2, No. 1 seed, cruise through the playoffs, win title No. 7. It’s certainly possible. I think the schedule lines up favorably, and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still at the top of their game. Worst case scenario is 10-6, the offensive line gets banged up and has no consistency, N’Keal Harry can’t get going, Brady gets frustrated, the Patriots get the No. 2 or 3 seed and lose at Kansas City in the playoffs. I think reality is probably somewhere in the middle -- 12-4 and another trip to the AFC Championship Game, at least.

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Q: How does this team replace Gronk?

Ben: I don’t think they replace him at tight end. But they did get a lot bigger and more physical at receiver -- Demaryius Thomas, Josh Gordon, Jakobi Meyers and Harry are all 6-2 to 6-4 and give Brady a big presence on the outside and in the Red Zone. But the onus of the passing game will fall on the little guys, Julian Edelman and James White, especially early in the season.

Q: What’s the storyline to watch this year that no one is talking about?

Ben: The defense is getting a lot of hype, but I think that unit still has a lot to prove. The Patriots had several games last year where they couldn’t generate much of a pass rush, and they finished 30th in sacks. They also have an entirely new coaching staff, with Belichick taking on more coordinator role, first-year coach Jerod Mayo helping call the plays, and a new coach at almost every position.

NEED TO KNOW

Rhode Map wants to hear from you. If you’ve got a scoop or a link to an interesting news story in Rhode Island, e-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

• I spent Thursday with four students at one of Providence’s struggling middle schools. They know about their school’s bad reputation, but they want you to know that they have plans to become a surgeon and a fashion designer and an engineer and yes, a professional soccer player. So there.

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• One more thing on Roger Williams Middle School: It’s supposed to rain this weekend, so you should try to play “31-derful,” a math game with playing cards that teacher Jaclyn Correia showed her students. I dare you to try to complete it in 15 minutes the way some of the kids can.

• The state’s plan to build an underground tunnel for buses in Kennedy Plaza is already being criticized by R.I. Transit Riders, a group of activists that monitors RIPTA. In a statement, the group said the “mini-Big Dig is far from helpful for Providence traffic or for Rhode Islanders who need to use buses, and it’s time to stop spending taxpayer money just so real estate moguls can get a better view.”

• With US Representative Susan Davis set to retire, WPRI’s Ted Nesi reports US Representative James Langevin is poised to become second in line to chair the House Armed Services Committee. One problem: Rhode Island will likely lose a congressional seat before that happens.

• This is bizarre. A Roger Williams University student’s thumb has gone viral.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Where is the best place go apple picking in Rhode Island? Send an email to dan.mcgowan@globe.com and I’ll share answers on Monday.

WHAT’S ON TAP TODAY

Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

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Governor Gina Raimondo is set to speak at the opening of the Children’s Friend Early Childhood Education Center of Excellence in Providence this morning.

• Make sure you check out two awesome seafood events this weekend. The Rhode Island Seafood Festival is Saturday in India Point Park and the Rhode Island Calamari Festival is in Narragansett at the same time.

• Get ready for the 20th annual Chinese Dragon Boat Races in Pawtucket tomorrow.

• The Ocean State Beer Festival is Sunday at Grey Sail Brewery in Westerly.

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Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to dan.mcgowan@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan. See you on Monday.

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