New England Patriots' 2021 schedule: Tom Brady visits in Week 4

The New England Patriots' 2021 schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate on Wednesday.

The 2021 NFL season will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 9 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys (8:20 p.m. ET). ESPN's Monday Night Football opener on Sept. 13 will feature the Las Vegas Raiders hosting the Baltimore Ravens (8:15 p.m. ET).

The NFL will change its schedule for the first time in 44 years, expanding to 17 regular-season games. The final regular-season games will be played Jan. 9, 2022. The playoffs begin Jan. 15, 2022 and continue through Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022 at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium.

Here's what is in store for the Patriots:


Sept. 12: vs. Miami

Sept. 19: at N.Y. Jets

Sept. 26: vs. New Orleans

Oct. 3: vs. Tampa Bay (TNF)

Oct. 10: at Houston

Oct. 17: vs. Dallas

Oct. 24: vs. N.Y. Jets

Oct. 31: at L.A. Chargers

Nov. 7: at Carolina

Nov. 14: vs. Cleveland

Nov. 18: at Atlanta (TNF)

Nov. 28: vs. Tennessee

Dec. 6: at Buffalo (MNF)

Dec. 12: Bye

Dec. 18 or 19: at Indianapolis

Dec. 26: vs. Buffalo

Jan. 2: vs. Jacksonville

Jan. 9: at Miami

Strength of schedule: T-19th, .489

Biggest takeaway

Tom Brady won't need to bring his cold-weather scuba suit for his highly-anticipated return to Gillette Stadium, as a Week 4 Buccaneers-Patriots matchup -- in prime time -- has a chance to be pristine conditions as the quarterback could be in position to break Drew Brees' all-time passing yardage record that night.

Some in the ticket industry believe this could be the most highly coveted regular-season ticket in the history of the region's rich history. Overall, the Patriots are at home three of the first four weeks, and five of the first seven weeks, which potentially gives them a chance to get off to a fast start.

One storyline to watch

Let's not overcomplicate it: Will it be rookie quarterback Mac Jones starting in the opener against the Miami Dolphins and his former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa? Or, will it be Cam Newton getting the nod? And if it's Newton, and he maintains it through the season, it would set up a scintillating storyline in its own right with a Week 9 road game against his former team, the Carolina Panthers.

Coach Bill Belichick has said Newton is the quarterback right now, and the competition between him and Jones will be compelling.

What Vegas thinks

The oddsmakers have the Patriots' win total at nine. Before the schedule was released, the thought was "over" because they won seven last season with less talent. Now that the schedule has been released, there is even more confidence in going "over" -- a lot of early-season home contests, just three prime-time games (that could change with flex scheduling) and a Week 14 bye are favorable developments.

Bold prediction

The Patriots are 3-0 entering their Week 4 matchup against Brady and the Buccaneers, who will also be 3-0 entering the game -- further heightening the hype and excitement for what promises to be one of the most memorable nights in Gillette Stadium history.