NFL says scheduling quirk splitting Patriots', Buccaneers' game times 'coincidental'

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The New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't play a game at the same time until Week 15 of the 2020 season, giving New England fans who still plan to follow quarterback Tom Brady closely with his new team an unexpected bonus.

But what might be viewed as a masterful move by the NFL was actually more of a coincidence, aided in part by both teams having five prime-time games -- a reflection of Brady's popularity and intrigue with how the Patriots plan to replace him.

"Putting together the 256-game schedule is very complex -- it's a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma," league spokesman Brian McCarthy said via email, when asked if the league had this Brady-Patriots dynamic in mind. "The minimal conflicts here are coincidental."

The Patriots open the season at home Sunday, Sept. 13, against the Miami Dolphins at 1 p.m. ET, and the Buccaneers visit the New Orleans Saints at 4:25 p.m.

From there, when accounting for byes (Patriots in Week 6, Buccaneers in Week 13) and prime-time games, the teams aren't scheduled to kick off at the same time until Dec. 20. On that day, the Patriots visit the Dolphins at 1 p.m., while the Buccaneers visit the Atlanta Falcons at the same time.

After that, the only other time when the teams are scheduled to kick off at the same time is the final game of the season, Jan. 3, when the Patriots host the New York Jets at 1 p.m., and the Buccaneers host the Falcons.