Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady will begin his quest for an eighth Super Bowl victory at 44 years old when the Buccaneers play the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL’s first game of the 2021 regular season on Sept. 9, a Thursday. Brady will face a team led by quarterback Dak Prescott, who will be 16 years Brady’s junior when he makes his expected return from a gruesome ankle injury that caused him to appear in only five games last season.
The league released a part of its regular-season schedule Wednesday afternoon, with the full slate to be announced Wednesday night. It incorporates the addition of a 17th game for each team, the first expansion of the NFL’s regular season since 1978. The change was approved by team owners in March even as some players expressed their opposition.
To make way for the added game, the league moved the Super Bowl by one week, to Feb. 13, and shrank the exhibition preseason to three games from four.
The NFL will return to London for two games after canceling its overseas trips last season because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Atlanta Falcons will play the New York Jets there on Oct. 10 and the Jacksonville Jaguars will face the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 17, both at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Week 1 will showcase two multibillion-dollar stadiums that opened in 2020 but will host NFL fans for the first time this season. On Sept. 12, a Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams and their new quarterback, Matthew Stafford, will open the US$5-billion SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., against the Chicago Bears in an evening game.
The Las Vegas Raiders will host fans at the US$2-billion Allegiant Stadium the next day, when they face the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football. The jet-black venue, nicknamed the Death Star, opened in 2020 but did not have fans in attendance for NFL games amid restrictions last year. The team will make up for it in Las Vegas fashion with a lower-level section that offers a “nightclub experience” with bottle service, DJ booths and large television screens.
Other interesting games in Week 1 include a matchup between the Green Bay Packers, possibly led by the disgruntled quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the New Orleans Saints, which will be without quarterback Drew Brees, who retired this offseason.
The Panthers also host the Jets, with new Carolina quarterback, Sam Darnold, set to face the team that traded him weeks before drafting his replacement, Zach Wilson, with the second overall pick. The Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns will also face off, in a rematch of their division-round playoff game last season.
Regarding the 17th game, teams will play an interconference opponent based on last season’s divisional standings. For instance, the Packers, who won the NFC North, will face the Chiefs, who won the AFC West. The additional home game will rotate on a yearly basis, starting this season, with AFC teams hosting nine games.