Breakdown: The New England Patriots have the AFC East's most difficult schedule based on records from last season. Their schedule ranks as the sixth-toughest in the NFL, with opponents going 136-120 last year. The other three AFC East squads have an average schedule, tied for 16th with opponents posting aggregate .500 records.
Where the schedule looks most arduous appears to be coming out of their Week 5 bye.
The Patriots will have a rematch with the Baltimore Ravens, who annihilated them in the playoffs, and then have games at the San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, at Cleveland Browns, at Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, at Detroit Lions and New York Jets.
Even the two games that seem cushy really aren't. The Browns will be coming off their bye week, and Eric Mangini has had a couple of dramatic successes against the Patriots since leaving Bill Belichick's staff. The Patriots will visit the Lions on Thanksgiving, meaning a short preparation week.
All told, the Patriots will face a playoff team eight times, and six of those games will take place in Gillette Stadium. The only two playoff teams they'll face on the road are the Jets and Chargers.
The Patriots have four games scheduled for primetime, one fewer than the Jets. The Patriots will play on Monday night twice and Sunday night at least twice.
Complaint department: The Patriots are looking at a frosty finish to the regular season. Players and fans should bundle up.
Two of their last three home games will be played at night. The other one is the afternoon finale against the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots' two December road games will be at the Chicago Bears and at the Buffalo Bills.
"Seventh" divisional game: The annual Patriots-Colts game will take place in Week 11 in Gillette Stadium. Mostly because of the weighted schedule, where division champs within the conference meet each other the following year, it will be the eighth straight meeting, the longest current streak between non-divisional opponents.
The Colts lost six in a row from 2001 through 2004, but have won five of the past six games. Each of the past four games, including the playoffs, has been decided by four points or fewer.
Patriots Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, at NY Jets, 4:15 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Monday, Oct. 4, at Miami, 8:30 PM
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, at San Diego, 4:15 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, Minnesota, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 14, at Pittsburgh, 8:20 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, Indianapolis, 4:15 PM
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 25, at Detroit, 12:30 PM
Week 13: Monday, Dec. 6, NY Jets, 8:30 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, at Chicago, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, Green Bay, 8:20 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, Miami, 1:00 PM