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Patriots 2021 schedule: Game predictions for every week originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The 2021 NFL schedule was released Wednesday, which means we finally have all of the dates and times for each of the New England Patriots‘ 17 regular season games. 

Here are game-by-game predictions for each matchup (All times Eastern).

Date: Sunday, Sept. 12

Time: 4:25 p.m.

Score prediction: Patriots, 24-17

We could have an all-Alabama quarterback duel if Mac Jones starts for the Patriots and Tua Tagovailoa starts for the Dolphins. These teams kicked off the 2020 season at Gillette Stadium and the Patriots won 21-11 in Cam Newton’s first ever start for New England.

Date: Sunday, Sept. 19

Time: 1 p.m.

Score prediction: Patriots, 31-17

The Patriots will get an early look at Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, who was the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Bill Belichick’s dominance over rookie QBs should make the Pats clear favorites in this matchup.

Week 3: vs. New Orleans Saints

Date: Sunday, Sept. 26

Time: 1 p.m. 

Score prediction: Saints, 27-21

The Saints offense no longer has future Hall of Famer Drew Brees at quarterback, but Alvin Kamara is arguably the most talented running back in the league and should have plenty of success against the Patriots.

Week 4: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Date: Sunday, Oct. 3

Time: 8:20 p.m.

Score prediction: Buccaneers, 35-28

Tom Brady’s much-anticipated return to Foxboro, where he won six Super Bowl titles in 20 seasons with the Patriots, might be the biggest regular season game in Boston sports history. This will be a hot ticket.

Week 5: at Houston Texans 

Date: Sunday, Oct. 10

Time: 1 p.m.

Score prediction: Patriots, 24-14

Who’s starting at quarterback for the Texans in this game? Deshaun Watson, Tyrod Taylor or rookie Davis Mills? It shouldn’t even matter because the Patriots have a superior roster either way.

Week 6: vs. Dallas Cowboys

Date: Sunday, Oct. 17

Time: 4:25 p.m.

Score prediction: Patriots, 20-17

This was the added matchup to the schedule when the league approved a 17-game slate. These teams met in Foxboro two years ago and the Patriots escaped with a 13-9 win. Expect another close game between two iconic franchises.

Week 7: vs. New York Jets

Date: Sunday, Oct. 24

Time: 1 p.m.

Score prediction: Patriots, 34-20

The Patriots have won 10 consecutive games overall and 10 straight games at home versus the Jets. The last time the Jets won at Gillette Stadium was the 2010 AFC Divisional Round. New York’s last regular season win in Foxboro came in 2008.

Week 8: at Los Angeles Chargers

Date: Sunday, Oct. 31

Time: 4:05 p.m.

Score prediction: Patriots, 31-20

The Patriots dominated the Chargers in a 45-0 win at SoFi Stadium last season. The Chargers improved in the offseason, but the Pats are still the more talented and better-coached team.

Week 9: at Carolina Panthers

Date: Sunday, Nov. 7

Time: 1 p.m.

Score prediction: Patriots, 27-20

New Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold was 0-3 with one touchdown pass, six interceptions and a 53.2 completion percentage against the Patriots in three seasons with the Jets. Those struggles could continue with a Panthers team that lacks a top-tier offensive line.

Week 10: vs. Cleveland Browns 

Date: Sunday, Nov. 14

Time: 1 p.m.

Score prediction: Browns, 34-27

The Browns reached the playoffs last season for the first time since 2002 thanks to Baker Mayfield’s improvement at quarterback and a dominant rushing attack that ranked third in yards per game. Cleveland is a team on the rise and will earn its first win in New England since 1992. 

Week 11: at Atlanta Falcons

Date: Thursday, Nov. 18

Time: 8:20 p.m.

Score prediction: Patriots, 28-27

Falcons fans probably are already dreading the inevitable Super Bowl LI talk that will surround this matchup, even though that game is now four years old. Matt Ryan is 0-3 against the Patriots in his regular season career, and unless the Falcons defense shows massive improvement in 2021, he will remain winless.

Week 12: vs. Tennessee Titans

Date: Sunday, Nov. 28

Time: 1 p.m.

Score prediction: Titans, 27-17

The Titans rushing attack tallied the second-most yards in the league in 2020. Superstar running back Derrick Henry led all players with 2,027 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. The Patriots’ run defense was pretty bad at times last season, but it should be better with the offseason acquisitions of Christian Barmore (draft), Davon Godchaux (free agency), Matthew Judon (free agency) and Henry Anderson (free agency), among others.

Still, it would be surprising if Henry didn’t run all over the Patriots en route to a Titans victory.

Week 13: at Buffalo Bills

Date: Monday, Dec. 6

Time: 8:15 p.m.

Score prediction: Bills, 28-21

The Bills not only dethroned the Patriots as AFC East champs in 2020, they also became the first team in the division to sweep the Pats since 2000. Buffalo is a legit contender in the AFC and its defense remains a bad matchup for New England.

Week 14: Bye

A late bye week could be beneficial for the Patriots if they’re in the mix for a playoff spot. On the other hand, Week 14 is a long time to wait for a break. The good news for the Pats is they have plenty of experience with bye weeks in the second half of the season.

Week 15: at Indianapolis Colts

Date: Dec. 18 or 19

Time: TBD

Score prediction: Colts, 24-17

The Colts gave up a lot to trade for Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz after veteran Phillip Rivers retired. But the reason why the Colts are the favorite to win the AFC South division is because they have a legit defense that finished top 10 in yards and points allowed per game last season. 

Week 16: vs. Buffalo Bills

Date: Sunday, Dec. 26

Time: 1 p.m.

Score prediction: Bills, 27-17

The Bills went into Gillette Stadium and beat the Patriots 38-9 last year. The next challenge for Buffalo is winning in New England two years in a row. The Bills haven’t accomplished that feat since 1999 and 2000.

Week 17: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Date: Sunday, Jan. 2

Time: 1 p.m.

Score prediction: Patriots, 35-21

The Patriots will be one of 2021 No. 1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence’s final opponents as a rookie, assuming he stays healthy and Jacksonville doesn’t make the playoffs. The former Clemson quarterback has the potential to be the Jaguars’ first ever superstar at the position.

Week 18: at Miami Dolphins

Date: Sunday, Jan. 9

Time: 1 p.m.

Score prediction: Patriots, 28-24

Miami has been a tough place to play for the Patriots, but at this point in the season, New England’s new-look offense should be firing on all cylinders. This game also could have plenty of playoff implications.