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NFL 2021 schedule: when do regular season, playoffs and Super Bowl LVI start?

An overview of when the 2021 NFL regular season and postseason are due to start, and when Super Bowl LVI is scheduled to be held.

(FILES) In this file photo  Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on before playing against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium on February 7, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. - Seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom

When does the 2021 NFL regular season begin?

The 2021 regular season is due to begin on Thursday 9 September 2021.

A full schedule is expected to be released in April 2021, but the way NFL regular-season fixtures are organized means we already know who will be facing who in every game.

Or every game except one, potentially. That’s because in 2021 the NFL looks likely to expand its regular season from 16 to 17 fixtures per team. While the league has shed some light on the formula it would use to decide who plays who in that additional round of games, precise details have not been confirmed.

How are NFL regular-season matchups decided?

In a 16-game regular season, every NFL franchise plays:

  • Six games (three home, three away) against the three other teams in its division
  • Four games (two home, two away) against the teams in another division in the same conference, chosen using a rotating three-year cycle
  • Two games (one home, one away) against the teams that the previous year finished in the same position in the two other divisions in its conference
  • Four games (two home, two away) against the teams in a division in the opposite conference, chosen using a rotating three-year cycle

CBS’ Jeff Kerr has compiled this overview of who every NFL team will come up against in 2021.

17th game would be "extra interconference matchup"

Under the new Collective Bargain Agreement finalized in March 2020, an extra game may well be added to the regular-season calendar. Nothing has been confirmed yet, but one team source was in December quoted by NFL.com as saying: “We’re all anticipating it’s going to happen.”

According to the NFL, the mooted 17th game would be "an extra interconference matchup - AFC vs. NFC - based on divisional standings from the preceding season".

In other words, the four teams in one division would each go up against the side that finished in the same position in a division in the opposite conference. Which divisions are paired together will be determined “on a rotating divisional basis”.

According to NFL reporter Albert Breer, the divisional match-ups in the 2021 17th game would be as follows: NFC East vs AFC East; NFC North vs AFC West; NFC South vs AFC South; and NFC West vs AFC North.

When does the 2021 NFL postseason start?

The start of the 2021 NFL playoffs is slated for the weekend of 8/9 January 2022, or 15/16 January 2022 if a 17th game is added to the regular season.

When is Super Bowl LVI?

The 2021 NFL championship is to be decided at Super Bowl LVI, which is scheduled to be held at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, on Sunday 6 February 2022.

If there is a 17th regular-season game, Super LVI could end up being pushed back to Sunday 13 February 2022.