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Bengals will be up first

Patriots to open at Gillette again

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / April 21, 2010

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At long last, the NFL released its 2010 schedule last night, an unveiling delayed by the league’s desire to have all Week 17 games be divisional ones. The intent is to minimize the times playoff teams sit their starters.

That means the Patriots will wrap up their regular season at home against Miami.

They’ll open Sept. 12, hosting the Bengals at 1 p.m. It is the third straight season New England will open at Gillette Stadium.

The next week, the Patriots play the Jets in New York’s sparkling new stadium, the third straight season the Patriots have been at the Meadowlands in Week 2. That means they will not have to face new Jets receiver Santonio Holmes until the AFC East rivals’ second meeting, in December. Holmes will miss the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Also official is that Detroit’s annual Thanksgiving game will be against New England at 12:30 p.m.

Other items of interest:

■ The Patriots’ bye is in Week 5; last year it was in Week 8.

■ Six of the eight home games are against teams that made the playoffs in 2009, and three will come in a brutal October stretch coming off the bye, when the Patriots face Baltimore, travel to San Diego, and host Minnesota.

■ The Patriots will be under the lights in prime time four times. They play at Miami Monday night, Oct. 4; are at Pittsburgh Sunday, Nov. 14 (a game embattled Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger likely will be available for); host the Jets Monday night Dec. 6; and host Green Bay Sunday, Dec. 19.

■ New England will see AFC East opponents the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins in weeks 2 through 4 and weeks 13, 16 and 17. That leaves seven straight contests against non-divisional foes in the middle of the schedule.

■ The Patriots play back-to-back road games just once, traveling to Cleveland and Pittsburgh, respectively, Nov. 7 and 14.

■ The final five games of the season are all cold-weather, outdoor games, including contests at Chicago and Buffalo.

■ According to the NFL, New England has the sixth-toughest schedule in the league and will travel 13,590 miles.

The Texans have the toughest schedule, while San Francisco will travel 33,264 miles.

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