The 2021 NFL time table is out, and the steady season will start with the Dallas Cowboys going through the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday, Sept. 9. Week 1 additionally includes a assembly of AFC powerhouses within the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns, the New Orleans Saints starting their post-Drew Brees generation towards the Green Bay Packers and new Carolina Panthers QB Sam Darnold going through his outdated New York Jets staff. And the hole Monday Night Football game will see the Baltimore Ravens seek advice from the Las Vegas Raiders.
The NFL additionally expanded the regular-season time table to 17 video games, which starts this yr. The NFL had performed a 16-game time table since 1978. And the league will go back to global play with the Atlanta Falcons set to host the Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars matching up with the Miami Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
But what will have to we make of the 2021 slate? Who’s the largest winner from the time table free up? Which video games will have to you circle to your calendar? And which rookie debut would be the maximum fascinating? Our panel of NFL mavens weighs in.
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Which matchup do you have got rotated to your calendar?
Matt Bowen, NFL analyst: Bills at Patriots, Week 16. I in point of fact just like the roster upgrades New England made this offseason via loose company and the draft. There are scheme-specific avid gamers there. And this matchup in Week 16 towards Buffalo can have main implications in each playoff seeding and the AFC East race.
Mike Clay, myth author: Browns at Chiefs, Week 1. Two of the league’s best possible groups going through off within the first week? I’m right here for it. The Browns are completely loaded on paper, and that is their alternative to determine themselves as a sound Super Bowl contender. Cleveland will probably be eyeing a sizzling get started once you have beaten 38-6 through the Ravens in Week 1 closing season. The Browns may also be searching for revenge after being eradicated through the Chiefs within the playoffs closing season.
Jeremy Fowler, nationwide NFL author: Bills at Chiefs, Week 5. Buffalo’s dream 2020 season fizzled temporarily with a shaky efficiency towards Kansas City within the AFC identify game. This rematch will have to be tighter, with the Bills desperate to take the proverbial subsequent step. And through Week 5, Kansas City’s reimagined offensive line will have to be in complete swing.
Dan Graziano, nationwide NFL author: Buccaneers at Patriots, Week 4. There were not any Patriots enthusiasts within the stands closing yr in Foxborough, so it shouldn’t have been just about as a lot amusing if Tom Brady’s go back were closing season. Good at the scheduling gods for ready a yr for the juiciest revenge game of the season — whichever means you suppose the revenge will have to be directed.
Kevin Seifert, nationwide NFL author: Buccaneers at Patriots, Week 4. I suppose I’m a sucker for storylines, however will there be a greater one in 2021 than Brady’s go back to Foxborough in top time? And if the numbers determine proper, Brady may just go Drew Brees because the NFL’s all-time chief in occupation passing yards. He’ll want to reasonable about 289 yards consistent with game over the primary 4 video games to do it that night time.
Seth Walder, sports analytics author: Chiefs at Ravens, Week 2. I believe there is a respectable probability Lamar Jackson and the Ravens recapture the magic in their 2019 season and grow to be one of the most best possible groups within the league once more. What higher approach to in finding out if they’re for actual this yr than taking up Patrick Mahomes? Plus, I like looking at two efficient offenses which are this stylistically other.
Who or what’s the largest winner of the time table free up?
Bowen: The Week 1 prime-time slate. I see 3 in point of fact excellent prime-time video games right here. Dallas at Tampa Bay begins it off within the Thursday night time opener with Dak Prescott and Brady. On Sunday night time, we get to observe Matthew Stafford in his first game with the Rams’ offense, and perhaps we additionally see rookie quarterback Justin Fields taking snaps for Chicago. And on Monday night time, it is Jackson towards the Raiders in Vegas. That’s excellent football.
Clay: Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay has the league’s very best projected time table in response to my analysis of each and every 2021 roster. The Bucs face the NFC and AFC East divisions, which don’t seem to be specifically intimidating, and they will additionally get pleasure from a slightly gentle slate of six divisional video games towards the Falcons, Panthers and Drew Brees-less Saints. Tampa Bay is about up well for any other Super Bowl run.
