The NFL released the 2015 regular-season schedule Tuesday night.
In addition to their AFC East foes, the Patriots will face the NFC East and the AFC South, as well as AFC division winners Pittsburgh and Denver.
Here’s a look at who they’ll play, how they fared against them last season, and what’s changed for the opponents since last year. The NFL Draft is two weeks away, and the season opener is almost five months down the road.
Week 1: Pittsburgh Steelers
Game details: Thursday, Sept. 10, at Gillette Stadium, 7:30 p.m. (NBC)
Last year: (11-5, 1st in AFC North. Lost in wild card round): The Patriots did not face the Steelers last season.
What’s new: Pittsburgh has been hit hard by a pair of retirements in the secondary. Cornerback Ike Taylor and safety Troy Polamalu both decided to call it a career in the offseason. If Pittsburgh is the team selected to face the Patriots in the season opener, it could be without last year’s leading rusher, Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers running back is facing a three-game suspension for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. Bell is appealing the suspension.
Weeks 2 & 11: Buffalo Bills
Game details: Week 2 – Sunday, Sept. 20, at Buffalo, 1 p.m. (CBS); Week 11 – Monday, Nov. 23, at Gillette Stadium, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Last year (9-7, 2d in AFC East. Missed playoffs): In a game in which both Jerod Mayo and Stevan Ridley suffered season-ending injuries, the Patriots won at Buffalo, 37-22 in Week 6. Buffalo trekked to Gillette Stadium in Week 17, and with the Patriots having already clinched the best record in the AFC, Tom Brady only played in the first half of a 17-9 loss. The victory clinched the first winning season for the Bills in 10 years, and gave Buffalo its first win at Gillette Stadium.
What’s new: Despite experiencing their first winning season since 2004, Buffalo’s offseason got off to a rough start. Quarterback Kyle Orton retired, and soon after, head coach Doug Marrone opted out of his contract. Rex Ryan was named head coach, and the Bills went about revamping their offense, acquiring running back LeSean McCoy from Philadelphia for linebacker Kiko Alonso. They’ve also signed wide receiver Percy Harvin, tight end Charles Clay, and quarterback Matt Cassel.
Week 3: Jacksonville Jaguars
Game details: Sunday, Sept. 27, at Gillette Stadium 1 p.m. (CBS)
Last year: (3-13, 3rd in AFC South. Missed playoffs): The Patriots did not face the Jaguars last season.
What’s new: Jacksonville appears to be all set at quarterback with Blake Bortles. Now they have to surround him with talent. The Jaguars signed tight end Julius Thomas from the Broncos in the offseason. Defensive back Sergio Brown has come over from the Indianapolis Colts. Coach Gus Bradley will look to continue rebuild through the draft. The Jaguars have the third pick.
Week 4: bye
Week 5: Dallas Cowboys
Game details: Sunday, Oct. 11, at Dallas, 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Last year: (12-4, 1st in NFC East. Lost in divisional round): The Patriots did not face the Cowboys last season.
What’s new: Dallas appeared to be on its way to the NFC Championship, but a controversial call derailed the season. Gone is leading rusher DeMarco Murray, who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. In his place, for now, is former Oakland Raider Darren McFadden. The Cowboys could also try to acquire Adrian Peterson now that he has been reinstated. Defensively, they held on to Rolando McClain and added Greg Hardy.
Week 6: Indianapolis Colts
Game details: Sunday, Oct. 18, at Indianapolis, 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
Last year: (11-5, 1st in AFC South. Advanced to AFC Championship): The Patriots ran all over the Colts in a 42-20 win at Indianapolis in Week 11 behind Jonas Gray’s 201 yards rushing and four touchdowns. The Patriots then used a similar approach in the AFC Championship, throttling the Colts, 45-7, to advance to Super Bowl XLIX. LeGarrette Blount rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
What’s new: The Trent Richardson experiment has ended in Indianapolis. The Colts waived the running back in March. They appear to have made a significant upgrade by signing free agent Frank Gore. They’ve also bolstered their receiving corps, adding Andre Johnson and Vincent Brown. On defense, they released safety LaRon Landry.
Weeks 7 & 16: New York Jets
Game details: Week 7 – Sunday, Oct. 25, at Gillette Stadium, 1 p.m. (CBS); Week 16 – Sunday, Dec. 27, at NY Jets, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Last year: (4-12, 4th in AFC East. Missed playoffs): The Patriots defeated the Jets, 27-25 in Week 7, then squeaked out a 17-16 road in Week 16.
