NFL Nation: AFC Schedule Analysis 2011

Breakdown: The John Fox era will start in the national spotlight. The Broncos will host Oakland on Monday Night Football, Sept. 12 on ESPN on the back end of a doubleheader. This has become an AFC West tradition. The Raiders and Broncos opened the season in this game in Oakland in 2008.

The Broncos lobbied hard for this gig. It is the first time they have opened at home since 2004. So, this spotlight game will be a special way to begin the John Elway-Fox era.

If the Broncos are going to improve in 2011, they must start early. After playing Oakland to start the season, Denver hosts Cincinnati in Week 2. It plays at Tennessee on the road the next week before traveling to Super Bowl champion Green Bay in Week 4. The Broncos have to take advantage of the early slate because they are tied for the third toughest schedule in the NFL.

Complaint department: The Broncos will play all three of their AFC West roads games in a four game stretch, spanning weeks 9-12. These are the dog days of the season. If the Broncos haven’t faded by their ninth game, they must buckle down and try to stay in the division race with this tough stretch.

Bring a parka: The Broncos’ four final games should all be cold-weather affairs. Denver has three home games in that stretch. It’s one roadie is Dec. 24 at Buffalo. It should be a white Christmas Eve for the Broncos.

Broncos Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Monday, Sep. 12, Oakland, 10:15 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, Cincinnati, 4:15 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Green Bay, 4:15 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, San Diego, 4:15 PM
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, at Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, Detroit, 4:05 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, at Oakland, 4:05 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Thursday, Nov. 17, NY Jets, 8:20 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, at San Diego, 4:15 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at Minnesota, 4:05 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, Chicago, 4:05 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, New England, 4:15 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Kansas City, 4:15 PM

Breakdown: If he wasn’t locked out, Peyton Manning might have just called the Indianapolis Colts' video staff to start gathering film of Wade Phillips' defenses. Because Indianapolis opens at the Houston Texans for the second consecutive year, and this time it’ll be against a brand new defensive coordinator who will surely keep as many secrets as possible in the preseason (providing there is one).

The Colts will play five prime-time games -- home against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Texans and on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints (in a rematch of Super Bowl XXLIV) and at the New England Patriots. They do not make a road trip on a short week, something they’ll surely welcome.

Complaint department: Three in a row and four out of five on the road always seems unreasonable (see: October). But there is a nice payback with November coming all at home with games against the Atlanta Falcons and Jaguars before a bye, and then another home game against the Carolina Panthers.

Tough two: We don’t know who’s going to add what or whether the start of the season will be delayed. We do know Colts at Patriots is traditionally gigantic and Colts at Ravens can have a great deal to do with playoff positioning as well. Now make those trips on consecutive Sundays in early December. Pretty challenging. We could see either or both as soon as four or five weeks later in playoff rematches.

Colts Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, at Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, Pittsburgh, 8:20 PM
Week 4: Monday, Oct. 3, at Tampa Bay, 8:30 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, at New Orleans, 8:20 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at New England, 8:20 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Thursday, Dec. 22, Houston, 8:20 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Breakdown: The Cleveland Browns have the toughest strength of schedule in the AFC North. But it's only 19th overall in the NFL, which gives the Browns a chance to improve on last year's 5-11 record.

Cleveland rookie head coach Pat Shurmur has a golden opportunity to get off to a fast start with a home game in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Both teams are rebuilding and this may be Cincinnati's first game without franchise quarterback Carson Palmer, who has threatened to retire. At least one Ohio team will start off 1-0, while the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens also battle it out in Week 1.

The Browns' only prime-time game this year will be against the Steelers on Thursday Dec. 8 in Pittsburgh.

Complaint department: Although I don't expect the Browns to contend this year, three consecutive road games in December could end any playoff push. The Browns will play at Pittsburgh, at the Arizona Cardinals and at Baltimore in Weeks 14-16. That could be a three-game losing streak toward the end of the season. The Browns also will host the reigning AFC champion Steelers in the regular-season finale on Jan. 1.

