With the National Football League's announcement of the upcoming regular season schedule Thursday night, the defending Super Bowl champions are officially on to 2017. The Patriots will get the year started at home as they host the Kansas City Chiefs as part of the NFL's 2017 Kickoff Weekend while also unveiling the Super Bowl LI Championship Banner during the night's pregame ceremonies.
As offseason workouts commence and the 2017 season quickly approaches, here's a look at some additional highlights from this year's slate:
-- The Patriots will play in five nationally-televised games this season, including the Thursday night home opener. Other prime time slots on the schedule are a Thursday Night Football matchup at Tampa Bay in Week 5, a Super Bowl LI rematch against the Atlanta Falcons at home on Sunday Night Football in Week 7, an additional Sunday Night Football game at Denver in Week 10 and a Week 14 matchup at Miami on Monday Night Football.
-- The Patriots and Falcons' Super Bowl LI rematch will fall on October 22 at Gillette Stadium. This will mark the first time New England will play the team it defeated in the Super Bowl during the following regular season, and the first time since 2009 that Atlanta will travel to New England.
-- New England's Thursday Night Football matchup at Tampa Bay will mark the first time since1997 that the Patriots will travel to the Buccaneers home stadium. The Patriots last road meeting with Tampa Bay took place at Wembley Stadium in London during the 2009 season. As Tampa's Raymond James Stadium currently stands as the only active NFL stadium in which Tom Brady has yet to play, the October 5 contest is set to mark his first career regular-season start on the Buccaneer's home field.
-- As part of the NFL's International Series, the Patriots will travel to Mexico City this year to play their third regular-season game outside the United States in a Week 11 matchup with the Oakland Raiders at Azteca Stadium. While the November 19 game will mark New England's first regular-season game in Mexico City, the Patriots traveled to Azteca Stadium in 1998 for a preseason matchup against Dallas.
-- The 2017 Patriots will be on a Week 9 bye for the third time in the last six seasons. The off week comes at the exact midpoint of the season with eight regular season contests both preceding and following the November 5 break. New England's most recent Week 9 byes came in 2016 and 2012.
-- New England will close out the regular season at home for the first time since 2014 as it hosts the New York Jets in a 1:00 Week 17 matchup on New Year's Eve. For the past two years, the Patriots have ended the regular season on the road at Miami.
-- During the month of December, the Patriots will play three straight games on the road – traveling to Buffalo, Miami and Pittsburgh in Weeks 13-15, respectively. The last time the Patriots played more than two straight road games was during the 2002 season.
-- Five of the Patriots six AFC East matchups fall in the second half of the season this year. New England will travel to MetLife Stadium in Week 6 to take on the New York Jets for its only division contest prior to the bye week. The Patriots will meet the Dolphins in Weeks 12 and 14 and the Bills in Weeks 13 and 16 before hosting the Jets for the teams' second meeting in the regular season finale.