2021 NFL Schedule: Release Date, Team-by-Team Opponents and More

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2021

FILE - In this Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021 file photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (87), left, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrate together after the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Tampa, Fla. NFL Films has been chronicling Tom Brady’s career since he entered the league in 2000, but there are still times when there are still new things to reveal. That is the case with this year’s Super Bowl film, chronicling Brady’s seventh championship and his first with the Tampa Buccaneers.  (AP Photo/Steve Luciano, File)
Steve Luciano/Associated Press

As the NFL aims for a return to normalcy following a pandemic-impacted season in 2020 that saw limited or no fans in attendance and a subsequent drop in the salary cap, there's already one familiar sight: Tom Brady as the defending Super Bowl champion, though this time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The league announced Wednesday it will release its 2021 schedule with a new 18-week regular season on May 12 at 8 pm. ET. Fans can catch the announcement on the NFL Network.

Teams are already aware of their 17 opponents for the upcoming campaign, it's just a matter of finding out when each of those contests will take place.

So, let's check out the matchups on tap this year along with a few storylines to track once the season kicks off.


Team-by-Team Opponents

Arizona Cardinals

Home: Rams, 49ers, Seahawks, Panthers, Packers, Texans, Colts, Vikings

Road: Rams, 49ers, Seahawks, Bears, Browns, Cowboys, Lions, Jaguars, Titans


Atlanta Falcons

Home: Panthers, Saints, Buccaneers, Lions, Patriots, Jets, Eagles, Washington

Road: Panthers, Saints, Buccaneers, Bills, Cowboys, Jaguars, Dolphins, Giants, 49ers


Baltimore Ravens

Home: Bengals, Browns, Steelers, Packers, Colts, Chiefs, Chargers, Rams, Vikings

Road: Bengals, Browns, Steelers, Bears, Broncos, Lions, Raiders, Dolphins


Buffalo Bills

Home: Dolphins, Patriots, Jets, Falcons, Panthers, Texans, Colts, Steelers, Washington

Road: Dolphins, Patriots, Jets, Jaguars, Chiefs, Saints, Buccaneers, Titans


Carolina Panthers

Home: Falcons, Saints, Buccaneers, Vikings, Patriots, Jets, Eagles, Washington

Road: Falcons, Saints, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Bills, Cowboys, Texans, Dolphins, Giants


Chicago Bears

Home: Lions, Packers, Vikings, Cardinals, Ravens, Bengals, Giants, 49ers

Road: Lions, Packers, Vikings, Browns, Raiders, Rams, Steelers, Seahawks, Buccaneers


Cincinnati Bengals

Home: Ravens, Browns, Steelers, Packers, Jaguars, Chiefs, Chargers, Vikings, 49ers

Road: Ravens, Browns, Steelers, Bears, Broncos, Lions, Raiders, Jets


Cleveland Browns

Home: Ravens, Bengals, Steelers, Cardinals, Bears, Broncos, Lions, Texans, Raiders

Road: Ravens, Bengals, Steelers, Packers, Chiefs, Chargers, Vikings, Patriots


Dallas Cowboys

Home: Giants, Eagles, Washington, Cardinals, Falcons, Panthers, Broncos, Raiders

Road: Giants, Eagles, Washington, Chiefs, Chargers, Vikings, Patriots, Saints, Buccaneers


Denver Broncos

Home: Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers, Ravens, Bengals, Lions, Jets, Eagles, Washington

Road: Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers, Browns, Cowboys, Jaguars, Giants, Steelers


Detroit Lions

Home: Bears, Packers, Vikings, Cardinals, Ravens, Bengals, Eagles, 49ers

Road: Bears, Packers, Vikings, Falcons, Browns, Broncos, Rams, Steelers, Seahawks


