Tom Brady may have enough Super Bowl rings to cover one hand, but he won’t be retiring without looking to start a new collection on his other hand.
If the NFL has anything to say about it, he may be getting some help in the form of the 2017 schedule, released last week.
After an offseason loaded with moves that have left the team even more formidable than its 2016 championship-winning incarnation, the Patriots are facing a schedule that hardly seems daunting to Brady and his receiving corps.
While the Pats face the potentially difficult Kansas City Chiefs in the season opener, as well as a Super Bowl rematch with the Atlanta Falcons in Week 7, both games take place at home in Gillette Stadium, where the team is historically dominant.
In addition, the Patriots enjoy a Week 9 bye to prepare for a two-week showdown against the Broncos and the Raiders, two of the biggest challenges on their schedule.
All of these games will likely see extensive use of Bill Belichick’s newest addition to Tom Brady’s receivers, former Saints player Brandin Cooks. Cooks has a reputation as a dynamic player with the ability to burn defenses both on short passes and as a deep threat, the likes of which Brady has not had since the days of Randy Moss.
This will also be an opportunity to test the mettle of Stephon Gilmore, newly acquired cornerback, alongside current star corner Malcolm Butler. Gilmore recently received a 5-year contract with New England for $65 million, possibly creating some tension with Butler, who was recently limited to a restricted free agent tender that will pay him $3.91 million.
With the signing of his tender, which took place on Tuesday after weeks of uncertainty, Butler is now available to be traded to other teams since he is officially under contract with the Patriots. The Pats have also made an offer to Bills running back Mike Gillislee, which the Bills have until Monday to match.
One thing is for certain: The Patriots are far from finished from making moves this offseason. And once the regular season begins, they will unleash a team that has not only covered last year’s weaknesses, but also built on its strengths.
The New England Patriots smell blood in the water, and they will settle for nothing less than a back-to-back championship.