The New England Patriots will have a chance to ease into their 2013, playing their first three games against opponents that didn't make the postseason -- the Buffalo Bills, the New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After opening up in Buffalo on September 8 at 1 p.m., the Patriots will play their first of four prime-time games the following Thursday just four days later, hosting the Jets and Tim Tebow.
Aside from that prime-time game, the Patriots are at Atlanta on September 29 for Sunday Night Football. The Patriots' next one after that comes after their well-placed bye week after Week 10 when they visit the Panthers for Monday Night Football.
Less than a week later the red star, double-circled premier game of the AFC season is the Patriots hosting Wes Welker and the Denver Broncos on NBC on November 24.
That’s the middle of the Patriots' tough stretch where they follow up by playing at Houston on December 1.
The tough stretch begins when the Patriots follow up their game against the Atlanta Falcons with a road game against the Cincinnati Bengals and then host the New Orleans Saints (who would presumably be better with Sean Payton in the mix) and then play in New York against the Jets on October 20.
The complete schedule:
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8 at Buffalo 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 2: Thursday, Sept. 12 New York Jets 8:25 p.m. ET
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22 Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29 at Atlanta 8:30 p.m. ET
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6 at Cincinnati 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13 New Orleans 4:25 p.m. ET
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20 at New York Jets 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27 Miami 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3 Pittsburgh 4:25 p.m. ET
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10 BYE WEEK
Week 11: Monday, Nov. 18 at Carolina 8:40 p.m. ET
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24 Denver 8:30 p.m. ET
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1 at Houston 4:25 p.m. ET
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8 Cleveland 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15 at Miami 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22 at Baltimore 8:30 p.m. ET
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29 Buffalo 1:00 p.m. ET