Green Bay Packers

Home: Bears, Lions, Vikings, Browns, Rams, Steelers, Seahawks, Washington

Road: Bears, Lions, Vikings, Cardinals, Ravens, Bengals, Chiefs, Saints, 49ers


Houston Texans

Home: Colts, Jaguars, Titans, Panthers, Chargers, Rams, Patriots, Jets, Seahawks

Road: Colts, Jaguars, Titans, Cardinals, Bills, Browns, Dolphins, 49ers


Indianapolis Colts

Home: Texans, Jaguars, Titans, Raiders, Rams, Patriots, Jets, Seahawks, Buccaneers

Road: Texans, Jaguars, Titans, Cardinals, Ravens, Bills, Dolphins, 49ers


Jacksonville Jaguars

Home: Texans, Colts, Titans, Falcons, Cardinals, Bills, Broncos, Dolphins, 49ers

Road: Texans, Colts, Titans, Bengals, Rams, Patriots, Jets, Seahawks


Kansas City Chiefs

Home: Broncos, Raiders, Chargers, Bills, Browns, Cowboys, Packers, Giants, Steelers

Road: Broncos, Raiders, Chargers, Ravens, Bengals, Eagles, Titans, Washington


Las Vegas Raiders

Home: Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Ravens, Bears, Bengals, Dolphins, Eagles, Washington

Road: Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Browns, Cowboys, Colts, Giants, Steelers


Los Angeles Chargers

Home: Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders, Browns, Cowboys, Vikings, Patriots, Giants, Steelers

Road: Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders, Ravens, Bengals, Texans, Eagles, Washington


Los Angeles Rams

Home: Cardinals, 49ers, Seahawks, Bears, Lions, Jaguars, Buccaneers, Titans

Road: Cardinals, 49ers, Seahawks, Ravens, Packers, Texans, Colts, Vikings, Giants


Miami Dolphins

Home: Bills, Patriots, Jets, Falcons, Ravens, Panthers, Texans, Colts, Giants

Road: Bills, Patriots, Jets, Jaguars, Raiders, Saints, Buccaneers, Titans


Minnesota Vikings

Home: Bears, Lions, Packers, Browns, Cowboys, Rams, Steelers, Seahawks

Road: Bears, Lions, Packers, Cardinals, Ravens, Panthers, Bengals, Chargers, 49ers


New England Patriots

Home: Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Browns, Cowboys, Jaguars, Saints, Buccaneers, Titans

Road: Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Falcons, Panthers, Texans, Colts, Chargers


New Orleans Saints

Home: Falcons, Panthers, Buccaneers, Bills, Cowboys, Packers, Dolphins, Giants

Road: Falcons, Panthers, Buccaneers, Patriots, Jets, Eagles, Seahawks, Titans, Washington


New York Giants

Home: Cowboys, Eagles, Washington, Falcons, Panthers, Broncos, Raiders, Rams

Road: Cowboys, Eagles, Washington, Bears, Chiefs, Chargers, Dolphins, Saints, Buccaneers


New York Jets

Home: Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, Bengals, Jaguars, Saints, Eagles, Buccaneers, Titans

Road: Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, Falcons, Panthers, Broncos, Texans, Colts


Philadelphia Eagles

Home: Cowboys, Giants, Washington, Chiefs, Chargers, Saints, 49ers, Buccaneers

Road: Cowboys, Giants, Washington, Falcons, Panthers, Broncos, Lions, Raiders, Jets


Pittsburgh Steelers

Home: Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Bears, Broncos, Lions, Raiders, Seahawks, Titans

Road: Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Bills, Packers, Chiefs, Chargers, Vikings


San Francisco 49ers

Home: Cardinals, Rams, Seahawks, Falcons, Packers, Texans, Colts, Vikings

Road: Cardinals, Rams, Seahawks, Bears, Bengals, Lions, Jaguars, Eagles, Titans


Seattle Seahawks

Home: Cardinals, Rams, 49ers, Bears, Lions, Jaguars, Saints, Titans

Road: Cardinals, Rams, 49ers, Packers, Texans, Colts, Vikings, Steelers, Washington


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Home: Falcons, Panthers, Saints, Bills, Bears, Cowboys, Dolphins, Giants

