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    Analysis: Patriots 2013 schedule

    Jim Davis/Globe Staff

    What can the Patriots look forward to this season? Examine the details of their 16-game schedule, with a look back at memorable past matchups against this year’s opponents.

    Sept. 8, 1 p.m. CBS | at BUFFALO

    E.J. Manuel leads the new-look Bills into the 2013 season. Lucky him. The rookie first-round draft pick now has to face Bill Belichick’s defense in his debut. Unlucky him. That recurring nightmare he’s had all week? It stars Mr. Vince Wilfork. When healthy, tailback Fred Jackson is a beast. And C.J. Spiller is electric.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

    Record: 64-41-1 (.608)

    Points for: 2,321

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    Points against: 1,942

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    Last meeting: Dec. 11, 2012

    Result: NE, 37-31

    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Bills beat the Patriots, 31-0, Sept. 7, 2003? The win came days after Patriots stalwart Lawyer Milloy was cut and signed by the Bills. He had a sack and five tackles in the win.

    Sept. 12, 8:25 p.m. NFL Network | NY JETS (Thursday)

    Geno Smith leads the same-old Jets into the 2013 season. Lucky him. The rookie second-round pick will spearhead an offense that is sorely lacking playmakers. Unlucky him. He’ll have to become one fast to give Gang Green any chance at success. He has the arm and feet to be one. His decision making is another issue. Inside linebacker David Harris is the best player on a decent defense.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

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    Record: 55-52-1 (.514)

    Points for: 2,466

    Points against: 2,278

    Last meeting: Nov. 22, 2012

    Result: NE, 49-19

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    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Jets beat the Patriots, 34-31, in OT Nov. 11, 2008? After Randy Moss’s tiptoe TD catch (from Matt Cassel) tied it with 1 second left in regulation, the Jets won on Jay Feely’s 34-yard FG.

    Sept. 22, 1:00 p.m. FOX | TAMPA BAY

    After a successful summer get-together (well, except for the Great Tom Brady knee injury panic), the Buccaneers return (hopefully without any MRSA) for some real football. QB Josh Freeman no longer looks like he’s on the fast track and rookie Mike Glennon has all the tools. Receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams make a nice pair. Here’s a shocker: Jeff Demps has been a nonfactor this summer.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

    Record: 5-2 (.714)

    Points for: 159

    Points against: 90

    Last meeting: Oct. 25, 2009

    Result: NE, 35-7

    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Patriots beat the Bucs, 10-7, in OT Dec. 11, 1988? After losing the first 10 OT games in franchise history, the Patriots broke through when Jason Staurovsky nailed a 27-yarder.

    Sept. 29, 8:30 p.m. NBC | at ATLANTA

    Matty “Ice’’ Ryan (that nickname never gets old) is the best QB in the NFL not named Brady or Rodgers. He’s supremely confident and smart and has a great arm. Did you know ex-BCer Dominique Davis is the backup? Ryan has a great group of receivers, including tight end Tony Gonzalez, who celebrated his 83d birthday over the winter. Mike Smith is an underrated coach and the Falcons are tremendous at home.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

    Record: 6-6 (.500)

    Points for: 219

    Points against: 277

    Last meeting: Sept. 27, 2009

    Result: NE, 26-10

    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Falcons beat the Patriots, 34-0, on Nov. 29, 1992? In a battle of legendary QBs Scott Zolak (9 of 16, 58 yards, 2 INTs) and Billy Joe Tolliver (9 of 18 107 yards, 2 TDs), the Falcons rolled.

    Oct. 6, 1 p.m. CBS | at CINCINNATI

    There’s no way Marvin Lewis survives another season without at least a playoff win, right? QB Andy Dalton has some nice weapons around him in receiver A.J. Green and TEs Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert. BenJarvus Green-Ellis churned out another 1,000-yard season and rookie Giovani Bernard is dynamic. Second-year LB Vontaze Burfict (how did he go undrafted?) plays with an edge.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

    Record: 14-8 (.636)

    Points for: 440

    Points against: 471

    Last meeting: Sept. 12, 2010

    Result: NE, 38-24

    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Patriots beat the Bengals, 7-2, on Dec. 12, 1993? Drew Bledsoe was underwhelming (11 of 22, 106 yards, 1 TD) but David Klinger was worse (9 of 25, 89 yards, 1 INT).