Chris Canty explains why he is extra occupied with seeing how Dak Prescott and the Cowboys will jump again for the impending season.
Fowler: Dallas Cowboys. Nine of Dallas’ fighters had a shedding file closing season (together with all the NFC East, after all). There are the Saints, Bucs and Chiefs, however no longer a lot else to scare you. Prescott will have to rebound well from his ankle surgical procedure towards a couple of defenses that do not thoughts giving up large passing yardage.
Graziano: Philadelphia Eagles. All of the NFC East groups were given nice-looking attracts (which, in response to closing yr, all of them may just use), however the Eagles should not have to get on a airplane after Week 10. Late-season go back and forth is a large a part of what avid gamers take a look at once they assess the time table. I have not dug in sufficient to understand whether or not Philly is the largest winner, however I did see that late-season go back and forth word and concept it was once value stating right here.
Seifert: Capacity for hype. The NFL added a brand new degree to this ridiculous and wonderful day through teasing out the Week 1 time table on its companions’ morning displays. Instead of eating one night of the offseason, the NFL stole a complete day’s value of consideration. Impressive.
Walder: Carolina Panthers. The maximum essential a part of the order of a staff’s video games is how a lot leisure they have got relative to their fighters. Carolina does not play any groups coming off a bye and general has a plus-13-day leisure differential relative to its fighters over the process the yr. That’s tied for the perfect leisure differential amongst all staff schedules since 2002 (regardless that there’s an additional game this yr).
Which rookie debut are you maximum occupied with, and why?
Bowen: Kyle Pitts, Eagles vs. Falcons. Pitts has a decent finish body however the characteristics of a large receiver. There’s matchup talent in any respect 3 ranges of the sector with scoring upside within the pink zone. And I’m keen to peer how new Falcons head trainer Arthur Smith schemes him up within the passing game.
Clay: Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars vs. Texans. Granted it is a street game, however Lawrence is another way arrange about in addition to you’ll be to your NFL debut. The first general select will face what’s arguably the league’s shakiest protection on paper. Houston’s protection was once one of the most league’s worst closing season and will probably be with out offseason departures J.J. Watt and Benardrick McKinney, in addition to suspended cornerback Bradley Roby. Lawrence is located for a sizzling begin to his occupation.
Fowler: Najee Harris, Steelers at Bills. Pittsburgh’s time table is brutal, the offensive line is patchy and Ben Roethlisberger is pushing 40 years outdated, so counting out the Steelers is a handy factor to do. But Harris is the franchise’s best possible every-down again since Le’Veon Bell and can set a tone in Week 1.
Graziano: Zach Wilson, Jets at Panthers. I believe it is a brutal smash for Wilson, to have to overcome Sam Darnold in Week 1. I’m no longer announcing he can not do it, or that he would possibly not grow to be higher than Darnold. But I’ve lived virtually my complete lifestyles in New Jersey or Connecticut, and I do know Jets enthusiasts. If Wilson struggles in Week 1 and Darnold lighting it up in the similar game, it isn’t going to be a amusing week for the rookie.
Seifert: Travis Etienne, Jaguars vs. Texans. New trainer Urban Meyer justified his resolution to draft a operating again within the first spherical, in spite of the presence of James Robinson and Carlos Hyde, through suggesting a Percy Harvin-like “hybrid” function for Etienne. I’m doubtful. Harvin was once a once-in-a-generation playmaker. But Week 1 will probably be our first alternative to peer what Meyer has in thoughts, assuming he does not give a lot of it away within the preseason.
Walder: Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals vs. Vikings. It’s the Joe Burrow-Chase reunion. And it is going to be additional candy when we overlooked Chase in 2020 (he opted out of the varsity season) and Burrow within the latter part of his rookie yr (because of harm). They had been a distinct pairing in school, and they would jolt Cincinnati to lifestyles if they may be able to stick with it on the subsequent degree.
Which win overall over or below do you are feeling best possible about choosing at this time?
