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Breaking down the Patriots’ 2012 opponents

As they seek to defend their AFC title, the Patriots will face a challenging schedule in 2012. The Boston Globe breaks down the games on the cusp of the season:

Sept. 9: at Tennessee, 1 p.m., Ch. 4

Welcome to the NFL, Jake Locker. Getting your first career start against a Bill Belichick defense is kinda like taking a trigonometry final when you’ve been studying Algebra 1 all semester.

Sept. 16: vs. Arizona, 1 p.m., Ch. 25

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What a wonderful pair of receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and rookie Michael Floyd. Ken Whisenhunt is still accepting applications for the position of starting QB, however.

Sept. 23: at Baltimore, 8:20 p.m., Ch.7

Ray Lewis and the Ravens will welcome the Patriots on Sept. 23.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Ray Lewis and the Ravens will welcome the Patriots on Sept. 23.

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis (entering his 41st season) is still a scary hombre and awfully fun to watch. Not as fun as watching coach John Harbaugh wince and whine at the refs, though.

Sept. 30: at Buffalo, 1 p.m., Ch. 4

The Bills cut Vince Young and traded for Tarvaris Jackson. And you thought they were the same person. They are: ineffective backup QBs. Another long season looms in Orchard Park, N.Y.

Oct. 7: vs. Denver, 4:25 p.m., Ch. 4

Peyton Manning returns to his former House of Horrors. He doesn’t have to worry about Ty Law spoiling his afternoon, but he may want to watch out for that Chandler Jones kid.

Oct. 14: at Seattle, 4:05 p.m., Ch. 4

Russell Wilson has been turning heads for so long; it should come as no surprise that he won the Seahawks’ starting job. The rookie’s head will be the one spinning after this game.

Oct. 21: vs. NY Jets, 4:25 p.m., Ch. 4

So maybe Brian Schottenheimer wasn’t the problem after all? New OC Tony Sparano’s offense has looked a lot like Schotty’s: abysmal. Doesn’t matter which hunky QB gets the nod. Patriots roll.

Oct. 28: vs. St. Louis (at London), 1 p.m., Ch. 4

Sam Bradford is about due for a breakout season to justify that $86 million rookie contract. A quick check of the Rams roster and it’s apparent this season ain’t that season.

Nov 4: Bye Week

Nov. 11: vs. Buffalo, 1 p.m., Ch. 4

Ryan Fitzpatrick makes his annual trip back to the Boston area just as Bills beat writers start their long compositions about whom the franchise will select with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Nov. 18: vs. Indianapolis, 1 p.m., Ch. 4

Andrew Luck may be the rare rookie QB who can decipher Bill Belichick’s defense. Just kidding. The rebuilding Colts will take their lumps this day. Can’t wait to read Jim Irsay’s tweets throughout the game.

Nov. 22: at NY Jets, Thursday, 8:20 p.m., Ch. 7

Easy on the turkey, big fella. Too much tryptophan and you could fall asleep before the start of this Thanksgiving matchup. Prime time Patriots-Jets is about as good as it gets. Mom’s stuffing notwithstanding.

Dec. 2: at Miami, 1 p.m., Ch. 4

New Dolphins coach Joe Philbin seems like a great guy and a great coach. But after watching “Hard Knocks” this season only two words can describe this team – bad, boring.

Dec. 10: vs. Houston, 8:30 p.m., Ch. 5/ESPN

There’s no excuse for Houston not having its division sewn up by this point. Except of course injuries, and the Texans seem to suffer big ones. If they avoid them, this will be a goodie.

Dec. 16: vs. San Francisco, 8:20 p.m., Ch. 7

Randy Moss makes his return to Foxborough in what could be a Super Bowl preview. You’ve got to love coach Jim Harbaugh’s enthusiasm. Unless, of course, your name is Jim Schwartz.

Dec. 23: at Jacksonville, 1 p.m., Ch. 4

With Maurice Jones-Drew’s holdout over, we can expect the Jaguars won’t be 3-12 at this point. But will they be that much better? It’s no wonder they want to play half their games in London.

Dec. 30: vs. Miami, 1 p.m., Ch. 4

If all goes according to plan, this one will look an awful lot like last year’s exhibition finale: No Tom Brady, lots of Ryan Mallett, and not a whole lot of fun.

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