The 2021 NFL regular season begins on Thursday, Sept. 9 with Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys in the annual Kickoff Game. For the first time ever, each team will play 17 regular-season games this year and going forward – meaning it's an 18-week season. Still just one bye for each club.
It's the first time in 43 years the regular season has been increased: It went from 14 to 16 games in 1978. Because of the added week, Super Bowl 56 was pushed back one week to Feb. 13, 2022 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles – that date now lands right in the middle of the 2022 Winter Olympics. L.A. hosted the first-ever Super Bowl at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1967 and hasn't hosted one since following the 1992 season when the Dallas Cowboys routed the Buffalo Bills 52-17 in Super Bowl 27 at the Rose Bowl.
William Hill Sportsbook oddsmakers favor a Chiefs vs. Bucs Super Bowl 56 rematch with Kansas City as a +260 favorite to win the AFC and Tampa Bay the +300 NFC favorite. The only immediate Super Bowl rematch was Dallas vs. Buffalo in Super Bowl 28 in Atlanta, with the Cowboys winning 30-13.
The added 17th regular-season game will be AFC vs. NFC with all AFC teams hosting, and the hosting conference will rotate each year going forward. Thus, half of the league's teams will play nine home games in the regular season, while the other half will play nine road games. It is based on where teams finished in the 2020 season and with this format:
- AFC East teams vs. NFC East teams
- NFC North teams vs. AFC West teams
- NFC South teams vs. AFC South teams
- NFC West teams vs. AFC North teams
We may not see a team finish exactly .500 again for many years barring a tie – i.e. an 8-8-1 record (insert Jeff Fisher joke here). Numerous single-season records could be broken with the added game.
After international games fell by the wayside last year due to the pandemic, they return in 2021 with two games in London at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium: Falcons hosting the Jets on Oct. 10 and Jaguars hosting the Dolphins on Oct. 17. Thus, Atlanta will be the lone team in the NFL this year with just seven true home games. The Jets and Fins have only seven true road games.
Teams are expecting full capacity at stadiums this year.
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