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Sunday 7: Why have Week 1’s been such an issue for Patriots recently?

Ryan Hannable
September 09, 2018 - 6:00 am

1. Week 1’s haven’t gone like the rest of the regular season for the Patriots in recent years. Since 2012, the Patriots are 4-2 in season openers, but besides the 34-13 win over the Titans in 2012, the other three wins have been by seven points or less. So, why have the Week 1 games been so tough? The first thing that comes to mind is the competition, but the reality is the Patriots haven’t faced much in these six games. Only two of the six teams made the playoffs the year they opened with the Patriots (Chiefs in 2017 and Steelers in 2015). One theory that comes to mind, and surfaced last year around the Super Bowl, is when teams have more than the standard week to prepare, the Patriots’ coaching advantage isn’t as big. During the year, the Patriots almost always have an edge in that regard, but when there’s the extra week (or more), teams and coaches have used that extra time to close the gap. As it relates to Week 1, opposing coaches have all offseason, training camp and preseason to prepare, and that could close the coaching gap going against Bill Belichick and Co. It’s also worth pointing out Belichick sometimes treats the first month or so like an extension of the preseason figuring out what he has, which could have players playing in spots they shouldn’t be. Regardless of the reason, it’s clear Week 1’s  typically don’t go like the rest of the season for New England.

2. After being a first-time captain last year, Duron Harmon was not re-elected this year, and it’s likely his offseason incident in Costa Rica played a factor. Appearing on Dale & Keefe Friday, Harmon said he isn’t disappointed because he’s excited for all six captains, especially first-timers James White and Patrick Chung. “I wouldn’t say disappointment because I am excited for those guys,” he said. “Those guys are well-deserving of their role. Whether my offseason had something to do with that or not, only I can deal with that. It’s an opportunity for me to learn and grow. I wouldn’t say disappointed at all because like I said, I am really excited for those guys. Those guys are great leaders. They deserve to be in that spot. I voted for them.”

3. As it relates to Tom Brady’s press conference Friday, the quarterback handled things very well. He was pressed with questions regarding personal trainer Alex Guerrero and his status with the organization, and while Brady didn’t give a ton of insight, he answered the questions and didn’t walk off like he’s done two other times this summer. Now that Brady has at least somewhat addressed the matter, it’s unlikely this remains a major storyline unless something else surfaces.

4. Rookie tight end Ryan Izzo was placed on injured reserve last Sunday afternoon before 4 p.m., which means he is done for the year. If it had been done afterwards, he would have been able to return this season. If the plan all along was he would be out for the entire season, why was he on the initial roster Saturday afternoon? The team could have easily placed on him on injured reserve Saturday like it did with other players. It’s worth wondering if there was a mix-up here and the Patriots wanted Izzo to have the chance to return this year, but misunderstood the rule, or had a paperwork issue of some sort.

5. One of the more interesting parts of Belichick’s Friday press conference was him discussing how Chung does so much in practice, including working on the scout team offense. He also noted how Mike Vrabel would do the same thing, except play all over on defense and give Brady fits. “Free safety, strong safety, defensive end, linebacker, inside linebacker, outside linebacker. I'm sure there were probably times he was out there at corner,” Belichick said. “Safety, for sure. He would drive Tom [Brady] crazy playing safety. If we played against a safety that we didn’t know what he would do, we would tell Vrabel to just go out there and read the quarterback and do whatever you want, and Mike would do that and do it well.”

6. It was interesting to see the Patriots marketing/social media department take a small dig at the media in promoting Sunday’s season opener. A hype video had the caption, “It’s time to make our own noise now” and at the beginning showed numerous clips of national and local pundits discussing the Patriots this offseason. Click here to see the video.

7. Patriots fans will certainly want to check out Jimmy Garoppolo as much as possible this season, but it really won’t be possible until Week 3. The 49ers play the Vikings Sunday at 1 p.m. and then next week they take on the Lions, but at the same time as Patriots-Jaguars. In Week 3, the Patriots play on Sunday night, which will allow plenty of time to check out the 49ers-Chiefs at 1 p.m.

Related: Patriots-Texans game preview