While the regular season does not kick off for another eight weeks, it is never too early for football fans to look ahead at the upcoming games. To help pass the time until training camp opens I highly recommend a series being written by Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe, where he takes a look at each of the thirteen opponents on the schedule in 2012 for the Patriots. Below is a link to those articles along with an excerpt from each column.

 

Week 1, September 9: at 9-7 Tennessee Titans

What is going to be the strength of this team?
Probably the passing attack, especially if Kenny Britt (torn ACL) returns to form. Titans added explosive wide receiver Kendall Wright with their first-round pick, and he’ll be joined by emerging tight end Jared Cook, veteran wideout Nate Washington and third-year receiver Damian Williams. Titans’ offensive line gave up the second-fewest sacks in the league last year.

 

Week 2, September 16: vs 8-8 Arizona Cardinals

Realistic expectations for this team at this point?
I think it’s an under the radar team that could contend for the division title. The defense should be elite.

 

Week 3, September 23 at 12-4 Baltimore Ravens

Where are they looking to get better?
The offensive line is an area of concern because they lost Pro Bowl offensive guard Ben Grubbs. They are hoping that Bobbie Williams, 35, has another good season in him. They gave him a two-year, $2.925 million contract that includes an $800,000 signing bonus.

 

Week 4, September 30 vs 6-10 Buffalo Bills; also week 10, November 7 at Buffalo

What is going to be the strength of this team?
The defensive line is loaded. The Bills have transitioned back to a 4-3 base defense, and the backup defensive ends likely will be Shawne Merriman and Chris Kelsay, who started the previous seven seasons. The Bills grabbed headlines by signing free-agent defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, but the defensive tackles are good, too. Marcell Dareus, the fifth overall pick in 2011, led the team in sacks last year, and Pro Bowler Kyle Williams is back after missing last year with a foot injury.

 

Week 5, October 7 vs 8-8 Denver Broncos

Realistic expectations for this team at this point?
Given it’s rough schedule, especially early (networks wanted Manning early so that meant tough opponents early _ 1. Steelers, 2. at Atlanta, 3. Houston; 4. Raiders; 5. at NE; 6. at San Diego; 7. bye; 8. New Orleans; 9. at Cincy; 10. At Cam and Carolina), and Manning needing to shake off a year of rust, I don’t see team doing better than 9-7. Most people around here think 10-6, 11-5 and 12-4. All optimism based on Manning. Something about 4 neck surgeries, 36 years old, missed season tells me Broncos won’t see Manning at his best, at least not this year.

 

Week 6, October 14: at 7-9 Seattle Seahawks

Players on the spot?
Sidney Rice was signed to be Seattle’s No. 1 wide receiver in 2011, but it was an undrafted rookie — Doug Baldwin — who led the team in receptions last year. Rice is coming back after undergoing offseason surgery on both of his shoulders. When healthy, he’s an elite talent, but he missed more regular-season games (17) than he’s played (15) over the past two seasons.

 


Last year the Patriots swept the Jets for the first time since 2007

 

Week 7, October 21: vs 8-8 NJ Jets; also week 12, Nov 22 at New Jersey

What is going to be the strength of this team?
The defense. The Jets took steps to add depth and speed. They bolstered the safety position (LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell), added young players who could help cover the tight end (Demario Davis and Josh Bush) and used their first-round pick on a versatile defensive lineman (Quinton Coples) who can boost their pass rush and allow them to play more four-down fronts. Rex Ryan said this unit could be better than the first-in-the-league 2009 defense and, this time, that might not be just bluster.

 

Week 11, November 14 vs 2-14 Indianapolis Colts

Where are they looking to get better?
Everywhere. Offensive and defensive lines. Secondary, particularly at cornerback opposite returning starter Jerraud Powers. More production out of the running game. Special teams, specifically along the coverage and return units. And quick development of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.

 

 

The Globe series is still ongoing: still waiting for columns on the Dolphins and others. It’s a decent launching pad to look ahead and what we might expect to see once the real games get under way after Labor Day. Things are looking up: after tomorrow there are only eight more Sundays without real NFL football!

 

 

For an alternative viewpoint on the same subject take a look at the first of four installments from James Christensen at NEPatriotsDraft.com.

At Tennessee:
Initial Thoughts:
It will be interesting to see who wins the Titans quarterback battle – veteran Matt Hasselbeck or the intriguing Jake Locker. If Locker wins the job, his speed and arm will present an immediate challenge to the now young Patriots defense.

Versus Arizona:
Matchup to Watch: Patriots Secondary vs Larry Fitzgerald
The Patriots defensive backfield was comical at times in 2011, with some rookie additions and the return of Ras-I Dowling, it will be interesting to see how far they’ve progressed. Fitzgerald certainly won’t take it easy on them.

At Baltimore:
Wildcard: Patriots Running Game
If the Patriots are able to grind out some yards on the ground, the Ravens safeties are going to be that much more susceptible to play-action. Look for Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen to get plenty of opportunities in this game, at least early.

At Buffalo:
Matchup to Watch: Nate Solder vs Mario Williams
If he hasn’t been tested already, Solder will have his hands full against one of the most explosive pass-rushers in the game in Mario Williams. With Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus on the inside, expect Solder to do most of the work one on one.

 

 

 

 

 

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