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NFL 2021 schedule: when does regular season, playoff and Super Bowl start?

The 2021 NFL season is almost upon us and now that we have the schedule it’s time to take a look at everything from dates and matches to analysis.

FOXBOROUGH, MA - AUGUST 12: Jonathan Williams #38 of the Washington Football Team is tackled by Harvey Langi #48 of the New England Patriots in the second half at Gillette Stadium on August 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.   Kathryn Riley/Getty Imag
Kathryn RileyAFP

The 2021 NFL season is almost upon us and now that we have the schedule it’s time to take a look at everything from dates and matches to analysis of the best match ups. What are the headline games each week? How was the schedule set and what about the 17th game? Jump in as we take a look at these questions and more!

When does the 2021 NFL season start?

The 2021 NFL Season will commence on Thursday, September 9. Though there was some initial concern due to the pandemic which resulted in extension of the season and reduction of the preseason, the NFL left the start date unchanged.

What about the Super Bowl?

Though the aforementioned start date has remained the same there has been an alteration to the Super Bowl.  As the league was reluctant to do away with the “bye week” between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl itself, it was finally decided that Super Bowl 56 would be played on February 13th.  This was confirmed in a press release regarding the 17th game which in itself represents the first change to season structure since 1978.

What is the schedule and what are the headline Matchups each week?

With it’s structural change to 17 games the full season schedule will undoubtedly toss up some interesting matches, however, we believe there are truly some interesting match ups each week. With that said, Here we offer you a look at some of these games and the reasons why they should be ones to watch.

FOXBOROUGH, MA - AUGUST 12: Jonathan Williams #38 of the Washington Football Team avoids the tackle from Cassh Maluia #44 of the New England Patriots in the second half at Gillette Stadium on August 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Kathryn Riley/Get
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FOXBOROUGH, MA - AUGUST 12: Jonathan Williams #38 of the Washington Football Team avoids the tackle from Cassh Maluia #44 of the New England Patriots in the second half at Gillette Stadium on August 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Kathryn Riley/GetKathryn RileyAFP

*All times in ET unless otherwise stated

Cowboys at Buccaneers | Week 1, THU, Sept. 9 | 8:20 PM
What a way to kick off the season! This game will see Dak Prescott return to the field following his injury. Rest assured it will quite the challenge for the Cowboys who will be taking on the defending champions.  On the other side one has to imagine the Buccaneers be bent on kicking off their season in the right way.

Chiefs at Ravens | Week 2, SUN, Sept. 19 | 8:20 PM
Billed as a “preview” of the AFC playoff game, there is most definitely a lot of expectation on both sides coming into this one. Though Kansas City has often got the better of Baltimore in recent years, Lamar Jackson and his Ravens will no doubt be looking to spoil the party in Week 2.

Buccaneers at Rams | Week 3, SUN, Sept. 26 | 4:25 PM
The Buccaneers will surely be holding a grudge for this one as the Rams represent one of their few losses in the previous season. In fact the Los Angeles Rams’ performance against the Buccaneers was so impressive that it was seen by many as schematic for victory against the champions. One can only imagine that this is a game that the Buccaneers may not have wanted to play so early on.

Buccaneers at Patriots | Week 4, SUN, Oct. 3 | 8:20 PM
Yet another difficult challenge for the Buccaneers and one that will have an emotional caveat to it as well. Tom Brady will lead the defending champions into battle at the Foxboro in what could be the match of the round.

Bills at Chiefs | Week 5, SUN, Oct. 10 | 8:20 PM
This game represents a huge potential marker for the Bills early in their season. In addition it also represents the start of a rather complicated 3 week stretch of games in which they may find themselves ultimately deciding their post season fate.

Bills at Titans | Week 6, MON, Oct. 18 | 8:15 PM
Undoubtedly another massive matchup for Buffalo coming off the back of facing the Chiefs a week earlier. As many know, Buffalo and Tennessee could well be two of the final four teams in the AFC, as such this could be a deciding factor in who has home-field advantage in what could potentially be a playoff game.

Chiefs at Titans | Week 7, SUN, Oct. 24 | 1 PM
Bringing this full circle, the Titans will play host to the Chiefs just six days after hosting the Bills. In recent times Tennessee has proven to be quite the handful for the Chiefs. The Chiefs will be all too conscious of the threat of 2 defeats in 3 weeks. Expect fireworks in this one.

Titans at Colts | Week 8, SUN, Oct. 31 | 1 PM
This game will close out a difficult stretch of games for the Titans. Games against the Bills and Chiefs could potentially lead to a subpar performance against the Colts. That is of course something Tennessee cannot allow as they will certainly be in a tight race to top the AFC South.

