The NFL is returning to London in October, and Tom Brady will begin his pursuit of an eighth Super Bowl title against the Dallas Cowboys when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the league's annual kickoff game on Sept. 9.
The first game in London since the coronavirus pandemic will be played on Oct. 10 as the Atlanta Falcons face the New York Jets. A week later, the Jacksonville Jaguars meet the Miami Dolphins. Both games will be played at the stadium of Premier League soccer team Tottenham Hotspur. The Falcons and the Jaguars will be the home teams.
The NFL's first 17-game season opens on the same field where the Bucs defeated the Kansas City Chiefs to become the first team to win a Super Bowl at home. Brady will return to New England to face the Patriots, with whom he spent the first 20 seasons of his NFL career before joining the Bucs last spring, in a Sunday night game on Oct. 3.
Other highlights from opening weekend include former Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford playing his first game for the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night against the visiting Chicago Bears with SoFi Stadium welcoming fans for the first time.
Most teams are expected to be at full capacity after a season played before limited crowds because of COVID-19.
"We are excited our fans get to experience a couple of home prime-time games and our players certainly feed off the fans' energy," Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. "We will be opening at home for the first time since I became head coach, and I am happy our fans will be there to kick off the season with us."
The Titans have five consecutive games against playoff teams from Oct. 18 to Nov. 14. Their eight games against 2020 playoff teams sets a franchise high since the team that started as the Houston Oilers became the Titans in 1999.
Reigning AFC champion Kansas City hosts the Cleveland Browns in a playoff rematch in the opening week. The Chiefs eliminated the Browns in the divisional round last season despite losing star quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a concussion.
"Every year stands on its own merit. For us, the focus is on the 2021 season," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "Now, I realize that last game last year ended in Kansas City, so that certainly is something we have to learn from. It will truly be a matchup that is unique to 2021. The game won't start in the fifth quarter from last year's game."
Two other opening matchups feature playoff teams facing off. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost to Cleveland in the wild-card round, visit the Buffalo Bills, who reached the AFC title game. Quarterback Carson Wentz and the Indianapolis Colts host counterpart Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. During his time with the Philadelphia Eagles, Wentz was 0-4 against Wilson.
The Las Vegas Raiders host the Baltimore Ravens in the first Monday night game. The Green Bay Packers open the season — with or without disgruntled quarterback Aaron Rodgers — by visiting the New Orleans Saints, who will be without Drew Brees, their longtime quarterback who retired this year.
Jaguars fans have to wait until the second game to see new quarterback and No. 1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence in person. Jacksonville opens on the road against the Houston Texans in an AFC South Division matchup, then hosts the Denver Broncos in Week 2.
Detroit, Dallas and New Orleans host games on Thanksgiving Day. The Lions face the Bears in the first game, the Cowboys play the Raiders in the second one and the Bills visit the Saints in the prime-time matchup.
Four teams play on Christmas. The Browns go to Green Bay, and the Colts visit the Arizona Cardinals.
The Bills visit the Chiefs in a rematch of the AFC championship game on Oct. 10, a Sunday night game. A potential Rodgers-Mahomes showdown is set for Week 9 in Kansas City.
Ten teams are scheduled for a league-high five prime-time games: the Bucs, Chiefs, Cowboys, Packers, Rams, Ravens, Saints, Seahawks, Steelers and San Francisco 49ers.
The 17th game, which was added in the new collective bargaining agreement last year, features teams from opposing conferences that finished in the same place within their respective divisions at the end of the previous season. AFC teams have the extra home game this year.
"One of the tremendous benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to bring more games to more fans," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. "The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to continue to grow our game around the world."
The regular season concludes on Jan. 9, 2022, featuring all divisional games for the 12th consecutive season. Super Bowl LVI is on Feb. 13, 2022, in Los Angeles. The Pro Bowl will be played a week earlier at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.