Road: Falcons, Panthers, Saints, Colts, Rams, Patriots, Jets, Eagles, Washington


Tennessee Titans

Home: Texans, Colts, Jaguars, Cardinals, Bills, Chiefs, Dolphins, Saints, 49ers

Road: Texans, Colts, Jaguars, Rams, Patriots, Jets, Steelers, Seahawks


Washington Football Team

Home: Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Chiefs, Chargers, Saints, Seahawks, Buccaneers

Road: Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Falcons, Bills, Panthers, Broncos, Packers, Raiders


Top Storylines For 2021 NFL Season

Tom Brady's Quest For Eighth Title

It marked the end of an era when Brady left the New England Patriots, and while the Pats felt the ramifications of his departure with a 7-9 record to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008, the future Hall of Famer didn't miss a beat while leading Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl championship.

Brady's seventh title extended his own record for most Super Bowl rings as a player, giving him two more than Charles Haley, and the 43-year-old California native shows no signs of slowing down.

The Checkdown @thecheckdown

7 RINGS FOR BRADY 🐐 @TomBrady @Buccaneers https://t.co/Os8TazFOY7

The University of Michigan product combined to throw 50 touchdowns across 20 games between the regular season and the playoffs, and he confirmed there's a chance he extends beyond his previously stated goal of playing until his mid-40s.

"I'd definitely consider that," Brady said before the Super Bowl. "It's a physical sport. Just the perspective I have on that is you never know when that moment is. Just because it's a contact sport. There's a lot of training that goes into it. And it has to be 100 percent commitment from myself to keep doing it."

That's bad news for the rest of the NFL. Although every year welcomes a new class of potential franchise quarterbacks—a group that includes Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance and Mac Jones this season—Brady continues to reign supreme.

His Buccaneers were able to retain most of their star-studded championship roster and will again be a chief title contender in 2021.


Saints Begin New Era Without Drew Brees

Drew Brees announced his retirement in March after a record-setting 20-year NFL career, including 15 seasons in New Orleans, that included leading the Saints to the Super Bowl XLIV title.

While the 42-year-old awaits the call from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the franchise will try to move forward without him.

The burden of attempting to fill the massive void will fall on either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill—or potentially both.

Hill was impressive during a four-start audition while Brees was sidelined by injury in 2020, completing 71.9 percent of his throws with eight total touchdowns (four passing and four rushing). The team also posted a 3-1 record during that stretch.

Yet, the decision to re-sign Winston suggests there will be an open competition for the top spot on the depth chart throughout training camp and the preseason.

Winston was turnover-prone during his five years as the Bucs' starter, but he surpassed 4,000 passing yards in all three seasons he played all 16 games and tallied 131 total touchdowns in 72 games. So his playmaking upside is obvious, and he could thrive in the fine-tuned New Orleans offense.

The battle between the Saints signal-callers will be one of the top stories during camp, and the winner will face ample pressure to keep the team in the championship conversation.


How Will New 17th Game Impact Season?

The NFL owners exercised their option in the collective bargaining agreement to increase the length of the regular season by one game for 2021. It wasn't a surprise but it still drew the ire of some players.

Alvin Kamara @A_kamara6

Shit dumb... as hell.. https://t.co/HnJ0otzzWp

Adding another contest will create an extra home game for AFC teams in 2021—it will rotate between conferences each year—and give teams that struggle during a stretch of the campaign a little extra leeway to bounce back and still have a shot at the playoffs.

One aspect that'll surely be watched closely is whether the extra game, while sticking with a single bye week per club, will lead to any noticeable uptick in injuries during the latter stages of the regular season.

In addition, the longer schedule will make the No. 1 postseason seed in each conference even more coveted since the bye week that comes with it could prove invaluable before a playoff run.

Some new single-season records are also likely to get established in 2021 with the additional game giving players the chance to take their statistical output up another notch.

As a whole, the extra game will give fans another week to enjoy all the storylines that come with an NFL season, whether it's one mentioned above or the countless others that will emerge this fall.


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