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5 initial thoughts on 2017 Patriots schedule 04.20.17 at 8:09 pm ET
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Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will open the 2017 year at home against the Chiefs. (Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will open the 2017 year at home against the Chiefs. (Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

Get your fall and winter calendars ready, the 2017 Patriots schedule is out.

Key games are the season opener on Thursday, Sept. 7 at home against Chiefs in the annual NFL Kickoff Game, and then a Super Bowl LI rematch on Sunday Night Football Oct. 22, also at Gillette Stadium.

At first glance, this is a much tougher slate than they had last season, as there are no layup games against the Browns, 49ers, etc. They have nine games against teams that finished with above .500 records last year.

Here are five initial thoughts on the schedule.

1. Late division games. The biggest thing that stands out is how many division games the Patriots will play so late in the year. Five out of the last six games will be against AFC East opponents. The only exception is Week 15 when they play at Pittsburgh, which will be far from easy. The first division game the Patriots will play is Week 6 against the Jets. In recent years teams have played the final two games within the division, but five out of the last six is very unusual. New England will be home the last two weeks of the season meaning it won’t need to travel on Christmas Eve or New Years Eve. Fortunately for the Patriots, historically they play their best football after Thanksgiving and should be ready for this stretch.

2. Back-to-back altitude games. Following the bye, the Patriots will play at Denver in Week 10 on Sunday Night Football and then in Mexico City the following Sunday, Nov. 19 against the Raiders. This seems like a perfect opportunity for the Patriots to spend a week out west to avoid a lot of cross-country flights. The team did this in 2014 when they stayed in San Diego and went very well. Another factor is both games will be played in higher altitudes, so maybe a week in Denver could be in store in between the two games. This will help the Patriots get used to the altitude, as well as avoid multiple long trips.

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