Packers at Chiefs | Week 9, MON, Nov. 7 | 4:25 PM
Fate can be cruel and as it stands the Chiefs probably will agree heading into Week 9. Having faced two AFC rivals in the space of three weeks, they will have to deal with the Packers in a potential Super Bowl preview. Could the 2021 NFL schedule be set up to hand the Chiefs three losses in a five-week period? We will see!

Rams at 49ers | Week 10, MON, Nov. 15 | 8:15 PM
The NFC West looks set to be a tight division. Currently, the Rams and 49ers are the favorites, which means this Week 10 matchup could be crucial. The winner will definitely be taking the spoils as they look towards the rest of the season.

Colts at Bills | Week 11, SUN, Nov. 21 | 1 PM
Possibly one of the more important matchups as it relates to the context of the AFC South and the AFC as a whole. The Colts need to at least match the Titans’ result against the Bills from Week 6. If they drop this game and the Titans manage to beat the Bills, it could be a deal breaker in deciding the winner of the AFC South.

Browns at Ravens | Week 12, SUN, Nov. 28 | 8:20 PM
With the Steelers expected to struggle in 2021, the Browns and Ravens will duke it out for the AFC North. This matchup on SNF really could set one of these teams up for a strong finish to the season.

49ers at Seahawks | Week 13, SUN, Dec. 5 | 8:20 PM
Yet another potentially crucial matchup in the NFC West. These two teams always seem to bring out the beast in each other. Watch out for another intense duel between them in 2021.

Cowboys at Washington | Week 14, SUN, Dec. 12 | 1 PM
Without doubt, the two favorites for the NFC East will go into this game knowing full well, that it could decide who will host a playoff game on Wild Card Weekend in what is always a tight division.

Seahawks at Rams | Week 15, SUN, Dec. 19 | 4:25 PM
in what could be their last chance by the time this week rolls around, The Seahawks and Rams will know that if they are to stay in the race, victory is the only option.

Browns at Packers | Week 16, SAT, Dec. 25 | 4:30 PM
An intriguing matchup to measure the form of a contender in each conference. With the issues surrounding Aaron Rodgers we will have to wait and see whether or not he takes the field, on the other hand, this should be a fantastic Christmas Day clash. Be sure to be in front of the TV once the family festivities are over.

Rams at Ravens | Week 17, SUN, Jan. 2 | 4:25 PM
Another exciting inter-conference battle between two teams that are likely to make the playoffs.  As we know, the Ravens decimated the Rams a few short years ago in Los Angeles. The Rams will have that in mind as well as the opportunity to earn at least one home playoff game.

Patriots at Dolphins | Week 18, SUN, Jan. 9 | 1 PM
Its always an interesting affair when these two get together. Expect this year’s edition to be no different. The Dolphins and Patriots will undoubtedly be playoff contenders in the AFC, and this game will surely have a hand in deciding which one of them continues playing in January.

A few parting shots

The NFL 2021 season schedule is different this year. In light of pandemic related restrictions the league has had to implement a few structural alterations.  This as it stands relates to the scheduling and of course the much maligned 17th game.

So just what is involved in the NFL schedule’s creation?

Going back to 2010, two schedule restrictions were introduced. Here again in 2021 we saw both of these restrictions in place at the release of the 2021 NFL schedule. The first of these mandated that the final regular-season game is a divisional matchup. The idea was to prevent teams from resting players because of the games being of a rival nature. It’s important to note, however, that this has not been the case in recent seasons.

Additionally, the second restriction – which is already in place – affects the way in which the schedule rotates. Teams playing the AFC West or NFC West are assigned to prevent a team from traveling to the west coast twice, while the other team does so for neither game.

What’s all the fuss about this 17th game in NFL 2021?

The 2021 NFL season will see the NFL introduce a 17th game to the calendar. Much has been made of how the 17th game will work, including discussing all 32 teams playing those games at a neutral venue. Confirmation of the exact details regarding the process of the 17th game were made public on March 30th.

As for the matchups themselves, there will be an interconference tilt based on standings on a rotational basis. In 2021, those matchups will see the AFC East teams face the NFC East. The AFC West will match up with the NFC North, and the NFC West will face the AFC North. Therefore, the AFC South will face off with the NFC South to complete the schedule. In the 2021 season, the AFC will get the extra home game, with the NFC getting the honor in 2022. This of course makes for an interesting twist to the end of season play.


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