Patriots grinding through most intense stretch of regular-season schedule

(Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports)

It's still early, but the 2017 Patriots find themselves in the midst of the most unforgiving portion of their regular-season slate.

In addition to the current personnel questions and health issues facing the franchise, compounding things is the fact that New England’s game against the Bucs on Thursday will be its third contest in 11-plus days. It’s part of a scheduling quirk mostly attributable to Thursday Night Football, one that usually sees teams have to run a similar gauntlet of three games in either an 11- or 12-day stretch.

Now, it’s the Patriots turn.