Bowen: Washington over 8 wins. Ron Rivera’s staff has one the most efficient defenses within the league, and I see an upgraded offense that may have extra explosive-play talent within the passing game. Give me Washington to most sensible the eight-win mark — and problem for the NFC East identify.
Fowler: Raiders over 7.5. If Vegas had shored up its protection closing yr, it will were a 10-win staff. If the Raiders can get a semblance of a go rush and a go protection, I really like their probabilities to surpass closing yr’s 8-8 clip. They’ve made strikes to deal with the ones spots throughout the draft and loose company. The wild card is a rebuilt offensive line that misplaced some high-caliber ability, however they needed to get more youthful, and that would possibly rejuvenate the operating game.
Graziano: Vikings over 8.5 wins. Aaron Rodgers will not be within the department anymore. The Bears have questions at QB, and their protection is not what it was. The Lions are … far off. Minnesota has balance at key positions and will have to be the most efficient staff within the NFC North if Rodgers is not in Green Bay. And even supposing he’s, I nonetheless suppose they may be able to get to 9-8. Yeah, that is not a typo. Welcome to the 17-game season.
Seifert: 49ers below 10 wins. What’s much more likely? The 49ers undergo a complete 17-game season with Jimmy Garoppolo as their quarterback? Or, for one reason why or any other, Garoppolo provides approach to rookie Trey Lance in the future all through the season? Assuming you accept as true with the latter, 10 wins is a large quantity for a staff that transitions to a rookie quarterback.
Doug Kezirian, Joe Fortenbaugh and Tyler Fulghum percentage their favourite Week 1 matchups.
Walder: Steelers below 9 wins. With an growing older Roethlisberger and an overly questionable offensive line, this offense may just get unpleasant rapid. The protection was once elite closing season, however we all know that facet of the ball is much less strong from yr to yr, specifically with a couple of avid gamers — Cam Heyward and Joe Haden, amongst others — achieving the twilight in their careers.
What’s your early Super Bowl select?
Bowen: Chiefs over Rams. Stafford elevates a passing game in L.A. that will probably be extra vertical and extra explosive. And we all know the Rams’ protection can play. But I nonetheless just like the Chiefs to win it. Mahomes is the difference-maker right here, with the playmaking talent to take over video games.
Clay: Buccaneers over Browns. Tampa Bay will go back its complete beginning lineup from closing season’s Super Bowl run, and its younger protection will have to best be higher in 2021. Cleveland’s offense was once already excellent closing season, and the entrance place of business did an A-plus activity overhauling and bettering its protection all through the offseason. As lengthy as Baker Mayfield does not stumble, the Browns will have to be reliable Super Bowl contenders.
Fowler: Packers over Bills. Let’s put aside Green Bay’s acrimony with Rodgers and be mindful the Packers were at the verge of collapse for 2 years. A staff with back-to-back 13-win seasons and NFC identify game appearances returns its core, and it may well be a freelance extension clear of any other spite season from Rodgers. Buffalo has made a leap in each and every yr with quarterback Josh Allen, trainer Sean McDermott and basic supervisor Brandon Beane in combination. Here’s to any other.
Graziano: Bills over Rams. I do not know who to select within the NFC, however I do not wish to select the Bucs as a result of I do not consider in repeats on this league. The Rams glance excellent, and we will pass with them — till the following time I’m requested for a select. But the headline this is the primary Super Bowl identify in Bills historical past and a statue for McDermott in Buffalo.
Peyton Manning is going via the entire groups he has overwhelmed at the Broncos’ time table.
Seifert: Chiefs over Buccaneers. It’s a run of the mill repeat, however it is an early select. The Chiefs have beaten the offseason through overhauling their offensive line, and the Buccaneers have their complete beginning lineup and all in their key coaches again from the staff that stuck fireplace within the 2020 playoffs.
Walder: Browns over Rams. Cleveland’s roster is simply overflowing with ability. From Myles Garrett to Odell Beckham Jr. to Denzel Ward to a powerful offensive line, the Browns are stacked to the purpose the place they will have to have the ability to win — even with out an elite-tier QB. The Rams have fantastic upside with stars on protection and doable development on offense with Stafford now below heart.