Interesting ties: There are interesting storylines involving two NFC West teams. Browns president Mike Holmgren's current team will face his former team -- the Seattle Seahawks -- on Oct. 23. Cleveland also will host the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 13. Shurmur was St. Louis' offensive coordinator last season.

Browns Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, at Oakland, 4:05 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, Seattle, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at San Francisco, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, at Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, St. Louis, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 8, at Pittsburgh, 8:20 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at Arizona, 4:15 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Breakdown: Any analysis of a San Diego Chargers schedule has to start at the beginning of the slate. The team has started slowly the past several seasons. It finally caught up to the Chargers last year when they failed to overcome a slow start and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

San Diego has an opportunity to start on the right foot. It opens at home against the rebuilding Minnesota Vikings. Yet, the schedule immediately toughens when the Chargers play at the New England Patriots in Week 2. The Chargers then come home for games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins. If the Chargers can find a way to go 3-1 in this stretch, it could give the team an unusual early-season spark. The Chargers are tied for the third toughest schedule in the NFL, so a fast start could be essential.

Complaint department: The Chargers come out of their bye week with a tough five-game stretch beginning in Week 7. It features road games at the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs in back-to-back weeks. They then go home for games against the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders before going on the road to the Chicago Bears. We should know a lot about this team after this stretch.

Still prime-time attraction: The Chargers’ failure to make playoffs in 2010 did not make them a less attractive team nationally. The Chargers have four prime-time games. They play at Kansas City on "Monday Night Football" on Halloween in Week 8. Two weeks later, they host Oakland on a Thursday night and then play at Jacksonville on Monday night in Week 13.

Chargers Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, Minnesota, 4:15 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, at New England, 4:15 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, Kansas City, 4:05 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, Miami, 4:15 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, at Denver, 4:15 PM
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, at NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Monday, Oct. 31, at Kansas City, 8:30 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, Green Bay, 4:15 PM
Week 10: Thursday, Nov. 10, Oakland, 8:20 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, at Chicago, 4:15 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Denver, 4:15 PM
Week 13: Monday, Dec. 5, at Jacksonville, 8:30 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, Buffalo, 4:15 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, Baltimore, 8:20 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at Detroit, 4:05 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at Oakland, 4:15 PM
Breakdown:Mike Munchak will make his debut as a head coach in Jacksonville, then faces a team his team’s fans probably hate most, the Baltimore Ravens. The Tennessee Titans have a very comfortable month from mid-October to mid-November, with their bye week followed by a three-pack of home games -- against the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals.

A year after they played five of their six division games in the final six weeks of the season, those crucial games are much more reasonably spaced out. In fact, their games against the Jacksonville Jaguars are spaced as far apart as possible, in Week 1 and Week 17.

Complaint department: While one spacing issue went away, another surfaced. Tennessee plays its four games against the NFC South in a five week span from Nov. 13 to Dec. 11. It’s hard to predict the quality of any team at this point. But the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers combined for a 34-14 record last season.

Weather-watching:Opening in Jacksonville will give Munchak a reason to work his team hard in the heat of training camp -- if there is training camp and if there is a opening day as scheduled. The Titans had a chance at three big-time cold weather games, but got a break drawing their trips to the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers in consecutive weeks at the start of October, before things will be their worst in those venues. No such luck with the Dec. 4 game at the Buffalo Bills.

Titans Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, Denver, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, Cincinnati, 4:05 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, at Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at Houston, 1:00 PM

New England Patriots schedule analysis

April, 19, 2011
4/19/11
8:04
PM ET
Breakdown: The New England Patriots must be ready to roll from the jump.

Three of their first four games will be on the road. They'll open at the Miami Dolphins on Monday night, visit the Buffalo Bills in Week 3 and travel across the country to play the Oakland Raiders in Week 4.

