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Quick Kicks: 2012 Schedule Analysis

Now, you can plan your vacations. The 2012 NFL schedule is out, complete with exact dates and times. We’ve known the opponents for quite some time, so, without further ado, let’s break this thing down.

Sep. 9 at Tennessee 1*
Sep. 16 Arizona 1
Sep. 23 at Baltimore 8:20
Sep. 30 at Buffalo 1
Oct. 7 Denver 4:15
Oct. 14 at Seattle 4:05
Oct. 21 NY Jets 4:15
Oct. 28 at St. Louis 1 (London)
Nov. 4 BYE
Nov. 11 Buffalo 1
Nov. 18 Indianapolis 1
Nov. 22 at NY Jets 8:20 (Thanksgiving)
Dec. 2 at Miami 1
Dec. 10 Houston 8:30 (MNF)
Dec. 16 San Francisco 8:20
Dec. 23 at Jacksonville 1
Dec. 30 Miami
* All times Eastern Standard

As you can see, this is orderly and symmetrical in some ways and pretty challenging in others. The Patriots have an even eight games on either side of their bye week. They start with three out of four games on the road, but end with three of four at home. The front half of the slate is road-heavy, with five of the eight away from Foxborough. It's the opposite in the second half.

There are four primetime games on New England's schedule, and just three 4 o'clock affairs, meaning nine games are at 1 o'clock (pending the flex schedule later in the year).

The one game, besides London, that jumps out is the Thanksgiving night game at the Jets. For the second time in three years, New England will appear on Turkey Day, only this time at the end of the holiday, rather than the beginning. So, once you've filled up on food throughout the day, you can settle down for a good ol' fashioned grudge match with the rest of the nation. That also gives the Patriots an extra bye week of sorts, and two long weekends off in the same month.

From a travel standpoint, the beginning of the year is going to be more taxing on the team. September will be a struggle, punctuated by the AFC Championship Game rematch against Baltimore on Sunday Night Football. 2012 kicks off in the country music capital, and the Patriots open at home against Arizona the following week. Curiously, they don't face their first division opponent until the very end of the month, and close out the year with just one AFC foe. Last year, Commissioner Roger Goodell championed the idea of each team opening and closing the year with as many division rivals as possible, but the Patriots will face the bulk of their division games in the middle.

October is particularly grueling with the cross-country journey to Seattle and the trans-Atlantic trip to the United Kingdom. Throw in Peyton Manning's Broncos and the No-Ring Circus coming to town and you've got quite the entertaining month there.

November provides some much-needed rest. There's the bye on the first weekend, then consecutive home 1 o'clock games before the short turnaround on Thanksgiving. But, as I mentioned, the extra long weekend on Thanksgiving will help for the final five-game stretch in December, which has the Patriots taking their final two trips, both in Florida. Back-to-back night games against 2011 playoff teams Houston and San Francisco will be tough, but at least they'll be at home, as will the regular season finale.

All in all, a demanding schedule, I think, though 12-4 might be a reasonable outcome. I can't see the Patriots doing any worse than 10-6. What do you think about the 2012 Patriots schedule? Let us know, as always, with a comment below!

(And for those of you who've been asking, the preseason slate is as follows: Thu, Aug 9, vs NO; Mon, Aug 20, vs Philly; Fri, Aug 24, at Tampa Bay; Wed, Aug 29, at NYG)

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