After playing inside — at Ford Field — on Thanksgiving, New England closes its schedule with five cold-weather games. Trips to Buffalo and Chicago and two primetime home games are part of that. Some more pieces picked up from the schedule release:
Dividing up the division games: The Patriots face division opponents in Weeks 2 (at Jets), 3 (Buffalo) and 4 (at Miami), then get a seven-game respite from AFC East competition, before going back around the circuit in Weeks 13 (Jets), 16 (at Buffalo) and 17 (Miami). Part of that is the league’s plan to place division games at the end of the schedule, to try and prevent playoff-bound teams from mailing in games.
But this schedule oddity brings an interesting dynamic of getting to see the opponents a team is most familiar with in, potentially, much different states. Just think about how different facing, say, Denver was last year in Week 3 vs. facing the Broncos in Week 15.
Monitoring the suspensions: The Patriots caught a break by getting the Jets in the first four weeks of the season, meaning they’ll face Gang Green with Santonio Holmes under a league suspension in their first trip to the Meadowlands.
On the flip side, getting the Steelers in Week 10 means that the Pittsburgh team the Patriots will face will likely have Ben Roethlisberger back. What’s more, he’ll probably have at least a few games under his belt by then.
Early bye gives way to brutal stretch: Ideally, you get your bye in the middle of the season, and the Patriots have been lucky in this regard lately. Not this time around. They get their week off after four games in 2010.
That’s followed by a six-game stretch with five potential beasts (Ravens, Chargers, Vikings, Steelers, Colts). You have to wonder if the team will get worn down late in the year because the bye comes early.
The Thanksgiving effect: The Patriots get a home game the Sunday before Thanksgiving. But it’s against the Colts. So there’s good and bad there. The bad could be mitigated by the fact that the Lions have to travel to Dallas and face what should be a very good Cowboys team the Sunday prior to Turkey Day.
On the other end of the holiday, both the Jets and Patriots will be coming off long layoffs. The Jets play Thanksgiving night against the Bengals, and the two teams have what could be a very important game on Monday, Dec. 6.
Pats-Colts losing luster?: The placement of the Patriots-Colts game is interesting, since it’s been during the November sweeps for the last five years running.
This year? That weekend has Colts-Eagles as its big afternoon game, and Packers-Cowboys as the Sunday nighter.