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Five incredibly early thoughts on Patriots 2014 regular-season schedule

04.23.14 at 8:23 pm ET
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Here’s the 2014 schedule for the Patriots:

Week 1: at Dolphins — Sept. 7, 1 p.m.
Week 2: at Vikings — Sept. 14, 1 p.m.
Week 3: vs. Raiders — Sept. 21, 1 p.m.
Week 4: at Chiefs — Sept. 29, 8:30 p.m.
Week 5: vs. Bengals — Oct. 5, 8:30 p.m.
Week 6: at Bills — Oct. 12, 1 p.m.
Week 7: vs. Jets — Oct. 16, 8:25 p.m.
Week 8: vs. Bears — Oct. 26, 1 p.m.
Week 9: vs. Broncos — Nov. 2, 4:25 p.m.
Week 10: Bye week
Week 11: at Colts — Nov. 16, 8:30 p.m.
Week 12: vs. Lions — Nov. 23, 1 p.m.
Week 13: at Packers — Nov. 30, 4:25 p.m.
Week 14: at Chargers — Dec. 7, 8:30 p.m.
Week 15: vs. Dolphins — Dec. 14, 1 p.m.
Week 16: at Jets — Dec. 21, 1 p.m.
Week 17: vs. Bills — Dec. 28, 1 p.m.

1. Prime-time players: For the second straight season — barring a flexed out game — New England will play five prime-time games. The Patriots will play back-to-back night games in Week 4 and Week 5 (at Kansas City and home against the Bengals), Week 7 (a Thursday night game in Foxboro against the New York Jets) and road games against Indianapolis on Nov. 16 (Week 11) and at San Diego on Dec. 7 (Week 14). By way of comparison, the Patriots had four prime-time games in 2012 and 2010, and three in 2011 and 2009. This season also marks the fifth straight year the Patriots will face the Jets at least once in prime time, and the third straight year that game will take place as a part of Thursday Night Football

2. Short weeks: The biggest turnaround for the Patriots comes in mid-October when the Patriots have clash with the Bills on Sunday, Oct. 12 in Orchard Park. Then, New England has to turn around and host the Jets the following Thursday night in Foxboro.

3. Bye week: The Patriots have a relatively good spot for their bye week, coming in Week 10 after what promises to be a monumental clash with the Broncos on Nov. 2, a Week 9 game in Foxboro. For what it’s worth, on average over the last decade, New England’s bye week has come in Week 7. This year marks the third time in a decade the Patriots will have their bye fall in Week 10 – they had it in 2007 and 2013. (The earliest bye week of the last decade came in Week 3, back in 2004.) Another positive as it relates to the bye week comes with the fact that New England will have 14 days between Peyton Manning and the Broncos (Nov. 2 in Foxboro) and Andrew Luck at the Colts (Nov. 16 in Indy). However, the bye comes in the middle of what is arguably the toughest stretch of the season for New England, a seven-game string that starts on a short week with the Jets, followed by home games against the Bears and Broncos. Coming out of the bye, the Patriots then travel to face the Colts, host the Lions, and then make their first visit to Green Bay since 2006 for a date with the Packers. It wraps up with a road game against the Chargers, the first true West Coast game since New England traveled to face Seattle in Oct. 2012.

4. Patriots-Broncos, or Brady-Manning, Chapter 16: The centerpiece of the regular season will undoubtedly be the Nov. 2 game between New England and Denver, set for 4:25 p.m. A rematch of last year’s AFC title contest, it figures to be the 16th meeting between Tom Brady and Manning. (Manning and the Broncos will have a full 10 days to prepare for the Patriots prior to the Nov. 2 game between New England and Denver.)

5. Road warriors: Last year, the Patriots played one regular-season games (Houston) and one postseason game (Denver) outside of the Eastern Time Zone. In 2014, the Patriots have four regular-season games outside of the Eastern Time Zone, including a date with the Chargers in San Diego (Qualcomm Stadium), as well as contests on the road against the Vikings (TCF Bank Stadium in Minnesota), Packers (Lambeau Field in Green Bay) and Chiefs (Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City). According to Google maps, a road trip to all eight regular-season road games — departing from Foxboro — would be 10,026 miles by car. That includes the Jets (207 miles to MetLife Stadium), as well as Chargers (2,981 miles from Gillette to Qualcomm by car). That’s in stark contrast to the 2013 schedule, which included 7,130 regular-season miles and just three regular-season road trips of 1,000 miles or more (Miami, Atlanta and Houston), with the December trip to face the Texans the longest at 1,839 miles.

(One more note, per our pal Nick Underhill of MassLive.com: Brandon Browner will miss the first four games of the 2014 season because of a violation of the league’s policy on PEDs. As a result, he won’t face Miami, Minnesota, Oakland and Kansas City.)

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