The Patriots open the 2019 season against the Steelers, hosting Pittsburgh on “Sunday Night Football” on Sunday, Sept. 8.
It’s a matchup between brand-name teams, and the dominant story line should be the Patriots raising the banner for their record-tying sixth Super Bowl before playing the only other franchise to win that many. It’s one the NFL schedule-makers crossover an AFC Championship game rematch or an old-versus-new contest pitting Baker Mayfield’s Browns against Tom Brady and Co. The Patriots have their usual five prime-time games in 2019, but several of the best games on the schedule will be played in the afternoon.
The Patriots host the Giants on “Thursday Night Football” in Week 6, play at the Jets on “Monday Night Football” in Week 7, play at the Ravens on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 9, and at the Texans on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 13.
Meanwhile, Week 8 against the Browns, Week 11 at the Eagles, Week 12 against the Cowboys, and Week 14 against the Chiefs all kick off at 4:25 p.m. It’s surprising none of those games are in prime time, though CBS and Fox likely protected some of them.
There’s a brutal stretch beginning in Week 8. The Patriots host the up-and-coming Browns, then play five teams in a row that made the playoffs in 2018 — the Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans, and Chiefs. The bye comes at a friendly time in Week 10, which breaks up that streak of tough games.
As usual, the Patriots close out the season with two AFC East games, hosting Buffalo in Week 16 and Miami in Week 17. The AFC East schedule overall, though, is frontloaded. The Patriots play at Miami in Week 2, host the Jets in Week 3 and play at the Bills in Week 4.
Here is a game-by-game look at the schedule and what each matchup brings:
Week 1: Sept. 8 vs. Steelers, 8:20 p.m. (NBC, “Sunday Night Football”)
The question will be whether this Patriots-Steelers matchup is as impactful as the ones in recent years. New England lost in Pittsburgh last season, when one of the bright spots was then-rookie cornerback J.C. Jackson’s coverage of JuJu Smith-Schuster. Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are gone, so Smith-Schuster will be Pittsburgh’s No. 1 threat this time around.
Week 2: Sept. 15 at Dolphins, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Bill Belichick vs. Brian Flores, Part 1, wherein Flores will try to copy Matt Patricia’s result against his former team. (This only applies in the beating-the-Patriots sense, not the 6-10 sense.) Tom Brady is 7-10 in Miami. He has more losses there than he does anywhere except New England. The Patriots will try to reverse this mini-curse at Hard Rock Stadium, where at least Rob Gronkowski won’t be available to play safety.
Week 3: Sept. 22 vs. Jets, 1 p.m. (CBS)
The Patriots beat the Jets, 38-3, in Foxborough last season, when Brady finished with a 133.8 passer rating to Sam Darnold’s 74.6. Perhaps some easy completions to Bell will help Darnold.
Week 4: Sept. 29 at Bills, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Buffalo is still not going to strike fear in Patriots fans’ hearts, but the Bills did have an under-the-radar excellent defense last season and made some nice moves this offseason to bolster their offensive line and get Josh Allen some help.
Week 5: Oct. 6 at Redskins, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Perhaps Josh Rosen will be playing quarterback in Washington, and the Patriots can see whether they have any of whatever the opposite of buyer’s remorse is. Perhaps Rosen won’t be, and the Patriots can play against Case Keenum. Or get a look at one of the rookie quarterbacks if Washington drafts one. FedEx Field is pretty worn down, so we could have some turf gripes.
Week 6: Oct. 10 vs. Giants, 8:20 p.m. (Fox/Amazon/NFL Network, “Thursday Night Football”)
This could be the last Brady-Eli Manning showdown. It probably won’t be one of the most memorable.
Week 7: Oct. 21 at Jets, 8:15 p.m., (ESPN, “Monday Night Football”)
It’s hard to see the Jets beating the Patriots in Foxborough, but if Darnold takes a step forward, maybe they can win one in New York, karmically avenging Austin Seferian-Jenkins’s non-touchdown from 2017 now that he’s with the Patriots.
Week 8: Oct. 27 vs. Browns, 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
This should be one of the hottest tickets of the year. Baker Mayfield vs. Brady. The Browns roster looks stacked, but the new kids usually learn what playing in Foxborough is like the hard way. Be excited for Freddie Kitchens sound bites.
Week 9: Nov. 3 at Ravens, 8:20 p.m. (NBC, “Sunday Night Football”)
This is one of those games where Trey Flowers’s departure could show; disciplined defensive linemen who can set the edge are important against run-first teams with mobile quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson.
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Nov. 17 at Eagles, 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
A Super Bowl 52 rematch, but without Nick Foles. A Michael Bennett revenge game? Carson Wentz should be plenty motivated to match his former backup against Brady. Patriots fans thinking about traveling for this one: Be careful out there.
Week 12: Nov. 24 vs. Cowboys, 4:25 p.m. (Fox)
A television executive’s dream. The last time the Cowboys won in New England was 1987, when Herschel Walker ran for a 60-yard touchdown in overtime. Tom Ramsey came in for Steve Grogan, who took a hard hit in the third quarter. New England is 3-0 against the Cowboys at home since then.
Week 13: Dec. 1 at Texans, 8:20 p.m. (NBC, “Sunday Night Football”)
Bill O’Brien’s Houston team is on the rise, but he has struggled against the Patriots.
Week 14: Dec. 8 vs. Chiefs, 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Circle this AFC Championship rematch on your calendars. The Patriots were 2-0 against the Chiefs last season, and both games were incredibly entertaining.
Week 15: Dec. 15 at Bengals, 1 p.m. (CBS)
The Patriots head to Cincinnati for the first time since 2013 to play a middling Bengals team.
Week 16: Dec. 21 or 22 vs. Bills, time and TV TBD
Bills receiver Cole Beasley had an offer from the Patriots in free agency, but said he chose Buffalo because of opportunity in the offense.
Week 17: Dec. 29 vs. Dolphins, 1 p.m (CBS)
The Patriots usually have an easier time against Miami at home.
Nora Princiotti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @NoraPrinciotti.