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Patriots 2018 schedule release: Instant analysis, opponents, game times, primetime matchups, and more

Take a look at New England's schedule.

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After weeks of speculations and hours of leaks and rumors it has now been confirmed: The New England Patriots' quest to recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy will begin on September 9, at 1:00 p.m. ET at Gillette Stadium. The NFL has now officially released the team's 2018 regular season schedule – and it's time to take a closer look at it:

Week 1: vs Houston Texans (Sunday, September 9, 1:00 PM)

For the second year in a row, New England will open its regular season at home. The first game of the year against the visiting Houston Texans projects to be an interesting matchup considering how close last year's meeting between the two teams was – one that was not decided until Tom Brady delivered one of his patented come-from-behind game-winning drives.

Week 2: at Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday, September 16, 4:25 PM)

New England's first road game of the season takes place in week two, when the team will fly to Florida to face the Jaguars. The story of the contest will obviously be related to the last time the two teams met: The Patriots defeated Jacksonville in thrilling fashion during the 2017 AFC Championship Game.

Week 3: at Detroit Lions (Sunday, September 23, 8:20 PM)

The Patriots' week three game – the team's first of six prime-time contests – also has a rather compelling storyline as the team will meet a familiar face: Matt Patricia, who served as New England's defensive coordinator before becoming the Lions head coach earlier this offseason. Of course, a quarterback matchup between Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford is not too shabby either.

Week 4: vs Miami Dolphins (Sunday, September 30, 1:00 PM)

Coming off two straight road games against the Jaguars and Lions, the Patriots will return to Foxboro in week four for their first AFC East game of the season, a 1:00 PM meeting with the Dolphins. As is the case one week earlier, New England will also face an old friend as wide receiver Danny Amendola is now a member of the Patriots' division rivals.

Week 5: vs Indianapolis Colts (Thursday, October 4, 8:20 PM)

Just like last year, the Patriots' Thursday night game will happen in week five. This season's Thursday nighter, however, will come with a lot more intriguing storylines: Not only is it the first time that the Colts visit Foxboro since the infamous Deflategate meeting in January 2015, the game also sees Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels go against the team he left at the head coaching altar in February.

Week 6: vs Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, October 14, 8:20 PM)

The second straight primetime game is a rematch of last season's season opener, a game Kansas City won rather decisively. The Patriots will be out for revenge when they go against one of the most talented offenses in football – but one that will be led by first-year starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Week 7: at Chicago Bears (Sunday, October 21, 1:00 PM)

As compelling as the first six contests are on paper, the Patriots' week seven game in Chicago is – at least at the moment – one of the lesser anticipated matchups on the schedule. Of course, there is still plenty of time for that to change especially if Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is able to improve after a rather underwhelming rookie campaign.

Week 8: at Buffalo Bills (Monday, October 29, 8:15 PM)

For the first time since the 1999 season, the Patriots and Bills are meeting after both teams were in the playoffs the previous season. New England's second AFC East matchup of the year will see the team go against a remodeled Buffalo offense that will see new faces at quarterback and two interior offensive line positions.

Week 9: vs Green Bay Packers (Sunday, November 4, 8:20 PM)

One of the biggest games on the Patriots' regular season calendar will take place in week nine: a meeting between the NFL's two best quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. It should be a fun meeting not just because of the passers, though, as New England and Green Bay field two of the most talented teams in the league.

Week 10: at Tennessee Titans (Sunday, November 11, 1:00 PM)

Considering their recent offseason moves, the Titans are giving the Texans a run for their “Patriots South”-money. Not only did Tennessee hire former New England linebacker Mike Vrabel as its new head coach, the team also added running back Dion Lewis and cornerback Malcolm Butler via free agency. They will all host their former team in week 10.

Week 11: BYE WEEK

While a little later than last year, the bye week is place conveniently for the Patriots.

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Week 12: at New York Jets (Sunday, November 25, 1:00 PM)

Both the Patriots and the Jets are coming out of their bye weeks when they meet in week 12. The game, however, is not projected to be a must-watch affair at the moment – despite the rivalry aspect and the fact that New York will likely start one of the top quarterbacks to enter this year's draft.

Week 13: vs Minnesota Vikings (Sunday, December 2, 4:25 PM)

The Patriots' final game against the NFC North could very well be the toughest one, despite being played at Gillette Stadium. After all, the Vikings made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game last year and have one of the best top-to-bottom rosters in the league – one that has only gotten better with the team adding free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Week 14: at Miami Dolphins (Sunday, December 9, 1:00 PM)

As has been the case last year, the Patriots' game in Miami will take place in December, which is certainly something New England welcomes considering the Florida heat in September and October. Then again, the team was unable to take advantage of the favorable scheduling last year.

Week 15: at Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, December 16, 4:25 PM)

Week 15, just like last year, will arguably see the most highly-anticipated regular season game for both the Patriots and the Steelers. The rematch of last year's thriller will once again take place in Pittsburgh and see the projected top two teams in the AFC battle for conference supremacy.

Week 16: vs Buffalo Bills (Sunday, December 23, 1:00 PM)

December 23 will see the Bills visit Gillette Stadium for the two teams' second meeting of the season. Buffalo, of course, has only once beaten the Patriots in Foxboro since Tom Brady became the team's starting quarterback – in week 17 of the 2014 season when Brady and most starters did not play all four quarters.

Week 17: vs New York Jets (Sunday, December 30, 1:00 PM)

Just like last year, New England will close out its 2018 regular season by hosting the Jets. Ideally, the Patriots have already locked up the first-overall seed at that point and will be able to sit the majority of its core players.