The NFL has released the 2021 schedule and it opens where last season ended - at Tampa Bay.
With all 22 starters back on the roster, the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers will host the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, September 9. The game is slated for an 8:20 p.m. kickoff, eastern time and will be broadcast by NBC.
For those who were hibernating through the Covid pandemic, last season ended in Tampa with the Bucs becoming the first team to ever play a Super Bowl game in their home stadium. Tampa Bay defeated the previous year's Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9.
Interestingly, it's Kansas City - and not Tampa Bay - that the sportsbooks favor to win the crown this year. BettingNews.com NFL Picks is the place to find all action.
When was the last time a team returned all 22 starters from a Super Bowl-winning team? The answer is 1978 after the Oakland Raiders won the 1977 Super Bowl over the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14.
In addition to the star-filled Tampa roster, fans will presumably also be treated to the return of Dallas QB Dak Prescott who missed the final 11 games of last season after suffering a horrendous compound leg fracture against the New York Giants.
NFL teams will each play one extra regular season game for a total of 17, following a 3-game exhibition slate.
All 32 teams will play on the opening weekend.
Las Vegas gets the opening week Monday night game with the Raiders hosting the Baltimore Ravens on ESPN. Finally, the $2 billion dollar Allegiant Stadium, nicknamed the 'Death Star", should have a packed house of frenzied football fans to welcome the team to the Sin City.
Unfortunately, Jacksonville fans will have to wait until week 2 when Denver comes to town to welcome quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 draft pick, and new head coach Urban Meyer. The Jaguars visit the Houston Texans in week 1 for one of the nine early games.
Green Bay visits New Orleans for a 4:25 ET kick-off. The storyline for this game is whether or not Aaron Rodgers will be under center for the Pack or will Jordan Love inherit the keys. We already know Drew Brees won't be on the field for the Saints after he announced his immediate retirement back in March.
At the same time that the Pack and Saints are tee-ing it up, Pat Mahomes and Kansas City will be hosting Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns.
If you find yourself getting antsy and need your NFL fix before the official season begins, the Hall-of-Fame exhibition game this year pits Dallas against Pittsburgh on Thursday, August 5. Those two combatants were originally scheduled to play in last season's HOF game, but coronavirus concerns forced that contest to be canceled.
Here is the entire opening week slate (all times eastern):
Thursday, September 9
Dallas at Tampa Bay, 8:20, NBC
Sunday, September 12
Jacksonville at Houston, 1:00, CBS
San Diego at Washington, 1:00, CBS
Seattle at Indianapolis, 1:00, FOX
New York Jets at Carolina, 1:00, CBS
Minnesota at Cincinnati, 1:00, FOX
Arizona at Tennessee, 1:00, CBS
San Francisco at Detroit, 1:00, FOX
Pittsburgh at Buffalo, 1:00, CBS
Philadelphia at Atlanta, 1:00, FOX
Cleveland at Kansas City, 4:25, CBS
Green Bay at New Orleans, 4:25 FOX
Denver at New York Giants, 4:25, FOX
Miami at New England, 4:25, CBS
Chicago at Los Angeles Rams, 8:20 NBC
Monday, September 13th
Baltimore at Las Vegas, 8:15, ESPN