Pinning down the Patriots in prime time

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Pinning down the Patriots in prime time

Another national holiday for the NFL, "Schedule Release Tuesday!"

Yes, we all know who the opponents are for every team, but the order in which those opponents will be played matters.

How's the early schedule? Who's playing in cold-weather cities late? Which games are in prime-time? Can I sell my tickets to the Jaguars game to some sap?

Some swaths of the media sneer at the excitement over the schedule release. Those would be people who don't plan their yearly entertainment around the NFL team they root for, the people whose fall and winter recreational schedule is unveiled today.

Eight of the Patriots 16 games are against opponents that finished with records of .500 or better. The fact the Pats play the 2-14 Rams (in London) and the 2-14 Colts (in Foxboro) drags their opponents combined winning percentage down to .453, lowest in the NFL.

The Patriots will be loaded up with prime-time games. Teams can play in prime time a maximum of five times and you have to figure they'll hit the max.

The Patriots will almost definitely play the Peyton Manning-led Broncos and the Jets in prime time.

Other strong possibilities are the 49ers, Texans and Ravens. The Bills, who have added Mario Williams, are also in the mix there.

The NFL last year made it a priority to have teams play divisional opponents early in the season and in the closing weeks.

The Patriots played three of their first five last year against AFC opponents (opening in Miami on Monday night). They closed with two AFC East games (Dolphins, Bills), both at home.

There's a good chance the Patriots will have to close on the road this year. Since the Patriots are playing in London against the Bucs in October, they will have their bye week after that game.

Here's a list of the Patriots 2012 opponents.

HOME
Niners
Texans
Broncos
Jets
Cards
Dolphins
Bills
Colts

AWAY
Ravens
Titans
Jets
Seahawks
Dolphins
Bills
Jaguars
Rams

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More to come. . .