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Patriots: Breaking down the Patriots 2020 schedule with and without fans

By Kevin Stone/@kstone06/@newftbj

Well, well well, now we know what Jarret Stidham’s first 16 game slate is going to look like…or do we?

Now that the schedule is out and the Patriots don’t have it easy by any means, it’s worth wondering whether Bill will start Brian Hoyer early in the year with some tough road games on the docket or just throw Stidham in the fire and see what happens.

Either way, that decision may come down to whether or not there are fans in the stands. Trips to places like Seattle or Kansas City are much less daunting without their rabid fan bases creating outrageous amounts of noise. So with that in mind, here’s what I think will happen for New England this season if there are and if there aren’t fans in the stands:

Week 1, Dolphins at Patriots

With fans- WIN.

Without fans – WIN.

Opening day, regardless of the quarterback, I think the Pats open with a W. I also think this is actually a sneaky critical game for the entire season. If the Pats are able to take care of business in their AFC East games this year then any ideas of a playoff berth are still on the table, but an opening season loss to the Dolphins could be crippling based on some of the early season opponents.

Week 2, Patriots at Seahawks (Sunday Night Football)

With fans – LOSS

Without fans – LOSS

Whether it’s Stdiham or Hoyer, if there’s fans in the stands this could be as ugly as the Kansas City Monday Night Massacre was years ago. It’ll be interesting to see if Bill throws Stidham into this hornet’s nest or if he has Hoyer take the bullet. If there’s no fans I give the Pats a better chance obviously, but I do think Seattle is on its way back to the top of the NFC and this game might prove it.

Week 3, Raiders at Patriots

With fans – WIN

Without fans – WIN

It’s Derek Carr and the Raiders, I don’t care if Tommy Hodson is playing quarterback for the Pats and there’s no one but family inside Gillette, they won’t lose to a team from Las Vegas at home.

Week 4, Patriots at Chiefs

With fans – LOSS

Without fans – LOSS

Fans or no fans, Kansas City is just better. Much like Seattle, if there’s a crowd for this one both Stidham and Hoyer are probably screwed, but if not then there’s a slight increase in win probability, but I still don’t love it. However, you could argue that a non-existent Pats offense last year should have beaten KC at home if not for a terrible non-TD call on N’Keal Harry, but I just think the Chiefs have far too much speed to handle.

Week 5, Broncos at Patriots

With fans – WIN

Without fans – WIN

If it was in Denver this would be an automatic loss fans or no fans, just because of the history there, but the fact it’s in Gillette helps Stidham or Hoyer. Ultimately, I just can’t see Belichick losing to a young QB like Lock who isn’t nearly as good as a Jackson or a Mahomes. Those two present problems that Lock can’t, especially on the road no matter who’s in the stadium. I also don’t believe the Denver D is anything to truly worry about anymore and both McDaniels and either Stidham or Hoyer can navigate their way to a win.

Week 6, BYE

Way too early for a bye, hopefully Stidham has improved enough by this point to keep the season watchable.

Week 7, 49ers at Patriots

With fans – WIN

Without fans – LOSS

Perhaps the game that will be impacted the most by the fans/no fans thing, if Jimmy G has to deal with 68,000 getting in his head I think the Pats keep it close and prevail on a mistake late. If there are no fans in Gillette then I think San Fran actually has a relatively easy time with this Pats offense and does enough on offense to get out of here with a win.

Week 8, Patriots at Bills

With fans – LOSS

Without fans – LOSS

Either way, I think this is finally the year Buffalo takes the Patriots down off the AFC East throne. They’ve upgraded significantly on offense and this defense will give whoever’s quarterback one hell of a hard time.

Week 9, Patriots at Jets (Monday Night Football)

With fans – LOSS

Without fans – WIN

Pretty simple, I think the Jets are bette than they were last year, and if Stidham has to deal with this crowd in prime time (if it’s Hoyer they shouldn’t even travel), then I think the Jets can squeak out a win. They’ve gotten better on offense like Buffalo and this isn’t the same offense that won on the road in prime time last year. Now, with no crowd I do think it makes a difference, especially with the whole Belichick still being in the Jets’ heads thing.

Week 10, Baltimore at Patriots (Sunday Night Football)

With fans – WIN

Without fans – LOSS

A prime time Gillette Stadium crowd with a chance to drink all day and heckle Lamar Jackson? I’m in. He never had to deal with the Gillette crowd yet, so I think they can get one against a Ravens team that might take a slight step back this year. With no fans I think Baltimore’s talent is able to out last New England. These types if games are often won with the defense feeding off a crowd, and I think that’s what would need to happen here.

Week 11, Patriots at Texans

With fans – LOSS

Without fans – WIN

Either Stidham/Hoyer have to deal with a hostile Houston crowd and a decent Houston defense or it’s silent and Stidham/Hoyer pick apart that defense. I actually think McDaniels can get creative and out coach Bill O’Brien, but if there’s a crowd I think that atmosphere is just too much for the young offense.

Week 12, Cardinals at Patriots

With fans – LOSS

Without fans – LOSS

Yup. I think Arizona comes here and beats the Pats next year no matter what the atmosphere. Hopkins on one side, Fitzgerald on the other and a potential MVP candidate in Kyler Murray under center. Gilmore can’t play both receivers at once and I think the speed is too overwhelming. Then again, it is only May and Fitz could be in a retirement home by then.

Week 13, Patriots at Chargers

With fans – WIN

Without fans – WIN

Just a joke of a franchise with no home field advantage whatsoever. If there’s fans or there’s not, it’ll probably sound the same, and by this point in the season I think Stidham finds himself in a good rhythm and able to go out to LA and grab a late season win.

Week 14, Patriots at Rams (Thursday Night Football)

With fans – WIN

Without fans – WIN

Bill Belichick broke the Rams for good in the Super Bowl. Short rest or not, a rookie quarterback or Hoyer, it won’t matter. Bill will stay out in LA, game plan, get in McVay’s head again and it’ll be a typically ugly Thursday night, 20-13ish game.

Week 15, Patriots at Dolphins 

With fans – LOSS

Without fans – LOSS

I just don’t think Flores is going to lose to Belichick twice in a season for the next few years. They found a way to come here last year and win, and unless Miami is tanking again I’ve got to think they’ll be treating this one like a Super Bowl. Fans or no fans Miami just doesn’t that the Patriots well.

Week 16, Bills at Patriots (Monday Night Football)

With fans – WIN

Without fans – LOSS

Gillette home field will be key again. A full, very drunk and rowdy house just days after Christmas for Monday Night Football, presumably with the Pats still scratching for the final playoff spot, I think they’d squeeze it out. But, with no fans I think Buffalo’s talent is just better than what New England currently has assembled.

Week 17, Jets at Patriots

With fans – WIN

Without fans – WIN

Bill won’t lose to the Jets to finish a year. The Patriots could be 0-15 and ending your season with a loss to the hated Jets AT HOME simply won’t be acceptable.

Regardless of fans being in the stands this year or not, the amount of intrigue surrounding this franchise now will continue to make them must-see TV. There are a few spots on this schedule where it will probably make a glaring difference, and it should also make Stidham’s development a fascinating follow this year as well.

No matter what you think the Pats will do with or without fans, this will almost certainly be one of the most interesting seasons in New England sports history.

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