    Oct. 13, 4:25 p.m. FOX | NEW ORLEANS

    Sean Payton — and a sense of normalcy — returns to New Orleans. Truth be told, last season’s 7-9 mark was pretty impressive considering the Bountygate scandal. It’ll be better this year. Drew Brees is still a tremendously accurate passer with excellent vision — if there’s a mismatch, he’ll find it. Pass catchers Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston are excellent. This could be the last dance for once-elite LB Jonathan Vilma.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

    Record: 8-4 (.667)

    Points for: 270

    Points against: 252

    Last meeting: Nov. 30, 2009

    Result: NO, 38-17

    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Patriots beat the Saints, 7-0, on Dec. 4, 1983? Mosi Tatupu rushed for 128 yards and Tony Collins scored a TD. You’re a big fan if remember Fred Steinfort, who kicked the PAT.

    Oct. 20, 1 p.m. CBS | at NY JETS

    Remember when the Patriots beat the Jets, 49-19, on Nov. 22, 2012? Of course you do. ESPN has been doing its part by reminding you of Mark Sanchez’s butt fumble once a week for nearly a year now.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

    Record: 55-52-1 (.514)

    Points for: 2,466

    Points against: 2,278

    Last meeting: Nov. 22, 2012

    Result: NE, 49-19

    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Patriots beat the Jets, 49-19, on Nov. 22, 2012? Of course you do. ESPN has been doing its part by reminding you of Mark Sanchez’s butt fumble once a week for nearly a year now.

    Oct. 27, 1 p.m. CBS | MIAMI

    There’s reason for optimism at Sun Life Stadium (yes this facility is on its seventh name) after going 38-42 over the last five seasons. QB Ryan Tannehill (admit, he is better than you thought) is smart, athletic, and more importantly, fearless. The loss of Dustin Keller is crushing but with Mike Wallace, the Fish can stretch the field. Joe Philbin’s squad represents the only real threat to the Patriots in the AFC East.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

    Record: 45-50 (.474)

    Points for: 1,983

    Points against: 2,047

    Last meeting: Dec. 30, 2012

    Result: NE, 28-0

    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Patriots beat the Dolphins, 3-0, on Dec. 12, 1982? John Smith nailed 33-yard field goal after Mark Henderson cleared a path with his snow plow. Poor Don Shula is still furious.

    Nov. 3, 4:25 p.m. CBS | PITTSBURGH

    The Steelers are getting old and their lack of a running game puts even more pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, who will have to be at his Houdini-best this season (no 6-5 man in history has better escapability than Big Ben). The linebacking corps isn’t what it used to be (no Farrior, no Harrison, no bite). Troy Polamalu is still special but he’s always hurt. Those Terrible Towels? They’ll be wiping many a tear this season.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

    Record: 11-15 (.423)

    Points for: 536

    Points against: 566

    Last meeting: Oct. 30, 2011

    Result: Pit, 25-17

    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Patriots beat the Steelers, 24-17, on Jan. 27, 2002? Quite possibly Drew Bledsoe’s finest moment as a Patriot as he takes over for an injured Tom Brady and throws a TD pass to highlight a 24-17 upset victory in the AFC Championship game.

    Nov. 10: Bye

    Nov. 18, 8:40 p.m. ESPN | at CAROLINA (Monday)

    The Panthers are in a tough spot because the NFC South is, well, tough. They ended 2012 on a four-game winning streak (saving Ron Rivera’s job) and Cam Newton will win some games by himself. If he can continue to improve on his reads, this offense will surprise. The addition of rookie defensive tackles Star Lotulelei (what a name!) and Kawaan Short will make wrecking ball LB Luke Kuechly even more dangerous.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

    Record: 3-2 (.600)

    Points for: 124

    Points against: 92

    Last meeting: Dec. 13, 2009

    Result: NE, 20-10

    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Patriot beat the Panthers, 32-29, on Feb. 1. 2004? Adam Vinatieri came to the rescue again, blasting a 41-yard field goal (assist to Carolina’s Jon Kasay) that featured a combined 37 points scored in the fourth quarter.

    Nov. 24, 8:30 p.m. NBC | DENVER

    Hmmm. Three excellent receivers and Peyton Manning at the helm? Yes yes, this team will be pretty good. And by pretty good, we mean book their ticket to the AFC Championship game. Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas already have a great rapport with Manning and now he has a new BFF in Wes Welker (little guy, great hands, great hair, that’s him). Oh yeah, and Von Miller will be back from his suspension to terrorize New England’s tackles.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

    Record: 19-27 (.413)

    Points for: 981

    Points against: 1,051

    Last meeting: Oct. 7, 2012

    Result: NE, 31-21

    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Patriots beat the Broncos, 30-26, on Nov. 3, 2003? Trailing, 24-23, Bill Belichick called for an intentional safety to try and change the field position. The strategy worked when Tom Brady hit David Givens with the winning TD with 30 seconds to go.