The lone home game in that stretch is against the San Diego Chargers in Week 2. The Patriots' next game in Gillette Stadium will be against the New York Jets in Week 5.

If the Patriots get in a hole, then they could have a nice opportunity to climb out of it in December. They'll close the season against opponents that went a combined 21-43 last season: at the Washington Redskins, at the Denver Broncos and home against the Dolphins and Bills.

Complaint department: How about this for a nasty stretch of games? The Patriots better cherish that Week 7 bye because their next six opponents went a combined 63-33 last season with no record worse than 10-6. The Patriots must navigate five playoff teams in that stretch, with the New York Giants the exception. The other foes are the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts.

Annual tradition: The annual Patriots-Colts game will take place on Sunday night in Week 13 at Gillette Stadium. It will be their ninth straight regular-season meeting, the longest ongoing streak between non-divisional opponents.

The Colts lost six in a row from 2001 through 2004, then won five of the next six games. The Patriots beat them 31-28 last season. Each of their past five games, including the playoffs, has been decided by four points or fewer.

Patriots Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Monday, Sep. 12, at Miami, 7:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, San Diego, 4:15 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Oakland, 4:15 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, NY Jets, 4:15 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, Dallas, 4:15 PM
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at Pittsburgh, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, NY Giants, 4:15 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at NY Jets, 8:20 PM
Week 11: Monday, Nov. 21, Kansas City, 8:30 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, at Philadelphia, 4:15 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, Indianapolis, 8:20 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, at Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at Denver, 4:15 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Buffalo, 1:00 PM

Breakdown: For the fourth time since 2006, the Oakland Raiders will open the season on "Monday Night Football" in the back end of a doubleheader. The Raiders open at the Denver Broncos. The three previous times Oakland played in this doubleheader series, the games were at home and Oakland lost all three games.

The Raiders, who are tied for the 19th most difficult 2011 schedule and have the easiest AFC West schedule, play at the Buffalo Bills in Week 2. The Raiders get two road games out of the way early against two weak teams. Plus, these could have both been cold-weather games.

Oakland’s season does toughen in its third and fourth games with home games against the New York Jets and New England Patriots. We should know a lot about the Raiders after the first quarter of the season.

In addition to the season opener, Oakland plays a prime-time game at the San Diego Chargers in a Thursday game in November.

Complaint department: Oakland’s first two games in December will be difficult. It plays at the Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers in back-to-back games. That is a lot of travel down the stretch. Plus, playing at Green Bay on Dec. 11 is no treat.

No opening night in Green Bay: There was a school of thought in Oakland that the Raiders would be chosen to play at Green Bay in the annual season-opening Thursday night game that has become a traditional celebration game for the defending Super Bowl champion. The Packers will instead play New Orleans in a battle of the past two Super Bowl champions.

Raiders Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Monday, Sep. 12, at Denver, 10:15 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, NY Jets, 4:05 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, New England, 4:15 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, at Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, Cleveland, 4:05 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, Kansas City, 4:05 PM
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, Denver, 4:05 PM
Week 10: Thursday, Nov. 10, at San Diego, 8:20 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, at Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Chicago, 4:05 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, at Green Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, Detroit, 4:05 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, San Diego, 4:15 PM
Breakdown: The Cincinnati Bengals, 4-12 last season, couldn't handle a first-place schedule in 2010. But this season's slate is more manageable.

Cincinnati has the NFL's 27th-ranked strength of schedule, but it must overcome turmoil this offseason. The Bengals have had several changes on the coaching staff, a franchise quarterback who has threatened to retire and are rebuilding.

The Bengals are at least a couple years away from competing in the AFC North again, especially with quarterback Carson Palmer's future uncertain. But a relatively easy schedule compared to last season should help. The Bengals have a chance to get off to a good start in Week 1 against another rebuilding team in the Cleveland Browns. One of the Ohio teams will be 1-0 after the first week.

Complaint department: It's odd that Cincinnati will play five division games in the second half of the season. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing for the Bengals. The only AFC North matchup in the first eight weeks for Cincinnati will be at Cleveland on Sept. 11.

