2021 NFL Schedule Announced | NFL Football Operations (2024)

See each team's 2021 NFL schedule on NFL.com.

The NFL announced today its first-ever 18-week, 272-game regular-season schedule for 2021, which kicks off on Thursday night, September 9, in Tampa Bay and concludes with 16 division games in Week 18 – two on Saturday, January 8, and 14 on Sunday, January 9.

The 2021 NFL schedule, Powered by AWS, will feature each team playing 17 regular-season games and three preseason games for the first time, providing fans an extra week of regular-season action. It marks the first change to the season structure since the 1978 campaign ushered in an era of 16 regular-season and four preseason games.

The 17th game will feature teams from opposing conferences that finished in the same standing within their respective divisions the previous season. The AFC was determined to be the home conference for the 17th game in 2021.

The NFL’s 102nd season begins with the league’s annual primetime kickoff game, as the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday, September 9 (8:20 PM ET, NBC).

Week 1 continues Sunday, September 12, with a double-doubleheader featuring four Sunday afternoon games in every market and intriguing matchups in both conferences. On CBS, the defending AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs host the Cleveland Browns (4:25 PM ET) in a rematch of their memorable 2020 Divisional Playoff game. On FOX, the Green Bay Packers travel to face the New Orleans Saints (4:25 PM ET) in a meeting of the NFC’s top two seeds from last year’s postseason.

Later that day, NBC’s Sunday Night Football begins with the Los Angeles Rams hosting the Chicago Bears (8:20 PM ET) at SoFi Stadium.

Kickoff Weekend concludes on Monday, September 13, with ESPN/ABC’s Monday Night Football, featuring the Las Vegas Raiders hosting the Baltimore Ravens (8:15 PM ET) at Allegiant Stadium.

A year after opening, both SoFi Stadium and Allegiant Stadium are expected to welcome fans for the first time in their Week 1 primetime slates, as well as the Los Angeles Chargers’ home opener against the Dallas Cowboys (4:25 PM ET, CBS) in Week 2. Additionally, each stadium will take center stage in February, as Allegiant Stadium will host the 2022 Pro Bowl on Sunday, February 6, and SoFi Stadium will host Super Bowl LVI on Sunday, February 13.

ESPN will televise one game each Monday night in Weeks 1-17. There will be no Monday night game on the final regular-season weekend (Week 18) to provide more flexibility for the scheduling of the opening weekend of the NFL playoffs.

Additionally, ESPN/ABC will air two games with playoff implications on the Saturday of Week 18, January 8. These games will be selected following the conclusion of Week 17.

Thursday Night Football will air exclusively on NFL Network in Weeks 2-4 and in Week 16, while FOX kicks off its Thursday night slate in Week 5. FOX will broadcast 10 Thursday Night Football games between Weeks 5- 15 (excluding Thanksgiving night) as well as the Saturday, December 25, game between the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers (4:30 PM ET). Those FOX games are slated to be simulcast via NFL Network, distributed in Spanish on FOX Deportes, and streamed on Amazon Prime Video, beginning with the Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks game on October 7.

In total, NFL Network will exclusively televise eight games (four on Thursday night, one game in London, both games in Week 15 on Saturday, December 18 and one of the December 25 games, the Indianapolis Colts visiting the Arizona Cardinals [8:15 PM ET]).

Kickoff times for primetime games will remain unchanged this season. Monday and Saturday night games will kick off at 8:15 ET. Sunday and Thursday night games will kick at 8:20 ET. Once again this season, all 32 clubs will have at least one nationally televised game.

A select number of games will be “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring potentially underdistributed games to wider audiences. Some of those contests were announced today and other “cross-flexed” games will be decided during the season.

The NFL’s International Series will return in 2021, as the schedule features two games from London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Atlanta Falcons will play host to the New York Jets in Week 5, airing exclusively on NFL Network (9:30 AM ET), while the Jacksonville Jaguars will play host to the Miami Dolphins in Week 6 (9:30 AM ET, CBS).

Thanksgiving will feature a tripleheader on Thursday, November 25. The first game will match two NFC North division rivals, as the Chicago Bears travel to Detroit to face the Lions (12:30 PM ET, FOX). The late afternoon game will feature the Las Vegas Raiders visiting the Dallas Cowboys (4:30 PM ET, CBS). The Thanksgiving Day festivities conclude with an interconference matchup between two 2020 playoff teams, as the Bills travel to New Orleans to face the Saints on NBC (8:20 PM ET).

The regular season will conclude with Week 18 on Saturday, January 8, and Sunday, January 9. For the 12th consecutive year, all 16 games scheduled for the final week of the season are division contests, enhancing the potential for more games with playoff ramifications.

For the first time ever, the NFL’s 32 teams will each play 17 games over 18 weeks. Byes will begin in Week 6 and end in Week 14.

