How the NFL schedule makers are showing confidence in the Patriots this season

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Sports fans often use over/under win totals in the Vegas casino sports books as barometers for how their team will fare for the upcoming season. The thinking goes that Vegas knows best, because there are millions of dollars riding on their preseason predictions.

A similar line of thought should be applied to the NFL schedule makers. With media rights agreements worth $110 billion, devising the season’s TV schedule is one of the most important tasks in front of the league office. This isn’t something that’s done lightly.

That’s why it’s significant the Patriots are slated for five primetime games this season, four of which will come after Week 11. New England is one of 13 teams with the maximum number of primetime affairs, along with Super Bowl contenders such as the Bills, Bengals, Buccaneers, Chiefs, Packers and Rams. The Cowboys, Chargers, Eagles, 49ers and Broncos will also be featured in primetime five times.

In addition, the Patriots-Packers matchup for Week 4 is scheduled for 4:25 p.m., which is actually the most-watched window of the week.

It’s been a frustrating offseason for the Patriots, who have stood idle as their AFC rivals load up with stars. The NFL Draft was the latest puzzling piece of team building: the Patriots reached on their first two picks.

With an underwhelming roster and dearth of experienced coaches, it’s easy to be pessimistic about the Patriots’ chances this season. News that Matt Patricia and Joe Judge will likely compete with each other for play-calling duties doesn’t help matters.

But clearly, the NFL thinks the Patriots will be competitive all season long. Their late-season primetime games are against the Vikings (Thanksgiving night). Bills, Cardinals and Raiders. Outside of Buffalo, none of those teams are viewed as juggernauts. That means the Patriots might get top billing.

The Patriots averaged a 31.5 TV rating in Boston last season, up 17 percent from their number in 2020. It was the fifth-highest increase in the NFL.

There is still an apparent allure when it comes to watching Bill Belichick. Though Mac Jones may not be a prolific passer, he arrived to the NFL as a national champion from Alabama. It’s hard to come into the league with more name recognition than that.

So yes, there may be some droopy eyes around these parts with four straight 8:00 p.m. starts. But it will be worth it to watch a good football team.

The NFL schedule makers have faith.