New England Patriots' schedule is fan-friendly in multiple ways

Bill Belichick and the Patriots will be home at Gillette Stadium for three straight games in September. David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has released its 2017 regular-season schedule. Here's a look at what's in store for the New England Patriots.

Breakdown: This is a great schedule for Patriots fans who attend games and enjoy the afternoon slots in September and October, when New England weather is often at its best. For a defending Super Bowl champion to have three home 1 p.m. ET games in September/October seems a bit unusual. Add in a prime-time Super Bowl rematch Sunday night at home on Oct. 22 -- weather should still be good -- followed by an afternoon home game the next week against the Chargers, and that is a "homey" opening half of the season. Then comes three holiday gifts at home -- against the Dolphins on Nov. 26 (a Thanksgiving weekend treat), Christmas Eve against the Bills and then New Year's Eve against the Jets. So for those fans who might not live in New England but are returning home for the holidays, here's your chance to visit Gillette Stadium. Of the five nationally-televised games currently on the schedule, three are on the road. What a fan-friendly schedule overall.

Iron of the schedule comes after bye: Playing five road games in six weeks after a well-placed bye on Nov. 5 stands out as the toughest part of the Patriots' schedule. It starts with the back-to-back road games against the Broncos in Denver followed by a trip to Mexico City to face the Raiders. Then after a home game against the Dolphins, it's back on the road for three straight games to kick off December -- at Buffalo, Miami and then Pittsburgh. Depending on how much margin for error the Patriots have created for themselves in the first half of the season, this looks like the defining stretch of the schedule.

A week of practices in altitude of Denver?: With back-to-back road games in high-altitude environments in Denver and Mexico City, and the game in Denver on a Sunday night, it sparks a question, "Would Bill Belichick consider staying in Denver for a week of practices in altitude before heading south across the border?" It could be a good team-bonding experience, and also lighten the travel burden on the club. The Patriots have done something similar in the past when they had back-to-back games in California.

Strength of schedule: 12th, .527

Patriots Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

  • Week 1: Thursday, Sept. 7, Kansas City, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17, at New Orleans, 1 p.m.

  • Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 24, Houston, 1 p.m.

  • Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 1, Carolina, 1 p.m.

  • Week 5: Thursday, Oct. 5, at Tampa Bay, 8:25 p.m.

  • Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 15, at NY Jets, 1 p.m.

  • Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 22, Atlanta, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 29, Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m.

  • Week 9: BYE

  • Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12, at Denver, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 19, at Oakland, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 26, Miami, 1 p.m.

  • Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 3, at Buffalo, 1 p.m.

  • Week 14: Monday, Dec. 11, at Miami, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 17, at Pittsburgh, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 24, Buffalo, 1 p.m.

  • Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31, NY Jets, 1 p.m.