The New England Patriots are coming fresh off winning their fifth Super Bowl and on Thursday the NFL released the team’s path to defending its title. And it will be an interesting one, to say the least, as it aligns with the one our very own Rich Hill called "preposterous and stupid" earlier.
Take a look at it to judge for yourself:
Week 1: September 7 (Thursday): vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 8:30pm ET (NBC)
New England will open the season at home against one of the AFC’s top teams in what projects to be an entertaining primetime game, not only because the Patriots will unveil their fifth Super Bowl banner. The matchup between those two teams could also have a direct influence on the conference’s playoff seeding.
Week 2: September 17 (Sunday): at New Orleans Saints, 1:00 pm ET (CBS)
The first question mark of the schedule: Why does the NFL schedule what possibly is the final matchup between two of the best quarterbacks of their generation – Tom Brady and Drew Brees – at a 1:00 pm slot? New England will be the better rested of the two teams, as the Saints come off a Monday night game.
Week 3: September 24 (Sunday): vs. Houston Texans, 1:00 pm ET (CBS)
Another quality matchup that will take place at 1:00 pm – this time at Gillette Stadium, though, where the two teams met in the AFC’s divisional round last season. Until the Texans prove they can compete against the NFL’s top teams on a regular basis, this might again become a rather one-sided affair.
Week 4: October 1 (Sunday): vs. Carolina Panthers, 1:00 pm ET (FOX)
New England’s third straight afternoon contest will see the team host Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Two years ago, the team was in the Super Bowl but last year it finished with a disappointing 6-10 record, justifying the time slot.
Week 5: October 5 (Thursday): at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:25 pm ET (CBS/NFLN/Amazon)
The Patriots’ regular Thursday night game will take one week later place against another NFC South team: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. New England will have to travel south on a short week to face the team built by former Patriots director of player personnel Jason Licht.
Week 6: October 15 (Sunday): at New York Jets, 1:00 pm ET (CBS)
After a long five non-divisional games, the Patriots will travel to New York to face the Jets. Unless New York is able to greatly improve what appears to be a roster built for a losing season, New England will likely be highly favored entering the game. And per usual, it might be a tougher matchup than expected.
Week 7: October 22 (Sunday): vs. Atlanta Falcons, 8:30 pm ET (NBC)
The biggest game on the schedule will take place in prime time – and rightfully so. The rematch of Super Bowl LI, which New England won 34-28 in overtime, will see the Patriots host the Falcons on Sunday night, two teams that once again should be among the best in the league.
Week 8: October 29 (Sunday): vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1:00 pm ET (CBS)
The recently relocated Chargers were an attractive option to open the season against in order to showcase the team in a prime time spot. Instead, Los Angeles’ second team will visit Foxboro at 1:00 pm on an October afternoon, despite the high quality quarterback battle of Tom Brady against Philip Rivers.
Week 9: BYE
For the second straight year, the Patriots’ bye week is placed rather conveniently.
Week 10: November 12 (Sunday): at Denver Broncos, 8:30 pm ET (NBC)
After their bye week, the Patriots will travel to Denver to take on one of the NFL’s toughest defenses in prime time. Last year, coming off a short week, New England was able to win a close contest. With an extra week of rest, will the team do the same in 2017?
Week 11: November 19 (Sunday): at Oakland Raiders, 4:25 pm ET (CBS; in Mexico City)
With a second high altitude game in the west one week after visiting Denver, the Patriots might opt to stay on the road instead of traveling back to New England again. In Mexico City, the team will face a tough opponent that projects to be in the race for the AFC’s top seed yet again.
Week 12: November 26 (Sunday): vs Miami Dolphins, 1:00 pm ET (CBS)
One of the more curious parts of the Patriots’ schedule is the fact that the divisional games are all more or less clustered together late in the year. Before the team’s week 12 game against the visiting Dolphins, New England has one game against an AFC East opponent on its agenda.
Week 13: December 3 (Sunday): at Buffalo Bills, 1:00 pm ET (CBS)
The Patriots’ first meeting with the Buffalo Bills will take place on the first weekend in December. At that point of the season, Buffalo’s new head coach Sean McDermott will already have some experience under his belt. Will he have some wins too? That remains to be seen, which is why the 1:00 pm slot makes sense at the moment.
Week 14: December 11 (Monday): at Miami Dolphins, 8:30 pm ET (ESPN)
Two weeks after meeting the Dolphins for the first time, the Patriots will see them again. This time on the road and in prime time. The slot actually is a good one for the team, though, as it will not have to struggle with the Florida heat as much as it usually does.
Week 15: December 17 (Sunday): at Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:25 pm ET (CBS)
Coming off its Monday night game in Miami, New England will travel to Pittsburgh – the third straight road game – to take on the Steelers. Interestingly enough, the rematch of last year’s AFC title game will not take place in prime time. It does, however, project to have major implications on the AFC’s playoff seeding.
Week 16: December 24 (Sunday): vs. Buffalo Bills, 1:00 pm ET (CBS)
Just three weeks after first playing against the Bills, the Patriots will host them in week 16. With the game against the Steelers one week earlier, the race for the AFC’s top seed might be decided by then. If it is not, New England has the advantage of facing two opponents, who they should be able to beat under normal circumstances.
Week 17: December 31 (Sunday): vs. New York Jets, 1:00 pm ET (CBS)
On New Year’s Eve, the Patriots will close out the regular season against their division rival from New York. Depending on the 16 prior weeks, the team might be able to rest some of its starters by then. If that is not the case, it will try to not let the last day of the year get spoiled by the Jets.
Overall, New England’s schedule projects to be a tough one, mainly because of how the games were placed by the league. What particularly stands out are the facts that five of the Patriots’ six divisional games will take place after week 11 and that the team will play five road games in a six-week span after its bye. The road ahead will be an entertaining but difficult one for the defending world champions.