Eleven 2021 games are rematches of the 2020 playoffs, including the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Night Football in Week 5 (8:20 PM ET, NBC), a rematch of the AFC Championship Game. Other 2021 schedule notes:

  • Fifteen games will be Super Bowl rematches.
  • Aaron Rodgers, the 2020 NFL MVP, and Lamar Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP, are scheduled to meet for the first time in their careers when the Green Bay Packers travel to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 15 (1:00 PM ET, FOX).
  • On Sunday Night Football in Week 4, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will travel to New England (8:20 PM ET, NBC), where Brady won six Super Bowls with the Patriots. He can become the fourth quarterback in league history to defeat all 32 teams.
  • The top two picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, are scheduled to meet in Week 16 when the Jacksonville Jaguars travel to play the New York Jets (1:00 PM ET, CBS). If both players start, it will mark the fourth game in NFL history between rookie starting quarterbacks selected first and second overall.
  • Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham Jr., Christian McCaffrey and Dak Prescott are among the exciting group of stars expected to return to the field in 2021.

“Flexible scheduling” will be used in Weeks 11-18. Additionally, in Weeks 5-10, flexible scheduling may be used in no more than two weeks. In Weeks 5-17, the schedule lists the games tentatively set for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon start time.

Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday or Monday nights.

In Week 15, two of the five matchups designated as TBD will be played on Saturday with the remainder to be played on Sunday. Specific dates and start times for such designated Week 15 matchups will be determined and announced no later than four weeks prior to game day.

For Week 18, two Saturday games and the Sunday night game will be announced no later than six days prior to January 9. The schedule does not list Saturday games or a Sunday night game in Week 18, but games with playoff implications will be moved to those time slots. Flexible scheduling ensures quality matchups in all Sunday time slots in those weeks and give “surprise” teams a chance to play their way into primetime. In Week 18, two games will be played on Saturday, one at 4:30 PM ET and one at 8:15 PM ET with the remainder to be played on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 PM ET and 4:25 PM ET, and one matchup to be played on Sunday night at 8:20 PM ET. Specific dates and start times for Week 18 matchups will be determined and announced following the conclusion of Week 17.

Introduced last year and continuing in 2021, a total of 14 teams – seven each in the American and National Football Conferences – will make the postseason. The No. 1 seed in each conference will receive a bye in the Wild Card round. The remaining division champions in each conference with the best records will be seeded 2, 3, and 4, followed by the next three teams per conference with the best records seeded 5, 6, and 7.

Since 1990 – a streak of 31 consecutive seasons – at least four new teams have qualified for the playoffs that missed the postseason the year before, including seven of the 14 playoff teams in 2020.

AFC and NFC Wild Card games will feature the 2 seed hosting the 7 seed, the 3 seed hosting the 6 seed and the 4 seed hosting the 5 seed.

Wild Card Weekend for the 2021 season will feature six games, starting on Saturday, January 15. Wild Card Weekend winners join the top seeds in each conference in the Divisional Playoffs on Saturday and Sunday, January 22-23. The AFC and NFC Championship Games, presented by Intuit TurboTax Live, will be played on Sunday, January 30. The winners meet two weeks later on Sunday, February 13, in Super Bowl LVI at Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium (NBC), marking the first time the league’s final game is played in the Los Angeles area since Super Bowl XXVII in 1993.

As a seasoned sports analyst with a deep understanding of the NFL, I can confidently delve into the intricacies of the 2021 NFL schedule. My expertise extends beyond a mere familiarity with the teams and matchups; I possess a comprehensive knowledge of the historical context, scheduling nuances, and the impact of recent changes on the league.

Let's break down the key concepts and details highlighted in the provided article:

  1. Expanded Regular Season:

    • The 2021 NFL season introduced an 18-week, 272-game regular-season schedule, a historic departure from the traditional 17-week structure.
    • Each team played 17 regular-season games and three preseason games for the first time, extending the regular-season action for fans.
  2. Structure of the 17th Game:

    • The 17th game paired teams from opposing conferences that finished in the same standing within their respective divisions in the previous season.
    • In 2021, the AFC was designated as the home conference for the 17th game.
  3. Kickoff and Primetime Games:

    • The season commenced with the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night, September 9.
    • Primetime games remained a significant feature, with Sunday and Thursday night games kicking off at 8:20 ET, and Monday and Saturday night games at 8:15 ET.
  4. International Series:

    • The NFL's International Series returned in 2021 with two games at London's Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, featuring matchups like the Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Miami Dolphins.
  5. Flexible Scheduling:

    • Flexible scheduling was implemented in Weeks 11-18, allowing for adjustments to ensure quality matchups in primetime slots.
    • Sunday afternoon games were eligible to be moved to Sunday night during Weeks 5-17, with no impact on Thursday or Monday night games.
  6. Playoff Structure:

    • The postseason format included 14 teams (seven each in the AFC and NFC), with the top seed in each conference receiving a bye in the Wild Card round.
    • Since 1990, at least four new teams have qualified for the playoffs each season, maintaining the league's competitive balance.
  7. Wild Card Weekend and Playoffs:

    • Wild Card Weekend for the 2021 season featured six games, starting on Saturday, January 15.
    • The AFC and NFC Championship Games were scheduled for Sunday, January 30, leading to Super Bowl LVI on Sunday, February 13, at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.
  8. Notable Matchups:

    • The schedule featured intriguing matchups, including the opening game between the Buccaneers and Cowboys, a rematch between the Chiefs and Browns, and the anticipated meeting of Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson.
  9. Stadium Debuts and Events:

    • SoFi Stadium and Allegiant Stadium were expected to welcome fans for the first time in Week 1, hosting primetime games.
    • Allegiant Stadium hosted the 2022 Pro Bowl, while SoFi Stadium was the venue for Super Bowl LVI.

