The NFL is finally back with a mix of familiar feelings and new touches.
While the COVID-19 pandemic persists, games will be played in full stadiums for the first time since Super Bowl 54. Six teams that did not host fans at all during the 2020 regular season — the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots and New York Giants — will play in front of packed home crowds in Week 1.
An added wrinkle to the 2021 NFL season is the 17th regular season game for each team. The 18-week schedule includes one bye week for each team and pushes the Super Bowl to the second Sunday of February.
2021 NFL season opener: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Dallas Cowboys
The 2021 NFL season opener pits the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, Sept. 9, at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock. Fresh off his seventh championship, Tom Brady begins his 22nd NFL season and second in Tampa Bay. For Dallas, Dak Prescott will take the field at Raymond James Stadium after a leg injury cut his 2020 season short.
Matchups on the first Sunday of the 2021 NFL season
After two days without games, the first Sunday of the NFL season is loaded with 14 matchups: nine at 1 p.m. ET, four at 4:25 p.m. ET and a primetime finale. Several marquee rookies will be making their pro debuts, including No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence when the Jacksonville Jaguars visit the Houston Texans and No. 2 pick Zach Wilson when the New York Jets take on the Carolina Panthers. The Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints are also among the teams that will start new quarterbacks to begin the season.
One of the most anticipated games on Sunday will take place in Foxboro, Mass., when the New England Patriots host the Miami Dolphins. Rookie Mac Jones will be under center for the Patriots and will play opposite of former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa, who is the starting quarterback for the Dolphins.
First Sunday Night Football game: Chicago Bears vs. LA Rams
The first Sunday Night Football game of the season features the Chicago Bears and the L.A. Rams in the first regular season game with fans at SoFi Stadium. The Bears’ Justin Fields era will have to wait as Andy Dalton gets the nod under center against reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and a Rams club looking to regain dominance in the NFC West.
The competition between Dalton and Fields has drawn headlines all August, but this SNF bout likely will be all about Matthew Stafford. The 12-year NFL veteran makes his debut under center with the Rams after being dealt to Los Angeles this offseason.
First Monday Night Football game: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Baltimore Ravens
The opening week ends with the first Monday Night Football showdown of 2021 between the Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens. The Raiders moved to Las Vegas in 2020, and the Week 1 finale gives them a chance to finally welcome fans to Allegiant Stadium for a regular season contest. The Ravens, meanwhile, have made the playoffs in three straight seasons.
Check out the full 2021 Week 1 NFL schedule in the table above. Watch all Week 1 games online at FuboTV (free trial here).