Additional thoughts on Patriots' schedule

A few more thoughts on the Patriots' schedule:

WRs and Brandon Browner's return: The Patriots will be without the cornerback for the first four games, but the first four games look favorable from an opposing wide receiver standpoint. The team's schedule includes the likes of Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Jordy Nelson, and several other top-flight wideouts. The first four weeks, which Browner will miss, do include some talented targets -- Mike Wallace of Miami, Dwayne Bowe of Kansas City and Cordarrelle Patterson of Minnesota -- but perhaps not the most difficult that they will face all season. Browner will be on the field against some of the tougher matchups.

Prime time in San Diego a test: The Chargers were a playoff team last season and should be a tough foe again this year. Compounding that matchup is playing the game in prime time. While the game will be played at 5:20 p.m. locally, the overnight travel after the fact is the issue. The team will presumably fly through the night back home, meaning a quick turnaround for coaches. That puts a team to the test.

Well-timed bye: There's no perfect time for the bye weekend, as often it is the circumstances of the season that mean the most when analyzing it. If a team struggles out of the gate, an early bye can pay major dividends. Thinking bigger picture, Week 10 seemingly represents a good breaking point for the Patriots, as it allows them a chance to recharge prior to what could be another march toward the postseason. In addition, they have what could amount to a mini-bye in Week 7, as they host the Jets on Thursday night that week.

About that game ... Thursday night games have been something of a hot-button topic, as some wonder whether the quality of the game is impacted by the short work week. One advantage for the Patriots is that they have a short trip home in Week 6 (at Buffalo). That should have them ready to roll as scheduled on Monday morning for a condensed week. Playing at home on a Thursday night is a plus, as the Jets will have to travel on Wednesday rather than use it as a full workday.

Broncos thoughts: Though the Patriots will host the Broncos, Denver has an advantage of its own: It plays the Thursday night game in the week prior to traveling to New England. That means Peyton Manning and his teammates will have 10 days to prepare for the Patriots leading up to what will surely be a highly anticipated matchup.

Former Patriots on the schedule. The Patriots will see some of their old players along the way in 2014: Brandon Spikes (Bills) in Weeks 6 and 17, plus Aqib Talib in Week 9 (Broncos).