By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Lets be honest. As long as Tom Brady continues to play like the greatest quarterback of all-time, and as long as Bill Belichick continues to be a cut above every other coach in the National Football League, every Patriots game is appointment television.
But when the team’s schedule is officially released, there’s always that handful of games that transcend “must-see TV” and become the one thing in the sporting world that you need to sit down and watch. Every season, there are several games on the Patriots’ schedule that any NFL fan can watch and appreciate, and 2017 is no exception.
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The Patriots’ 2017 regular season schedule is officially out, and most Pats fans will obviously find a way to watch them all. But of course, life can take over at times and it’s not easy to free up your time to see all 16 games. Still, these five games are the ones that Patriots fans should try their absolute hardest to see:
Week 1: Thursday, Sept. 7 vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 8:30 p.m. EST
This one pretty much goes without saying. It will be banner night in Foxboro, where the Patriots will celebrate their fifth Super Bowl championship. But it will also take place with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in attendance, and the fan reception for the commish will be a sight to behold. It will be the first time Patriots fans get to see new faces like Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore in real game action, and it will come against a relatively tough opponent in the Chiefs.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 22 vs. Atlanta Falcons, 8:30 p.m.
The Super Bowl LI rematch will come in the middle of the season, rather than the beginning. The Falcons will have their chance at revenge after the biggest collapse (or the greatest comeback?) in Super Bowl history, but it will be tough for them to pull it off in Foxboro against a Patriots team that will likely be in their typical mid-season form. It will also be interesting to see what kind of Super Bowl hangover the Falcons may have at the time with five games (plus a bye week) under their belt.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12 at Denver Broncos, 8:30 p.m.
The Broncos may still be figuring out their quarterback situation, but they still have one of the league’s elite defenses and remain one of the Patriots’ biggest conference rivals, despite missing the playoffs last season. Even a slight improvement in quarterback play could once again make the Broncos a legitimate AFC contender, and Denver is always a tough place to play for Brady and the Patriots.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 19 at Oakland Raiders (Mexico City) 4:25 p.m.
This game will be intriguing for the mere fact that it comes on a neutral site against the Raiders. But on balance, the Patriots get something of an advantage in their schedule as they get to play one less proper road game. As for the opponent, the Raiders could have a healthy Derek Carr back under center. The quarterback has emerged as an MVP candidate and transformed the Raiders into a legitimate AFC title contender. The Brady-Carr duel will be one of the biggest QB battles of the entire season.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 17 at Pittsburgh Steelers 4:25 p.m.
With the lateness of this game in the schedule, conference playoff seeding could be at stake in this rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game. That could also make this game a candidate to get flexed to primetime, so don’t set your schedules too strictly for this one. The Steelers could still be the very best hope that the rest of the AFC has to stop the Patriots from making the Super Bowl for a third time in four years, and this game could very well be another AFC Championship preview.
Honorable mentions: The Patriots take on the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 in Brandin Cooks’ first game against his former team, and could very well be the same situation for Malcolm Butler … Brady and the Pats travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers and rising star QB Jameis Winston in an unpredictable Thursday night contest that could be a “trap” for New England … The Miami Dolphins think they may have a shot at the AFC East in 2017, and Week 14 on Monday Night Football in Miami could be their chance to really make their presence felt in the division.
What games are you looking forward to the most? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.