The what-if game: Bengals owner Mike Brown said he will not trade Palmer, and based on Brown's history, there is a good chance he won't budge. But let's imagine for a second that the Bengals do have a change of heart and decide to trade Palmer. There are several potential trade partners, including teams on the Bengals' 2011 schedule (San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans).

Bengals Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, at Denver, 4:15 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, San Francisco, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at Seattle, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, at Tennessee, 4:05 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at St. Louis, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, Arizona, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Baltimore, 1:00 PM

Houston Texans schedule analysis

April, 19, 2011
4/19/11
7:51
PM ET
Breakdown: The Houston Texans are slated to open at home against the Indianapolis Colts for the second season in a row. Last season, Arian Foster ran wild and the Texans pulled the upset, but then faced a lot of discussion about having put too much offseason focus on that one game. This time they will love unveiling their new 3-4 defense against Peyton Manning, with him having prepared with nothing but old Wade Phillips film.

The only sniff of prime time comes in Week 16, in a Thursday night game at Indianapolis. This is a development that will surely upset fans when they see that the Jacksonville Jaguars have three. They should be looking to the Tennessee Titans, not Jacksonville, for comparison however. And the Titans don't have any either.

Complaint department: The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens stand to be the two most physical games on the schedule, and playing the two within three weeks is less than ideal. Back-to-back road games twice in the first seven weeks of the season will be a test as well. But there is always a trade off for such things, and the Texans also have two sets of back-to-back home games.

Potential coast to the finish: Should the Texans have a big bounce-back season from 2010's disappointing 6-10 record, at this point their final month hardly appears a murderer’s row. Sign me up for their finish at the Cincinnati Bengals, against the Carolina Panthers, at Indianapolis and against Tennessee.

Texans Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, at Miami, 4:15 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, Oakland, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, at Baltimore, 4:05 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Thursday, Dec. 22, at Indianapolis, 8:20 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Tennessee, 1:00 PM

Breakdown: As expected, the reigning AFC champions will get their share of the national spotlight with five prime-time games. The first national game will be on the road in Week 3 against the Indianapolis Colts, which should be a great matchup.

The Steelers caught a break in terms of strength of schedule. Pittsburgh finished first in the AFC North last year but has the 27th-ranked schedule this season. A major reason is the division will face the NFC West, which didn't have a team with a winning record in 2010. The Steelers also will play four games total against the Browns and Bengals, who were a combined 9-23 last season.

Super Bowl runners-up usually struggle the following season. But if Pittsburgh can get through the first month, the 2011 schedule sets up pretty favorably to make another push for the playoffs.

Complaint department: The Steelers begin with road games in three of the first four weeks. That includes a huge rivalry game at the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1 and at Indianapolis in Week 3.

Pittsburgh started 3-1 in the first month without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last year, jump-starting a Super Bowl run. It will difficult to get off to a similar start this season. A late bye week also doesn't help. Pittsburgh will have its bye this season in Week 11.

Spacing is key: The Steelers' divisional games against the Ravens are always among the most intense and physical of the year. So the NFL did a good job of spacing out the meetings to allow both teams time to recover. The Ravens will host the Steelers in Week 1 and the rematch will be in Pittsburgh in Week 9 on Sunday night. That's two months in between meetings, which is good for both rivals.

Steelers Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, Seattle, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at Indianapolis, 8:20 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, at Arizona, 4:05 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, New England, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, Baltimore, 8:20 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, at Kansas City, 8:20 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 8, Cleveland, 8:20 PM
Week 15: Monday, Dec. 19, at San Francisco, 8:30 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, St. Louis, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Breakdown: The Chiefs won’t have to wait to try to erase the stink of back-to-back blowout home defeats to end the season. The AFC West champion Chiefs will host Buffalo in Week 1 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs started the home season 7-0, but lost to Oakland in the regular-season finale and then were clubbed by Baltimore in the wild-card playoff round.

