The NFL operates on a rotating schedule each year. For the New England Patriots, that means six games against divisional opponents, four games against another AFC division and four more against an NFC division. The other two games are AFC teams who finished in the same place of their division.
Because the Patriots finished first in the AFC East, they’ll take on first-place finishers from the AFC South and West in 2019 – the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs. The Patriots played both opponents last season at home, taking close victories in games that went down to the wire.
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This season should be no different in these two matchups for the Patriots. Here’s what to expect.
Away: December 1, 8:20 p.m. (Week 13)
The Texans lost Jadaveon Clowney in a trade with Seattle on cutdown weekend but added some major offensive weapons in Kenny Stills and Laremy Tunsil from Miami. Tunsil will help protect Deshaun Watson and alleviate the number of pressures opposing defenses get against Houston.
Watson will have Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson in the backfield with Still, DeAndre Hopkins, and Will Fuller as his top receivers.
Over on defense, J.J. Watt is among the top defensive linemen in the NFL and has a loaded linebacker corps headlined by Whitney Mercilus and Barkevious Mingo. Houston’s secondary is also loaded, led by new acquisitions Bradley Roby, Tashaun Gipson, and former Patriot Keion Crossen.
OUTLOOK: This could be New England’s toughest game of the season. Houston has traditionally been a tough place to play for the Patriots and this year’s Texans squad could be the strongest one in franchise history.
Prediction: The Patriots struggle to contain DeAndre Hopkins while Tom Brady has an off day in a humbling loss for the Patriots.
Kansas City Chiefs
Home: December 8, 4:25 p.m. (Week 14)
Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes has a strong supporting cast once again on offense this season. It’ll be a running back by committee for the Chiefs this year with Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson, and LeSean McCoy leading the pack. Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins are his top two receivers and rookie Mecole Hardman is poised for a strong debut season. Tight end Travis Kelce is among the headliners in the offense and is widely considered the best at his position.
The defense, however, is the weak spot on an otherwise strong team. On the line, new acquisitions Alex Okafor and Frank Clark help strengthen a position of need while Reggie Ragland is the team’s top active linebacker. The secondary is bolstered by Tyrann Mathieu’s arrival.
OUTLOOK: The Patriots beat Kansas City in a pair of shootouts last season where the last team with the ball scored. Kansas City lost a little firepower from last year but still has the ability to be the top team in the AFC.
Prediction: Like last season, the Patriots take a close one late at home.