Patriots 2013 schedule: New England will be tested with tough road schedule

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

If New England is going to win its fifth straight division title, it will earn it with a difficult road schedule.

With the NFL's method of scheduling teams based on where they finished in the division the year before, the Patriots are used to playing difficult schedules. They are coming off their fourth straight AFC East title and as a result will play some of the best teams in the NFL.

The Patriots will open the season with back-to-back games against division opponents in Buffalo and New York. They will also finish the season with two of their last three games against Miami and Buffalo. Many consider the Dolphins to be the biggest challenger in the AFC East and that Week 15 game could be key.

New England will play the NFC South and the AFC North, leading to interesting games against Atlanta, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Last year's results put New England's strength of schedule right in the middle of the league as the 14th-hardest. Here is complete look at the 2013 schedule.

Week

Date

Opponent

Time

TV

1

Sep. 8

@ Bills

1 p.m.

CBS

2

Sep. 12

Jets

8:25 p.m.

NFLN

3

Sep. 22

Buccaneers

1 p.m.

FOX

4

Sep. 29

@ Falcons

8:30 p.m.

NBC

5

Oct. 6

@ Bengals

1 p.m.

CBS

6

Oct. 13

Saints

4:25 p.m.

FOX

7

Oct. 20

@ Jets

1 p.m.

CBS

8

Oct. 27

Dolphins

1 p.m.

CBS

9

Nov. 3

Steelers

4:25 p.m.

CBS

10

BYE

11

Nov. 18

@ Panthers

8:40 p.m.

ESPN

12

Nov. 24

Broncos

8:30 p.m.

NBC

13

Dec. 1

@ Texans

4:25 p.m.

CBS

14

Dec. 8

Browns

1 p.m.

CBS

15

Dec. 15

@ Dolphins

1 p.m.

CBS

16

Dec. 22

@ Ravens

8:30 p.m.

NBC

17

Dec. 29

Bills

1 p.m.

CBS

Toughest out: Baltimore Ravens

There are multiple options when picking New England's toughest game, both based on the opponent and the structure of the schedule. The Patriots play back-to-back road games twice and have two different stretches where they play consecutive games against 2012 playoff teams.

The game against the Ravens doesn't come until near the end of the season, so a lot could change between now and then. Still, it will be the second straight road game and the week after what could be a tough game against Miami.

Must win: Buffalo Bills

The Patriots open their season on the road against the Bills and although any result doesn't make or break a season, the Patriots need to win that game. Buffalo has been hit by injuries recently, including at quarterback. New England will face a new coaching staff with a rookie quarterback.

First-round pick EJ Manuel may start for Buffalo, after missing the majority of training camp and the preseason due to a knee injury. If he's unable to go, the Bills will start undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel. Tuel has some physical skills, but was benched during his senior season at Washington State. Losing to either would be a huge missed opportunity.

Don't overlook: Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are coming off two straight playoff appearances, so they aren't exactly flying under the radar. Still, they could be slightly overlooked thanks to the schedule. New England will play at Atlanta on Sunday Night Football before traveling to Cincinnati the next week.

Back-to-back weeks on the road is never easy and some may already be looking ahead to the next week and a home showdown with Drew Brees and the Saints.

For all your New England Patriot news, Make sure to head over to Pats Pulpit.

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