2021 NFL Schedule: Key Games, Dates for Every Team

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The 2021 NFL schedule was released Wednesday evening, with the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers and Cowboys kicking off the season on Thursday, Sept. 9 on NBC at 8:20 p.m. ET.

This year's schedule will feature three preseason games and 17 regular season matchups for the first time. This marks the first change to the season structure since the 1978 campaign, which brought in an era of 16 regular-season and four preseason games.

Each franchise will now have an additional AFC vs. NFC game added to its schedule. 

The regular season is slated to end on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022 with Super Bowl LVI set for Sunday, Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California—home of the Chargers and Rams.

The 15 Best Games to Look Forward to in the 2021 NFL Season

Here's a look at each team's 2021 NFL schedule highlights, featuring one key takeaway for each team:

AFC East 

  • Patriots — Tom Brady makes his return to New England on Oct. 3, when the Pats host the Buccaneers in a primetime contest. 
  • Bills — Buffalo plays four primetime games this season, facing off against the Chiefs, Titans, Saints and Patriots. Their clash with New Orleans is the late-game on this year's Thanksgiving slate.
  • Jets — Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson will make his NFL debut against the Panthers, led by former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. New York also travels to London for its Oct. 10 game against the Falcons, marking one of the NFL's two international games this season.
  • Dolphins — The Dolphins open their season with divisional clashes against the Patriots and Bills. They travel to London for an Oct. 17 clash with the Jaguars, marking the second of the NFL's two international games this season.

AFC North

  • Ravens — The Ravens open the season on Monday Night Football when they play the Raiders. A Week 2 matchup with the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football will also be a tough test to start the season.
  • Steelers — Pittsburgh plays two games this season on Monday Night Football, including a late-season clash with the Browns in Week 16.
  • Browns — The Browns open their season against the Chiefs on CBS. They play the Ravens in two consecutive games on Nov. 28 and Dec. 12, though, they will have their bye week to prepare for the latter matchup.
  • Bengals — Former LSU star Joe Burrow will presumably face off with former Clemson star Trevor Lawrence on Sept. 30 when the Bengals host the Jaguars on Thursday Night Football.

AFC South

  • Texans — The Texans play AFC opponents in five of their first six games, including a season-opener against Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars.
  • Colts — The Colts play the Ravens on Oct. 11 on Monday Night Football in one of four primetime games this year.
  • Titans — Tennessee opens the season with the Cardinals, Seahawks and Colts. It plays the Bills and Chiefs in consecutive weeks on Oct. 18 and Oct. 24..
  • JaguarsThe Jaguars play their first four games against teams that failed to make the playoffs last season. Following its bye week in Week 7, it plays the Seahawks, Bills, Colts, 49ers, Falcons, Rams and Titans.

AFC West

  • Chiefs — Kansas City starts it season at home against the Browns before traveling to Baltimore for a primetime game in Week 2. Early-season games against the Chargers, Eagles and Bills should also be exciting affairs.
  • Broncos — Denver plays two of the AFC North's best teams in consecutive weeks on Oct. 3 and Oct. 10, with games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh. It also finishes its season with three straight divisional games against the Raiders, Chargers and Chiefs. 
  • Chargers — The Chargers open their season at the Washington Football Team and play the Cowboys in Week 2. The Chiefs, Browns, Ravens, Patriots and Eagles are also all opponents in the first-half of their season.
  • Raiders — The Raiders will welcome fans to their new stadium for the first time on Sept. 13 when they host the Ravens on Monday Night Football

NFC East

  • Giants — After opening their season with a game against the Broncos, the Giants play conference opponents in each of their next six games. That takes them up to a Week 8 clash with the Chiefs, which is currently set to be played on Monday Night Football
  • Eagles — Philadelphia opens its season on the road against the Falcons. Early-season games with the 49ers, Cowboys and Chiefs should also be exciting matchups.
  • Washington  Washington will look to make its second consecutive playoff appearance this season. It plays the Giants on Thursday night in Week 2 and plays on Monday Night Football later in the season when it hosts Seattle.
  • Cowboys — Dallas plays its first two games of the season on the road, against the Buccaneers and Chargers, respectively. Its first home game is in Week 3 against the Eagles on Monday Night Football. Later in the season, Dallas will host the Raiders on Thanksgiving afternoon.

NFC North

  • Packers — While questions swirl about Aaron Rodgers's future with Green Bay, the Packers still open their season in a much-anticipated game against the Saints. They travel to Kansas City for a Nov. 7 contest. Late-season games with the Ravens and Browns could also having playoff ramifications. 
  • Bears — The Bears travel to Los Angeles to open the season. Chicago will play four primetime games this year as well as a Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions.
  • Lions — Detroit begins the season with a difficult slate of games, squaring off against San Francisco, Green Bay and Baltimore. Later in the season, it hosts the Bears on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Vikings — The Vikings open their season with Cincinnati. They will play consecutive primetime games on Dec. 9 and Dec. 20, when they square off with the Steelers on Thursday Night Football and Bears on Monday Night Football.

NFC South

  • Saints — The Saints will be led by a new quarterback this season and host the Packers in Week 1. 
  • Panthers — Sam Darnold and the Panthers host the Jets in Week 1. They finish their season with three divisional games, including two vs. Tampa Bay.
  • Buccaneers — The Buccaneers host the season's first game on Sept. 9, facing off against the Cowboys. Tampa Bay will also play primetime games against New England, Philadelphia, the Giants and Saints this season.
  • Falcons — Atlanta plays one of the NFL's two London games this season, facing off against the Jets on Oct. 10.

NFC West

  • Rams — Los Angeles hosts the Bears in the first Sunday Night Football game of the season. It goes on to play the Colts, Buccaneers, Cardinals and Seahawks in a difficult stretch of games to open the year. 
  • Cardinals — The Cardinals play four of their first six games on the road, before playing most of October and November at home. They are on Monday Night Football on Dec. 13 against the Rams.
  • Seahawks — Seattle travels to the Colts to open their season. They play two Monday Night Football games this season, one vs. the Saints on Oct. 25 and one at Washington on Nov. 29. 
  • 49ers — The 49ers play their first two games of the season on the road, facing off against Detroit and Philadelphia. They play just two road games, though, from that point until Nov. 21. 

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