While schedule reveals in the NFL happen every offseason, this year experienced a huge difference.
The 2021 football season marks the first time that teams will be playing 17 games in the regular season rather than 16. On Wednesday evening, each team of the NFL revealed their 17-game slate, and by night's end all 272 games of the upcoming season were revealed.
This season marks new beginnings for more than just the league, though. The 2021 NFL Draft saw a record-tying six former Alabama football players drafted in the first round. On Wednesday, those six players found out their teams' schedules for their first seasons playing football at the professional level.
Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle was the first Alabama player off the board at the 2021 NFL Draft, packing his bags for Miami and joining former Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. This season will present some challenges for the young duo.
The Dolphins have a schedule packed with former Alabama players. In Week 1 and once more later on in the season, the Dolphins will have to take on former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, running back Damien Harris and defensive lineman Christian Barmore with the New England Patriots. Additionally, Miami will take a trip to Las Vegas in Week 3 to take on the Raiders and a trio of former Crimson Tide players in running back Josh Jacobs, wide receiver Henry Ruggs III and offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood.
On top of facing Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans on the road in Week 17, Waddle and Tagovailoa will also host wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley in the Atlanta Falcons in Week 7.
Former Alabama defensive back Patrick Surtain II was the second Crimson Tide player off the board in the draft, joining teammate wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and the Denver Broncos as the No. 9 pick. Surtain does not have to face as many former Alabama players as Waddle and his Dolphins, but there are still some familiar faces.
In Week 5, Surtain will face the Pittsburgh Steelers and former Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris. The next week, Surtain will face Jacobs, Ruggs and Leatherwood with the Raiders.
Week 10 presents arguably Surtain's biggest challenge in the Philadelphia Eagles. In addition to former Alabama/Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, the Eagles added Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith and center Landon Dickerson.
Another trip to Las Vegas in Week 16 ends Surtain's trips to visit teammates this season.
Speaking of the Eagles, Smith was drafted as the No. 10 pick and will join Hurts in the City of Brotherly Love. Dickerson was later drafted at No. 37 overall, bringing some heavy Alabama star-power to the organization.
Opening against Julio Jones and Ridley in Week 1 at Atlanta, the next Alabama-packed roster for Smith and the Eagles will be their Week 7 trip to Las Vegas and the Raiders. As mentioned earlier, the Eagles will also face Surtain, Jeudy and the Broncos on the road in Week 10.
And now the New England Patriots.
The Patriots took Heisman trophy finalist and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award-winner Mac Jones at No. 15. At No. 38, New England once again went with a Crimson Tide player in Christian Barmore.
In addition to its bookend games in Week 1 and Week 18 against the Dolphins, Weeks 11 and 12 will present Mac Jones with some former Crimson Tide athletes in the Falcons and the Titans.
Outside of those games, Mac Jones won't have an incredibly difficult schedule in regard to former Alabama players.
The Raiders seem to be the team that plays against the most former Alabama athletes.
Las Vegas added to its Alabama repertoire in the draft by taking offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood at No. 17. Leatherwood will be blocking for running back Jacobs as well as playing alongside receiver Ruggs.
Leatherwood and the Raiders face Najee Harris and the Steelers in Week 2 followed by Smith, Tagovailoa in Week 3. Weeks 6 and 16 will exhibit the Raiders against Surtain, Jeudy and the Broncos and Week 7 has Leatherwood against the Eagles.
Harris was the final Crimson Tide player to go in the first round, being taken No. 24 by the Steelers. The Raiders in Week 2 and the Broncos in Week 5 are the start to Harris' season against former teammates. The Steelers will also host Henry and the Titans in Week 15.
Outside of that, Harris won't have much to worry about in his former comrades.
If there's anything to be learned from Wednesday's schedule reveal, a prominent point is just how many Alabama players now play at the professional level. At the 2021 NFL Draft, Mac Jones marked the 100th player coached under Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa to be drafted by an NFL franchise. That amount of influence on the league in 14 seasons is simply remarkable.
There were certainly some highlight games that stick out from the rest. A potential matchup between Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa will certainly be something to look out for. The Raiders against the Eagles will be another solid matchup between former Crimson Tide offensive standouts.
This year will be one of man firsts. In addition to an all-new 17-game schedule and 12 former Alabama athletes joining the ranks of the NFL, fans will be returning to stadiums in full capacity. It will certainly be a season to remember, and former Crimson Tide athletes will be looking to make an impression from Week 1.