If you like watching the Patriots on television, you're in luck -- New England is featured in four primetime games as part of the 2011 NFL schedule that was released Tuesday night, as well as eight games in the 4:15 p.m. ET Sunday time slot (the Pats have just four 1 p.m. starts all season).
The primetime schedule begins in Week 1, when the Patriots travel to the Miami Dolphins for the Monday Night Football opener (7 p.m., ESPN). New England has back-to-back primetime games in November, playing at the new York Jets Sunday night (Week 10) and then hosting the Kansas City Chiefs the following Monday night (Week 11). Their annual matchup with the Colts, this one in Gillette Stadium, is also a Sunday night affair.
Overall, the Patriots have the 16th toughest schedule, playing opponents that went a combined 129-127 in 2010, and a bye in Week 7, which is almost a best-case scenario. So what's the toughest stretch?
Three of first four on the road to start the season isn't easy, but the most difficult portion of the 2011 schedule will likely be the six games right after the bye: at Steelers (12-4 in 2010), Giants (10-6), at Jets (11-5), Chiefs (10-6), at Eagles (10-6) and Colts (10-6). Of those six teams, only the Giants didn't make the playoffs last season.
And for those keeping track at home, the Patriots will travel a total of 14,610 miles, but that includes just two trips west of Pennsylvania (Denver and Oakland). In fact, between Weeks 5 and 15, the furthest the Pats will travel is Pittsburgh.
The full schedule is below, courtesy of NFL.com:
|1||Mon, Sept. 12||at Miami Dolphins||ESPN||7 p.m.|
|2||Sun, Sept. 18||vs. San Diego Chargers||CBS||4:15 p.m.|
|3||Sun, Sept. 25||at Buffalo Bills||CBS||1 p.m.|
|4||Sun, Oct. 2||at Oakland Raiders||CBS||4:15 p.m.|
|5||Sun, Oct. 9||vs. New York Jets||CBS||4:15 p.m.|
|6||Sun, Oct. 16||vs. Dallas Cowboys||FOX||4:15 p.m.|
|8||Sun, Oct. 30||at Pittsburgh Steelers||CBS||4:15 p.m.|
|9||Sun, Nov. 6||vs. New York Giants||FOX||4:15 p.m.|
|10||Sun, Nov. 13||at New York Jets||NBC||8:20 p.m.|
|11||Mon, Nov. 21||vs. Kansas City Chiefs||ESPN||8:30 p.m.|
|12||Sun, Nov. 27||at Philadelphia Eagles||CBS||4:15 p.m.|
|13||Sun, Dec. 4||vs. Indianapolis Colts||NBC||8:20 p.m.|
|14||Sun, Dec. 11||at Washington Redskins||CBS||1 p.m.|
|15||Sun, Dec. 18||at Denver Broncos||CBS||4:15 p.m.|
|16||Sat, Dec. 24||vs. Miami Dolphins||CBS||1 p.m.|
|17||Sun, Jan. 1||vs. Buffalo Bills||CBS||1 p.m.|
Don't forget, the Sunday games in Weeks 11-17 can be "flexed" by the league into primetime and possibly the late-afternoon 4:15 p.m. slots.