New England Patriots schedule analysis

Breakdown: The New England Patriots must be ready to roll from the jump.

Three of their first four games will be on the road. They'll open at the Miami Dolphins on Monday night, visit the Buffalo Bills in Week 3 and travel across the country to play the Oakland Raiders in Week 4.

The lone home game in that stretch is against the San Diego Chargers in Week 2. The Patriots' next game in Gillette Stadium will be against the New York Jets in Week 5.

If the Patriots get in a hole, then they could have a nice opportunity to climb out of it in December. They'll close the season against opponents that went a combined 21-43 last season: at the Washington Redskins, at the Denver Broncos and home against the Dolphins and Bills.

Complaint department: How about this for a nasty stretch of games? The Patriots better cherish that Week 7 bye because their next six opponents went a combined 63-33 last season with no record worse than 10-6. The Patriots must navigate five playoff teams in that stretch, with the New York Giants the exception. The other foes are the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts.

Annual tradition: The annual Patriots-Colts game will take place on Sunday night in Week 13 at Gillette Stadium. It will be their ninth straight regular-season meeting, the longest ongoing streak between non-divisional opponents.

The Colts lost six in a row from 2001 through 2004, then won five of the next six games. The Patriots beat them 31-28 last season. Each of their past five games, including the playoffs, has been decided by four points or fewer.

Patriots Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Monday, Sep. 12, at Miami, 7:00 PM

Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, San Diego, 4:15 PM

Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Oakland, 4:15 PM

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, NY Jets, 4:15 PM

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, Dallas, 4:15 PM

Week 7: BYE

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at Pittsburgh, 4:15 PM

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, NY Giants, 4:15 PM

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at NY Jets, 8:20 PM

Week 11: Monday, Nov. 21, Kansas City, 8:30 PM

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, at Philadelphia, 4:15 PM

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, Indianapolis, 8:20 PM

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, at Washington, 1:00 PM

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at Denver, 4:15 PM

Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, Miami, 1:00 PM

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Buffalo, 1:00 PM