By drawing on my wealth of knowledge and understanding of these concepts, I can confidently assert that the 2021 NFL season was a unique and compelling chapter in the league's storied history.

2021 NFL Schedule Announced | NFL Football Operations (2024)


Who has the hardest schedule in NFL football? ›

Based on projected win totals, the New England Patriots have the hardest strength of schedule for the 2023 NFL season. NFL teams with the hardest schedules in 2023: New England Patriots. Las Vegas Raiders.

How does AFC NFC work? ›

The National Football League is divided into the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). Each conference has 16 teams divided into four divisions of four teams- north, south, east, and west- during the regular season.

Does the NFC play the AFC? ›

Using the 2023 regular season schedule as an example, each team in the AFC West plays against every team in the AFC East and NFC North. In this way, non-divisional competition will be mostly among common opponents – the exception being the three games assigned based on the team's prior-season divisional standing.

How are NFL bye weeks determined? ›

No. 1 seeds get first-round bye: The NFL teams with the best record in the AFC and NFC will earn a bye in the first-round of the playoffs. The week off serves as a reward to the best team in each conference, contrary to previous seasons where the teams with the top two seeds were awarded byes.

Who has the softest schedule in the NFL? ›

Based on projected win totals, the Atlanta Falcons have the easiest strength of schedule for the 2024 NFL season.

Who has the toughest schedule in the NFL 2024? ›

The Pittsburgh Steelers have the toughest schedule on paper, followed by the New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Minnesota Vikings, and the Titans. Warren Sharp also projects a Titans win total of 6.5, consistent with the over/under set by several sports books.

Who will win Super Bowl 2024? ›

Odds to Win Super Bowl 2024
TeamCurrent OddsOpening Odds
San Francisco 49ers+600+500
Kansas City Chiefs+650+750
Baltimore Ravens+900+850
Detroit Lions+1200+1200
28 more rows
Apr 5, 2024

Who has won more Super Bowls AFC or NFC? ›

All games since 1971's Super Bowl V have been played between the best team from each of the two conferences, with the NFC tied with the AFC 29–29 in wins. Among the NFL's current 32 teams, 20 (11 NFC, nine AFC) have won a Super Bowl and 15 (eight AFC, seven NFC) hold multiple titles.

Can two AFC teams play in Super Bowl? ›

No, because by definition the annual Super Bowl is played between the champions of the two conferences, AFC and NFC. It's frequently posited that the two best teams in the NFL are from the same conference, but that's little solace to the second-best team that doesn't make it to the big game.

Which conference has the most Super Bowl wins? ›

Who has won more Super Bowls: NFC or AFC? The NFC leads the AFC in the Vince Lombardi Trophy count but only by one game, with 29 wins to 28. More specifically, since the first Super Bowl in 1967, the NFC East has been the most successful division in the NFL, grabbing 21 NFC championships and 13 Super Bowl victories.

Which NFL conference has the most championships? ›

The NFC East is currently the only division in the league in which all four current teams have won at least one Super Bowl. With 13 Super Bowl titles, the NFC East is currently the most successful division in the NFL during the Super Bowl era, with the AFC West second with ten titles.

Has any NFL team never made the playoffs? ›

All 32 active NFL teams have qualified for and won a game in the playoffs. Teams that have never made it beyond each successive milestone are listed under the year in which they began NFL play.

When was the last 0 0 NFL game? ›

When was the last 0-0 tie in the NFL? The most recent 0-0 tie came on Nov. 7, 1943, in a game played between the New York Giants and Detroit Lions. The two teams combined for nine first downs and 214 yards at Briggs Stadium in Detroit.

Why is it called a bye? ›

The term is not related to goodbye but is instead believed to be an alteration of by, as in the team is "standing by" to play later, or "bypassed" while other teams play.

Who has the most difficult NFL schedule this year? ›

Based on team efficiency this season, the Baltimore Ravens have the #1 hardest strength of schedule for the remainder of the 2023 NFL season.

Who has the hardest NFL schedule 2024 2025? ›

Here's every NFL team's 2024 strength of schedule, ranked most difficult to easiest:
  • Cleveland Browns (.547) ...
  • Baltimore Ravens (.536) ...
  • Pittsburgh Steelers (. ...
  • Green Bay Packers (. ...
  • Houston Texans (.526) ...
  • Buffalo Bills (.516) ...
  • New York Giants (.516) ...
  • Jacksonville Jaguars (.512)
Feb 3, 2024

Who has easiest schedule in NFL 2024? ›

But when the season actually played out, Dallas had the third-easiest slate (. 446), only behind Atlanta and New Orleans. It just so happens those two teams have the easiest strength of schedules going into 2024 as well; something about that NFC South.


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