- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Breakdown: The Patriots had some roster turnover this offseason. However, the reigning AFC East champions remain hot with television networks and landed five prime-time games. That is the most in the division in 2013.
New England has been a dominant force in the AFC East for the past dozen years. The Patriots have another opportunity to establish their division dominance right away by starting with two rivalry games against the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. A 2-0 start within the division could set the good tone for New England.
But it's rarely about the regular season for the Patriots. This is a team that routinely wins double-digit games. The key will be winning enough in New England to position itself for another deep playoff run.
Complaint department: It’s hard to complain about the schedule when you’re the Patriots. Sure, New England has a respectable 14th-ranked strength of schedule this year. But you never get the sense that any stretch is too overwhelming for a team that has played in back-to-back AFC title games. The biggest complaint I have for New England is the late bye, which doesn’t come until Nov. 10. This is a veteran team that’s struggled with injuries the past few seasons. New England could be an ailing bunch playing every week straight until mid-November. Keep an eye on injuries with the Patriots in the first two months of the season.
Welker returns to Foxborough: Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker will make his much-anticipated return to Gillette Stadium on Nov. 24 as a member of the Denver Broncos. This will be a prime-time game on NBC's "Sunday Night Football." Welker left the Patriots in free agency amid controversy. New England low-balled Welker on a contract extension, and Denver was able to land the receiver with a modest two-year, $12 million contract. The Patriots, in turn, signed younger replacement Danny Amendola. Both teams are Super Bowl contenders, and Welker will be motivated to play well against his former team. This is also another clash between future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in what should be one of the year's best matchups.
Patriots Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 8, at Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Thursday, Sep. 12, NY Jets, 8:25 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 22, Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sep. 29, at Atlanta, 8:30 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, New Orleans, 4:25 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, at NY Jets, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, Miami, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, Pittsburgh, 4:25 p.m.
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Monday, Nov. 18, at Carolina, 8:30 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, Denver, 8:30 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, at Houston, 4:25 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, at Miami, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, at Baltimore, 8:30 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Buffalo, 1 p.m.