    Dec. 1, 4:25 p.m. CBS | at HOUSTON

    So, this is the Texans’ “Homecoming’’ game, huh? Does that mean after the beating Tom Brady goes to the postgame cotillion and is named Homecoming King after stealing Matt Schaub’s girlfriend? Despite their off-field tomfoolery, the Texans are good. And defensive end J.J. Watt is better than good. He is disruptive force as there is in the NFL. He can play inside, outside, and will even drop into coverage. Just a joy to watch.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

    Record: 4-1 (.800)

    Points for: 173

    Points against: 103

    Last meeting: Jan. 13, 2013

    Result: NE, 41-28

    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Texans beat the Patriots, 34-27, on Jan. 3, 2010? This one hurt and it and had nothing to do with the loss. Wes Welker suffered a devastating knee injury on New England’s first series and the Patriots were KO’d by the Ravens the next week.

    Dec. 8, 1 p.m. CBS | CLEVELAND

    It’s yet another rebuilding year in Cleveland. Rookie coach Rob Chudzinksi will be reaching for the Tums often as he tries to identify leaders for the offense (QB Brandon Weeden is the leader in the clubhouse) and defense (LB D’Qwell Jackson is good place to start). Rookie LB Barkevious Mingo will be a good one but in typical Browns luck, he has been slowed by a mysterious bruised lung suffered in an exhibition game. God bless the Dawg Pound denizens.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

    Record: 9-13 (.409)

    Points for: 365

    Points against: 409

    Last meeting: Nov. 7, 2010

    Result: Cle, 34-14

    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Browns beat the Patriots, 20-13, on Jan 1, 1995? Cleveland picked off Drew Bledsoe three times then held off a late rally to secure the win. Oh, and it was the lone playoff victory of Bill Belichick’s tenure in Cleveland.

    Dec. 15, 1 p.m. CBS | at MIAMI

    Ah, a trip to South Florida in December. How nice. No matter the records, the Dolphins are rarely a pushover in their own place. If Ryan Tannehill continues to develop, he could make this game interesting because he can extend plays with his feet and he has capable receivers in the speedy Mike Wallace and the dependable Brian Hartline. Defensively, Joe Philbin needs somebody, anybody (other than Cameron Wake) to emerge.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

    Record: 45-50 (.474)

    Points for: 1,983

    Points against: 2,047

    Last meeting: Dec. 30, 2012

    Result: NE, 28-0

    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Patriots beat the Dolphins, 31-14, on Jan. 12, 1986? The Patriots squished the fish, using a punishing ground game (Craig James, Robert Weathers, and Tony Collins combined for 253 yards) for the AFC Championship win.

    Dec. 22, 8:30 p.m. NBC | at BALTIMORE

    No, New England it wasn’t a bad dream. The Ravens (and Ray Lewis) really did win the Super Bowl. A lot of the names and faces have changed (Lewis, Dannell Ellerbee, and Ed Reed are gone) but this defense is still scary. With Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil (oh, Mr. Elway what were you thinking?), Baltimore may have the league’s best pass-rushing tandem. Offensively, Joe Flacco is a rock at QB but his receivers is lacking. Ray Rice is terrific.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

    Record: 7-3 (.700)

    Points for: 247

    Points against: 221

    Last meeting: Jan. 20, 2013

    Result: Bal, 28-13

    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Patriots beat the Ravens, 27-24, on Dec. 3, 2007? With their undefeated season in serious jeopardy, the Patriots rallied, pulling out the win on Jabar Gaffney’s 8-yard TD catch from Tom Brady with 44 seconds left.

    Dec. 29, 1 p.m. CBS | BUFFALO

    If everything has gone according to plan, this season finale will feature E.J. Manuel running the Bills’ offense and Ryan Mallett running the Patriots’ offense – for very different reasons. Barring a catastrophe, this should feel a lot like the fourth exhibition game with Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork watching from the sideline as Manuel tries to make hay against New England’s backups. Maybe we’ll even see Mallett throw a TD pass.

    Vs. opponent (including playoffs)

    Record: 64-41-1 (.608)

    Points for: 2,321

    Points against: 1,942

    Last meeting: Dec. 11, 2012

    Result: NE, 37-31

    Memorable matchup: Remember when the Patriots beat the Bills, 31-0, on Dec. 27, 2003? New England turned the tables on Bills, avenging the 31-0 whitewashing in the season opener. Tom Brady (who else?) led the way, throwing for 204 yards and four TDs.