Late-season schedule has familiar look for the Patriots

Tom Brady and the Patriots have been in the playoffs nine consecutive seasons. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The NFL has released its 2018 regular-season schedule. Here's a look at what's in store for the New England Patriots.

Breakdown: A Week 11 bye in mid-November is ideal for the Patriots, splitting the regular season into two parts: A 10-game stretch that features some intriguing matchups (five to be played in prime time), and then a six-game finishing kick that includes four AFC East games. A season-opener against the Texans and quarterback Deshaun Watson, followed by an AFC Championship Game rematch at the Jaguars, and then a prime-time road game against former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and the Lions promises to be a compelling triple play out of the gate.

Deja vu at the end: Just as the Patriots did in the 2017 season, they will conclude the season with home games against the Bills (Week 16) and Jets (Week 17). Being home on the weekend before Christmas and the weekend before New Year's is a nice finish for the team. In recent years, the AFC East title has been locked up by that point, but if it isn't this year the Patriots should feel good knowing that those games will be at Gillette Stadium. Since 2002, the Patriots have the highest winning percentage vs. division opponents from November until the end of the season (42-12, .778). To take that deja vu one step further: The Patriots will also visit the Dolphins in Week 14 and the Steelers in Week 15, just as they did last year, giving them the same final four games in the same locations as 2017.

Middle-of-the-season 1 p.m. home games hard to come by: When the leaves are turning and the New England air becomes a bit more crisp in October, a 1 p.m. Patriots home game can be the best ticket of the season from a standpoint of enjoying the essence of autumn in the region. But there are no such games on the schedule, as the team's first two 1 p.m. home games (Sept. 9 vs. Houston and Sept. 30 vs. Miami) are followed by three straight prime-time games at Gillette Stadium (Thursday Oct. 4 vs. Indianapolis, Oct. 14 vs. Kansas City and Nov. 4 vs. Green Bay). Then the team isn't back at Gillette until a 4:25 p.m. home kickoff against the Vikings (Dec. 2) before finishing things off with two 1 p.m. games to close out the year (Dec. 23 vs. Buffalo and Dec. 30 vs. the New York Jets).

Strength of schedule: T-22nd, .484

Patriots' Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

  • Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, Houston, 1 p.m.

  • Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at Jacksonville, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, at Detroit, 8:20 p.m.

  • Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, Miami, 1 p.m.

  • Week 5: Thursday, Oct. 4, Indianapolis, 8:20 p.m.

  • Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, Kansas City, 8:20 p.m.

  • Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, at Chicago, 1 p.m.

  • Week 8: Monday, Oct. 29, at Buffalo, 8:15 p.m.

  • Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, Green Bay, 8:20 p.m.

  • Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, at Tennessee, 1 p.m.

  • Week 11: BYE

  • Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.

  • Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, Minnesota, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, at Miami, 1 p.m.

  • Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, at Pittsburgh, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, Buffalo, 1 p.m.

  • Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.