New England Patriots' home and away opponents for 2017

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots had locked up the AFC East title on Dec. 18, and with the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers clinching division championships over the weekend, it helped finalize the Patriots' 2017 home and away opponents. The dates of each game will be determined in the spring when the full regular-season schedule is released.

Home opponents (* playoff team): Houston Texans*, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons*, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs*, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins*, New York Jets

Road opponents (* playoff team): Pittsburgh Steelers*, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders*, Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins*, New York Jets.

My take: One of the questions that came up on social media once this was finalized was why the Patriots will be traveling to Denver for the third straight regular season (to go along with two playoff games). This is similar to 2012, 2013 and 2014, when Denver traveled to New England in three straight years, and is a result of the NFL's rotating schedule formula. In 2015 and 2016, the rotation called for the first-place team in the AFC East to visit the first-place team in the AFC West; and in 2017, the Patriots were scheduled to visit Denver as part of the once-in-every-six-years cycle with every non-division AFC team.