*Further reporting shared Thursday morning confirms that Clayton's report is NOT true*
The NFL is set to release the schedules for the 2020 season tonight, Thursday, May 7. While we already known there are contingencies plans in place in the event that the season needs to be pushed back because of COVID-19, there's other info that has been shared that should have New England Patriots fans more worried.
ESPN Radio host John Clayton shared on Wednesday that the first month of NFL games for the 2020 season will strictly be AFC vs. NFC games. If Clayton's reporting is true, then this will likely be done in the event that the season does need to be pushed back, so games that don't heavily determine who makes the playoffs can be completely eliminated from the schedule. Divisional games ultimately decide who wins the divisions and makes the playoffs, which is why those games will be played later in the season.
Why is this bad news for the Patriots? Well, they play the NFC West this season, which includes the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams.
Those teams had a combined record of 38-25-1 last season. Arizona accounted for 10 of those losses last season, but looked to build off their 2019 season with second-year coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyle Murray, who now has DeAndre Hopkins to throw to. As for the Seahawks and 49ers, the former has an MVP-caliber quarterback, and San Francisco is coming off a Super Bowl appearance. The Rams had a poor 2019 season - and were still able to muster up nine wins - but they'll look to bounce back in 2020 with one of the best coaches in the NFL in Sean McVay.
For the Patriots - who seemingly will have 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham leading their offense this upcoming season along with some question marks on defense - it's a tough start for them. A couple divisional games against the Jets and Dolphins to start the season would have been a nice way to shake out the growing pains. But instead they have to face some of the best teams the NFC has to offer, which will also include having to travel to the West Coast for a couple of them.
While the entire schedule won't be released until this evening, we might already know what to expect for New England in the first month of the regular season. And it doesn't look pretty.