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2014 NFL Power Rankings - Patriots Schedule Edition

Now, we can get on with planning the rest of our lives.

Tom Brady will be throwing the football for keeps in this many days:

The New England Patriots 2014 schedule was released Wednesday. The season begins at Sun-Life Stadium in Miami Gardens with a game against the Dolphins on Sunday, Sept. 7. The release of the NFL schedule, like so much of the NFL itself, dwarfs its counterparts anywhere in the sports world. The 2014 Red Sox schedule materialized without little notice last Sept. 10. The NHL schedule's release, at least in Boston, generates mild excitement and interest. But it does not dictate life's events. The NBA schedule usually doesn't merit consideration until Christmas Day.

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About the only thing that can overtake the release of the NFL schedule in late April when the Bruins aren't playing is Michael Pineda being Manny and getting tossed from the Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park for slathering pine tar on his neck.


Once PINE-da got ejected, you still had to double-check the kickoff time of Brady-Manning XVI on Nov. 2 in Foxborough to make sure you'll make it to work the next day. It starts at 4:25 p.m., so there will be plenty of time to sleep it off.

The release of NFL schedule sets into motion travel plans, weddings, birthday and anniversary celebrations, family gatherings, and for the most die-hard of fans, maybe even a funeral or two. Except lots of postponed parties, home remodeling projects or induced-births to occur during the weekend of Nov. 9. That's Week 10 of the season, when the Patriots are on their bye. Now that we know the Patriots aren't playing on Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Night, we'll be free to watch the Black Thursday human carnage at the local Wal-Mart, Best Buy or local shopping mall without missing a play.

The Patriots and NFL free-agency dominated Boston sports-media in early March in a way never seen before. From the first minute of free-agency, when Julian Edelman was allowed to test the market, to Aqib Talib taking flight to Denver, to the Patriots conquering Revis Island and forging a Legion of Belichick, to New England eventually retaining Edelman and Vince Wilfork. The World Series Cup champion Red Sox, Tankapalooza and the Bruins' winning streak all got second, third or fourth billing during each headline recap or web-page update.

The Patriots players have kept busy in the offseason.

Always wondered whatever happened to that Gronkowski guy?

During the season, we post weekly NFL Power Rankings for all 32 teams. Today we present the 2014 NFL Power Rankings - Patriots Schedule Edition. The games are ranked from 16 to 1 based on potential interest, overall excitement and importance. Each game is listed with time and TV network.


16. Week 3 - Sun., Sept. 21, Oakland, 1 p.m. [CBS] - Home game in September against a woeful opponent that's neither a playoff team nor a divisional opponent. This may be the weekend you cave and decide to visit the in-laws or take that trip to New Hampshire or Vermont and look at dying trees [also known as foliage.]

15. Week 2 - Sun., Sept. 14, at Minnesota, 1 p.m. [CBS] - The Vikings have a new coach, Mike Zimmer. The former Cincinnati defensive coordinator was a favorite of anyone who watched "Hard Knocks" last season. The game won't be at the Metrodome, however, because it was blown up in February. The Vikings new domed stadium won't be open until 2015. The Vikings' home games will be played at TCF Bank Stadium in 2014 - the home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

14. Week 12 - Sun., Nov. 23, Detroit, 1 p.m. [Fox] - Another exciting NFC North showdown. This game falls on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. These will be the tickets the boss gives away at the last minute, especially if the weather is cold, windy, raw or otherwise typically November.

13. Week 8 - Sun., Oct. 26, Chicago, 1 p.m. [Fox] - The NFC North. Make it stop. The Bears finished 8-8 last year and missed the postseason. They have not played in Foxborough since 2006. While this game once rekindled memories of Super Bowl XX, it's now just another game. The last team these teams played the Patriots demolished Chicago 36-7 on a snowy Soldier Field in 2010. At least one member of the Bears has spent his time wisely in the offseason.

12. Week 4 - Mon., Sept. 29, at Kansas City, 8:30 p.m. [ESPN] - New England's lone appearance on Monday night this season comes the day after the baseball regular season ends. This might be the perfect cure-all for a disappointing baseball season. It could get lost in the shuffle of playoff talk. Or it might even be overshadowed by Game No. 163 if the A.L. East continues to develop into a division featuring five teams with 81-81 records.

11. Week 17 - Sun., Dec. 28, Buffalo, 1 p.m. [CBS] - The final game of the regular season will mean nothing to the Bills. The AFC East should be in New England's pocket long before Christmas, although the Patriots could be playing for either a first-round bye or home field throughout the playoffs. Otherwise, The Brandon Spikes Bowl will present motivation enough for hearty and pre-lubricated fans to show up during Christmas vacation week and celebrate three days after the Lord's birth by swearing at Spikes for three hours while giving him the finger.

10. Week 15 - Sun., Dec. 14, Miami, 1 p.m. [CBS] - Last season, the December Patriots-Dolphins game was played in Miami Gardens and, in essence, cost the Patriots the chance to play the AFC championship game in Foxborough instead of Denver. If the Patriots ever find themselves caught in a "trap game," this one would be it in 2014.

9. Week 6 - Sun., Oct. 12, at Buffalo, 1 p.m. [CBS] - What would normally be a yawner, especially in the midst of the A.L. playoffs [if the Red Sox make it that far], has been given a case-of-RedBull-sized jolt of excitement thanks to Brandon Spikes' Twitter feed - which includes the words "Free at last! Free at last!" in the header. Spikes blocked me on Twitter back in 2012, so I can truly say I was way ahead of the curve on social media. Here are a few of his top Tweets for inspirational purposes when the time comes.

