Coming off a 40-3 blowout at the hands of the Cowboys, the Vikings have lost just two games this season and will have something to prove on national television. Injuries have hit the Vikings hard, with left tackle Christian Darrisaw already ruled out by head coach Kevin O’Connell and standouts Justin Jefferson (toe) and ZaDarius Smith (knee) battling ailments that will limit them. Add it all up, and despite his talents as a receiver and running back (Dalvin Cook), the Vikings’ offense is experiencing some protection issues that resemble those of the Patriots. A conventional offense like this is often at the Patriots’ defensive helm, especially when injuries are factored in. Still, Jefferson is a turning point that must be respected.
After two straight losses, including one to the Jets, the Bills turned things around and defeated the Browns to get their winning ways back on track. They will travel back to Detroit on Thanksgiving to take on the Lions and then meet the Patriots a week later on Thursday Night Football. At 0-2 in the AFC East, Buffalo will need a win at New England to keep pace with the Miami Dolphins, who take on the Texans this weekend after their bye week. The Patriots’ defense has been really good, but going up against their nemesis Josh Allen will really say where they are.
Schedule before Patriots: at Detroit Lions
The Cardinals host the 49ers tonight on Monday Night Football as they look for their first two-game winning streak of the season. At 4-6, Arizona is still on the outside looking in, but has a chance in the next six days to match their season high if they can eliminate their second and third straight California teams. Kyler Murray is a mobile quarterback who should challenge some of the Patriots’ recent defensive weaknesses, while DeAndre Hopkins is the type of elite receiver the Pats haven’t seen much of this year. They will have a bye week before facing New England on Monday Night Football.
Schedule before the Patriots: vs. San Francisco 49ers vs. Los Angeles Chargers, BYE
Old friend Josh McDaniels’ squad earned a much-needed overtime win over the Broncos this past weekend. They will travel to Seattle to take on an amazing Seahawks team before playing back-to-back games against the Los Angeles teams. The Patriots took a look at Las Vegas this summer and Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs lead their offense, which has battled injuries to key players like Hunter Renfroe and Darren Waller. Despite their record, the Raiders should know how to play the Patriots, setting up a riveting matchup against two teams that will need a win in front of a national audience, assuming the game stays on Sunday Night Football on NBC.
Schedule before Patriots: in Seattle Seahawks, vs. Los Angeles Chargers, at Los Angeles Rams
After an 0-2 start, the Bengals are getting their season back on track, winning six of their last eight, including a 37-30 win over the Steelers on Sunday. The Bengals are in direct competition with the Patriots for a wild card berth, making this the most intriguing non-division game left on the schedule. Will Jamarr Chase be back in the mix for Christmas Eve? This is a very good offense with one of the best young quarterbacks in the game. It should be one of the pivotal games of the second half, but the Bengals have a pretty bleak schedule, with games scheduled against six potential playoff teams in their last seven games.
Schedule before Patriots: at Tennessee Titans, vs. Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With Tua Tagovailoa playing as an MVP candidate, the Dolphins are surprisingly pushing the Bills for the AFC East title. The Patriots haven’t been able to figure out Miami since the opener of 2020, losing four in a row to their divisional rivals. Miami also dashed New England’s bye week hopes at the end of 2019, but this time it might be the Patriots’ turn to play spoiler. Miami’s explosive offense shows no signs of going anywhere, the Patriots will have to figure that out sooner or later.
Schedule before Patriots: vs. Houston Texans, at San Francisco 49ers, at Los Angeles Chargers, at Buffalo Bills, vs. Green Bay Packers.
The Patriots will conclude their regular season in Buffalo, where no one knows what the game will mean for both teams. Last year, the Patriots picked up a regular-season victory on the road in Buffalo, largely thanks to significant wind and weather that largely dampened passing attacks by both teams. This is still the toughest game on the New England schedule. They should hope they don’t need a finals win to make the playoffs. With Buffalo’s recent losses, signs continue to point to the Bills likely still needing a win, perhaps for a shot at the bye week of the playoffs as they continue to chase Kansas City and perhaps challenge Miami for the division title. Aside from the Bills’ two games against the Patriots, they are scheduled to face two other current playoff teams, host Miami and travel to Cincinnati.