The Chiefs have a much tougher schedule in 2011 than they did in 2010. With games against Buffalo, Detroit and Minnesota in the first four games, the Chiefs have to take advantage and start quickly if they want to repeat as division champions.

Complaint department: The Chiefs have a rough stretch in Weeks 11 through 17. The Chiefs have road games at New England, Chicago and the New York Jets and home games against Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Oakland. Five of those teams made the playoffs last year and two made the Super Bowl. All six teams were at least 8-8.

The gift of winning: After being a surprise division winner last year, the Chiefs were awarded with three prime-time games. The Chiefs host San Diego in a Monday night game on Halloween, which should be festive. Three weeks later, the Chiefs play at New England on "Monday Night Football." The next week, the Chiefs play host to Pittsburgh in a Sunday night game.

Chiefs Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, at Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at San Diego, 4:05 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, at Oakland, 4:05 PM
Week 8: Monday, Oct. 31, San Diego, 8:30 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, Denver, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Monday, Nov. 21, at New England, 8:30 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Pittsburgh, 8:20 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at Chicago, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, at NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, Green Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, Oakland, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at Denver, 4:15 PM

New York Jets schedule analysis

April, 19, 2011
4/19/11
7:42
PM ET
Breakdown: The New York Jets are in demand again. Last year, they didn't play their second 1 p.m. Sunday game until Week 8 because they played in prime-time so often (five times) and were an attractive option for late Sunday kickoffs, too.

They're scheduled for five more prime-time games this year, one more than the New England Patriots. The Jets won't play their second 1 p.m. Sunday game until Week 7.

"That really speaks volumes about our team, where our franchise is at, and how the league and everybody else in the league basically sees us the same way," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said in a statement released Tuesday night by the club. "They know we're an elite team and I think that's why we have five prime-time games."

The Jets have a favorably placed bye in Week 8 and a Thursday night game at Denver in Week 11, providing them 10 days until they host the Buffalo Bills in Week 12.

The Jet-Patriots rivalry will resume Week 5 at Gillette Stadium and return to the Meadowlands on Sunday night in Week 10.

Another game of note is Week 16 against the New York Giants on Christmas Eve.

Complaint department: The Jets must fight through three straight road games in September and October to get off to another great start. They begin with back-to-back home games but then visit the Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens and Patriots in Weeks 3 through 5. A cross-continent trip and two straight emotional grudge matches will be a difficult test.

Twins piqued: Get ready for some furious Ryan-on-Ryan verbal combat. The Jets open their regular season against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night at the Meadowlands. Rex Ryan's twin brother, Rob Ryan, is the Cowboys' new defensive coordinator. The week leading up to last year's brotherly showdown -- Rob Ryan was the Cleveland Browns' defensive coordinator -- was highly entertaining. Each trash-talking brother impersonated the other with a makeshift costume and told humorous stories about the other.

Jets Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, Dallas, 8:20 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at Oakland, 4:05 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Baltimore, 8:20 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, at New England, 4:15 PM
Week 6: Monday, Oct. 17, Miami, 8:30 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, San Diego, 1:00 PM
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, New England, 8:20 PM
Week 11: Thursday, Nov. 17, at Denver, 8:20 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at Philadelphia, 4:15 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, NY Giants, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at Miami, 1:00 PM

Breakdown: General manager Gene Smith talks of his team as an ascending one, and if prime time games are any indication, the NFL agrees. Jacksonville gets three.

But while the league might like where the Jaguars are heading, they’re also interested in the Jaguars having sustained box office success. Two home appearances on "Monday Night Football," against Baltimore and San Diego, will certainly help boost civic pride and ticket sales. The third game in the spotlight is a Thursday nighter at Atlanta.

The Jaguars have been a team that’s swooned at the end in recent years. A finish of Tampa Bay, at Atlanta, at Tennessee and Indianapolis could give them a chance to make up some ground or hold on to a playoff berth if they can finish the season playing well, for a change.

