NEW YORK — The NFL released its 2014 schedule Wednesday night and the new-look secondary of the New England Patriots certainly will be tested.
In a seven-week stretch beginning Oct. 26, the Patriots will face some of the strongest arms in the NFL with Jay Cutler and the Bears on Oct. 26, then Peyton Manning and the Broncos on Nov. 2 followed by a bye on Nov. 9.
Then the Pats come back for a road game against Andrew Luck and Indianapolis on Nov. 16, Detroit and Matthew Stafford at Gillette on Nov. 23, then road games at Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers on Nov. 30, and San Diego and Phillip Rivers on Dec 7.
It will be a test for new cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
Before that, New England, which has won its last 10 openers, will start the season Sept. 7 at Miami. A victory would tie the Patriots with the Dolphins for the second-longest opening-game winning streak in NFL history, trailing the Cowboys, who won 17 straight from 1965-81.
The NFL season will open Sept. 4 with the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks playing at home against the Green Bay Packers. The last time Green Bay visited CenturyLink Field was in Week 3 of the 2012 season, a 14-12 Seahawks victory clinched on what now is often dubbed the “Fail Mary.” Russell Wilson’s desperation pass on the final play was called a touchdown reception for Golden Tate by the replacement officials.
A few days later the lockout of the regular officials ended.
“This game won’t be about the past,” Packers Coach Mike McCarthy said. “It will be about the 2014 Green Bay Packers.
It’s the third straight season the Packers have traveled to face the Super Bowl champions.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for our football team,” McCarthy said. “We have experience playing in the kickoff opener three years ago and we will draw on that. Obviously, being the visiting team this time presents new challenges. It will help sharpen our focus even more during training camp and preseason.”
That Thursday game is the first of four prime-time games on opening weekend. Also at night will be a Sunday matchup of AFC champion Denver hosting Indianapolis, and a Monday night doubleheader with the New York Giants at Detroit, followed by San Diego at Arizona.
The NFL will play three games in London: Dolphins-Raiders on Sept. 28; Lions-Falcons on Oct. 26; and Cowboys-Jaguars on Nov. 9.
The Detroit-Atlanta game will kick off at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time in an experiment to test the NFL’s audience draw on a Sunday morning.
A Saturday doubleheader in Week 16 has San Diego at San Francisco and Philadelphia at Washington.
For the first time, games in Weeks 5 through 10 can be flexed from Sunday afternoon to night, with a limit of two. Beginning with Week 11, a Sunday game can be moved to prime time each week. Also, a select number of Sunday afternoon games are being “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and Fox to potentially draw more viewers.
The Thanksgiving tripleheader features three strong division rivalries: Chicago at Detroit, Philadelphia at Dallas and Seattle at San Francisco, a rematch of the memorable NFC title game last January.
That game will be played in the 49ers’ new stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., which opens in Week 2 when they host Chicago in a Sunday night match.