What’s new: The Jets will look very different in 2015. Gone is head coach Rex Ryan after six years at the helm. Replacing him is Todd Bowles, the former defensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals. The Jets lured Darrelle Revis away from the Patriots, and reunited him with Antonio Cromartie to play opposite him in the other cornerback spot. On offense, they signed former Patriots running back Stevan Ridley, and traded for Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall and Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick
Weeks 8 & 17: Miami Dolphins
Game details: Week 8 – Thursday, Oct. 29, at Gillette Stadium, 8:25 p.m. (CBS, NFL); Week 17 – Sunday, Jan. 3, at Miami, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Last year: (8-8, 3d in AFC East. Missed playoffs): The Patriots lost at Miami in Week 1, 33-20, but took a decisive victory at home, 41-13, in Week 15.
What’s new: The Dolphins landed the big prize in free agency, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, on a six-year, $114 million deal. They’ve also added cornerback Zack Bowman. On offense, they’ve lost wide receiver Brian Hartline and tight end Charles Clay.
Week 9: Washington Redskins
Game details: Sunday, Nov. 8, at Gillette Stadium, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Last year: (4-12, 4th in NFC East. Missed playoffs): The Patriots did not face the Redskins last season.
What’s new: The Redskins struggled in Jay Gruden’s first year as coach. They re-signed quarterback Colt McCoy, who figures to compete with Robert Griffin III for the starting job. Cornerback Dashon Goldson was acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Week 10: New York Giants
Game details: Sunday, Nov. 15, at NY Giants, 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Last year: (6-10, 3rd in NFC East. Missed playoffs): The Patriots did not face the Giants last season.
What’s new: The Giants will have a familiar look to Patriots fans, as running back Shane Vereen and linebacker Jonathan Casillas signed with the G-men. Former Patriots tight end Daniel Fells is also on the roster. Former Boston College defensive lineman Mathias Kiwanuka was waived, as was running back Peyton Hillis.
Week 11: Buffalo (see above)
Week 12: Denver Broncos
Game details: Sunday, Nov. 29, at Denver, 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
Last year: (12-4, 1st in AFC West. Lost in divisional round): The Patriots rolled over Denver, 43-21 in Week 9. Peyton Manning threw for 438 yards, but he also tossed a pair of interceptions. Julian Edelman returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown, while Rob Gronkowski hauled in 9 receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown.
What’s new: The Broncos parted ways with head coach John Fox, and replaced him with Gary Kubiak. Much of the early offseason was centered around Manning, but he indicated he would return. Wide receiver Wes Welker is an unrestricted free agent, and it does not appear that the Broncos will bring him back. They also lost tight end Julius Thomas, but replaced him with former Texan Owen Daniels.
Week 13: Philadelphia Eagles
Game details: Sunday, Dec. 6, at Gillette Stadium, 4:25 p.m. (Fox)
Last year: (10-6, 2d in NFC East. Missed playoffs.) The Patriots did not face the Eagles last season.
What’s new: The Eagles would be an intriguing opponent to open the season. Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly has certainly been active. He traded popular running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo for linebacker Kiko Alonso. He then signed running backs DeMarco Murray from the Dallas Cowboys and Ryan Mathews from the San Diego Chargers. Quarterback Nick Foles was traded to St. Louis for Sam Bradford. while Mark Sanchez was re-signed. Just one day before the 2015 schedule was announced, the Eagles also signed quarterback Tim Tebow.
Week 14: Houston Texans
Game details: Sunday, Dec. 13, at Houston, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Last year: (9-7, 2d in AFC South. Missed playoffs): The Patriots did not face the Texans last season.
What’s new: An already impressive defense got even better when Houston signed Vince Wilfork to play on the same defensive line as JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. As of right now, it will be a pair of former Patriots quarterbacks competing for the starting job, as Brian Hoyer has been brought in to join Ryan Mallett at the position. They lost wide receiver Andre Johnson, but signed Cecil Shorts away from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Week 15: Tennessee Titans
Game details: Sunday, Dec. 20, at Gillette Stadium, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Last year: (2-14, 4th in AFC South. Missed playoffs): The Patriots did not face the Titans last season.
What’s new: The Titans need to figure out what to do at quarterback. Jake Locker retired, even though he was just 26. Tennessee likes what Zach Mettenberger did in his rookie season in 2014, but the Titans also have the second pick in this year’s draft and could be looking at selecting Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. Another possibility would be to trade the pick for an established quarterback, like Philip Rivers with the Chargers.
Week 16: New York Jets (see above)
Week 17: Miami Dolphins (see above)
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