<
>

Rapid reaction: Pats 2011 schedule

Rapid reaction on the Patriots' 2011 schedule:

Missing those 1 p.m. games. Just four 1 p.m. games on the schedule at this time for the Patriots -- visiting the Bills in Week 3, the Redskins in Week 14, hosting the Dolphins in Week 16 (Christmas Eve) and hosting the Bills in the season finale.

Short weeks after Monday games. With two Monday night games, the Patriots will have two short weeks of preparation. The first comes in Week 2 at home against the Chargers. The Patriots will be coming off their season-opener at Miami. That shouldn't be a major preparation issue as the team will have time in training camp to devote to Chargers prep. The second short week comes in Week 12 when the Patriots visit the Eagles. That comes after a Monday night home game against the Chiefs.

Scott Pioli and Matt Cassel's prime-time return. Scott Pioli did great work as Patriots vice president of player personnel (2000-2008). Now in his third season as Chiefs general manager, his team will visit the Patriots in a Monday night date (Nov. 21). That's also Matt Cassel's return to Foxborough. No shortage of good storylines there.

Bye is well placed in Week 7. Teams usually like their bye as close to the middle of the season as possible. The Patriots can't complain about the Week 7 placement. It could have been as early as Week 5 and as late as Week 11.

Cowboys lone opponent coming off a bye. The Cowboys will be coming off a bye before traveling to face the Patriots, which means they should be fresh for that Week 6 matchup. The Cowboys are the only team coming off a bye to face the Patriots this season.

Weather test in Miami. The Patriots open the season on Monday night (Sept. 12) at the Dolphins. Temperatures in South Florida at that time of year can be challenging, even at night. This brings back memories of the 2004 season when the Patriots played at Arizona in Week 2 of the season and Bill Belichick made constant references to conditioning in the weeks leading up to the game.

First Jets game a good spot. The Jets will be coming off road games at Oakland and Baltimore when they visit the Patriots in Week 5. That's a good spot for New England.

Great home finish. The Patriots will be home for the holidays, with the final two games at Gillette Stadium -- Week 16 against the Dolphins and Week 17 against the Bills. Can't ask for more than that. If they are in position to win the division, that's a nice advantage to have.

Home preseason dates/times finalized. The Patriots will face the Jaguars on Thursday, Aug. 11 and the Giants on Thursday, Sept. 1. Both games are 7:30 kickoffs.