And, of course, everyone's all-time favorite:

8. Week 1 - Sun., Sept. 7, at Miami, 1 p.m. [CBS] - A serious challenge on the road against a divisional opponent to begin the season. Bad things happened the last time the Patriots were in town. The Patriots lost despite a furious late-fourth quarter rally that ended with Brady throwing an interception in the end zone. Even worse, a Dolphins fan told me he wish my dog would die. The dog is 15 and still here. And the Dolphins still suck. Funny how life works out.

7. Week 14 - Sun., Dec. 7, at San Diego, 8:30 p.m. [NBC] - This game comes a week following the Patriots' game at Green Bay, the team's toughest back-to-back road games of the season. The Chargers, who made the playoffs last season, will present a serious late-season threat on the road and a real test for New England. Who knows, maybe Manti Teo's girlfriend might show up?

6. Week 5 - Sun., Oct. 5, Cincinnati, 8:30 p.m. [NBC] - The Legion of Belichick makes its official debut as cornerback Brandon Browner comes off his four-game suspension.

Here's just a taste of what to expect:

The 11-5 Bengals won the AFC North last season. So a matchup of defending AFC divisional champions had some appeal to NBC. But the game does fall within the NFL's flex window and could be changed ahead of time to an earlier game.

5. Week 7 - Thurs., Oct. 16, NY Jets, 8:25 p.m. [NFL Network/CBS] - Thinking more CBS on this one. This is the first opportunity Darrelle Revis will have against the Jets as a member of the Patriots. And we'll get to say "Bill Belichick unleashed his dogs on Michael Vick" at least once or twice.

Night games against the Jets have been the stuff of legend in Foxborough. On Oct. 18, 1976, the Patriots beat the Jets 41-7. Thanks to the internet, you can watch the "Monday Night Football" intro, complete with Howard Cosell, Alex Karras and Frank Gifford.

The night became infamous for the unbridled mayhem at a very chilly Schaefer Stadium, as more than 60 fans, many fully inebriated, were arrested. Some were handcuffed to the fence as police sorted through the human debris. Thirty-five fans were taken to local hospitals due to injuries caused by brawling and other activities. One fan was stabbed and a police officer was assaulted and had his gun stolen.

Ahh, the good old days.

4. Week 13 - Sun, Nov. 30, at Green Bay, 4:25 p.m. [CBS] Brady at Lambeau Field. Cue the ghosts of Lombardi. The Brady-Aaron Rodgers matchup will receive sufficient hype leading up to this game, as well. Brady's only played at Lambeau once before, a 35-0 victory in 2006. Surprisingly, the all-time series between the two teams is tied at 5-5. But the Packers get the tiebreaker due to their 35-21 victory over New England in Super Bowl XXX1.

3. Week 16 - Sun, Dec. 21, at NY Jets, 1 p.m. [CBS] - Beating the Jets at Met-Life Stadium in the second-to-last-week of the season poses a real challenge. If the Jets are half as good as we're being led to believe, they might be playing for a spot in the postseason in this one.

It might help New England here if the black hand of the NFL doesn't reach in to help the Jets at the most opportune moment. The Patriots remain the only team in the history of the NFL to be flagged for "pushing" a defender into the line from behind on a field goal attempt. At Met-Life against the Jets last season Chris Jones was flagged for the unsportsmanlike penalty during Nick Folk's FG miss in overtime. Folk was given another chance and won the game for New York.

The penalty had never been called before, nor has it been called since. It just happened to debut against Belichick. In New York. Hmmmm.

The Jets may have Chris Christie direct traffic from the Patriots' team hotel to the stadium this year as a back-up plan.

2. Week 11 - Sun., Nov. 16, at Indianapolis, 8:30 p.m. [NBC] - A re-match of the AFC Divisional playoff won by New England in January will be preceded by endless Brady-Andrew Luck comparisons. This will be the biggest home game for Indianapolis all season and comes after both teams' bye week. It's also New England's first trip to Indy since 2009.

The Patriots and Colts were once AFC East foes, but the Colts were realigned out of the division in 2002. Still, the teams have met 77 times overall and 14 times since 2003, with the Patriots beating the Colts the past four outings. Three of those wins came sans- Peyton Manning. NBC slotted this game right in the heart of ratings sweeps period on a Sunday night, so it's a big [expletive] deal. The Patriots will return to Indy in 2015.

And, finally, the Mother Of All Hype Jobs - Brady-Manning XVI

1. Week 9 - Sun., Nov. 2, Denver, 4:25 p.m. [CBS] - This had to be CBS' first-choice for the entire season. It falls a week before New England's bye, so expect more and harder hits than usual.

Seven months out and there are plenty of storylines. The Broncos come to Foxborough to face the Patriots in an AFC championship game rematch. Brady vs. Manning XVI. Wes Welker comes "home." Aqib Talib might even play all four quarters.

The Patriots and their fans are grateful to Talib, in a Magic Johnson sort of way, for jumping to Denver and allowing the Patriots the opportunity to sign Revis.

Legend has it that this was Belichick's plan all along. Who are we to disagree?

17 weeks, 16 games, Belichick, Brady, Revis, Gronk, and everything else NFL.

It can't arrive soon enough.

The OBF Blog is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Got a news tip, want to let him know directly what you think, have a complaint or compliment about his "aggressively relevant" content or hate people who speak about themselves in the third person, hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or hit him on at his
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