Complaint department:How’s this for a three-game run starting in mid-October: at Pittsburgh, against Baltimore on MNF and then at Houston on a short week. Two super physical opponents in consecutive weeks, and then a big division showdown. The NFL did the Jaguars no favors by not splitting up the Steelers and Ravens. At least that trifecta is followed by a bye week.

Gift opening?: The Jaguars struggled to defend longer throws to the outside and to sack the quarterback. They’re expected to add players who will help address both issues, but it may take some time. The schedule-maker may have provided an assist. Three of the team’s first five games are at home, against teams with serious questions at quarterback. They open against Tennessee, play Week 3 at Carolina and host Cincinnati Week 5.

Jaguars Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, at NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Monday, Oct. 24, Baltimore, 8:30 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Monday, Dec. 5, San Diego, 8:30 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Thursday, Dec. 15, at Atlanta, 8:20 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Indianapolis, 1:00 PM

Buffalo Bills schedule analysis

April, 19, 2011
4/19/11
7:30
PM ET
Breakdown: The Bills had the NFL's drabbest schedule last season. They had zero primetime games. They didn't have any 4 o'clock kickoffs. Every week -- home and away -- they played at 1 p.m. Sunday.

This season's schedule doesn't provide much more variety. The Bills will have two -- count 'em, two -- kickoffs in the 4 o'clock hour, but one of those games will take place against the San Diego Chargers in the Pacific time zone.

The other "late game" will be their annual trip to Toronto. Contrary to a report from a Toronto radio station, the Bills won't play the Philadelphia Eagles at the Rogers Centre in November. Not even close. The Bills will play the Washington Redskins there Oct. 30.

Complaint department: The Bills own the NFL's second-toughest schedule based on their opponents' 2010 records. The main reason for that are two games apiece against the 14-2 New England Patriots and the 11-5 New York Jets.

By the time the Bills have their bye in Week 7, they will have met one team that had a losing record last season -- a trip to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4.

Quirky division schedule: Unlike last season, when the Bills had faced every AFC East opponent by Week 4, they will have played only one divisional game through Week 8. Five of their last nine games are against the division, including the Jets and Miami Dolphins twice apiece in that span. The Bills' games against the Jets take place 21 days apart in Weeks 9 and 12.

Bills Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, at Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, Oakland, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, New England, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, Philadelphia, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, at NY Giants, 1:00 PM
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, Washington, 4:05 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at Dallas, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, at Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, at NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, at San Diego, 4:15 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, Denver, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at New England, 1:00 PM

'Monday Night Football' schedule 2011

April, 19, 2011
4/19/11
7:29
PM ET
Here is the "Monday Night Football" schedule for the 2011 season (all times Eastern). Here's a link to the full season schedule.

Week 1: Sep. 12, 7:00 PM, New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

Week 1: Sep. 12, 10:15 PM, Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos

Week 2: Sep. 19, 8:30 PM, St. Louis Rams at New York Giants

Week 3: Sep. 26, 8:30 PM, Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys

Week 4: Oct. 3, 8:30 PM, Indianapolis Colts at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 5: Oct. 10, 8:30 PM, Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

Week 6: Oct. 17, 8:30 PM, Miami Dolphins at New York Jets

Week 7: Oct. 24, 8:30 PM, Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 8: Oct. 31, 8:30 PM, San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

Week 9: Nov. 7, 8:30 PM, Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

Week 10: Nov. 14, 8:30 PM, Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Week 11: Nov. 21, 8:30 PM, Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots

Week 12: Nov. 28, 8:30 PM, New York Giants at New Orleans Saints

Week 13: Dec. 5, 8:30 PM, San Diego Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 14: Dec. 12, 8:30 PM, St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Week 15: Dec. 19, 8:30 PM, Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers

Week 16: Dec. 26, 8:30 PM, Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

NFL SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 9/18
Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22
WEEKLY LEADERS