LOS ANGELES — The NFL has released the opening week of the 2021 season, in advance of Wednesday night's release of the full schedule.
The Los Angeles Rams cut the ribbon on SoFi Stadium — at least the version with fans in attendance — by playing host to Chicago on Sept. 12 in the first "Sunday Night Football" game of the season. It's the first of several Super Bowl dry runs for the NFL, which will stage its ultimate game there in February 2022.
The season will get underway three nights earlier with Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay playing host to Dallas. That game will feature Tom Brady and Dak Prescott, with those quarterbacks facing each other for the second time. Brady won the first, back when he was with New England.
The Los Angeles Chargers hit the road, meanwhile, playing a Sunday game at Washington. A matchup to watch in that one is Chargers rookie tackle Rashawn Slater against Washington edge rusher Chase Young. They faced each other in college, and Slater got the better of that matchup.
The Monday night game is Baltimore at Las Vegas. The Ravens have made the playoffs in each of their three seasons with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, whereas the Raiders are still looking to get to the postseason with Jon Gruden 2.0 as coach.
A look at the other Week 1 matchups:
— Philadelphia at Atlanta — The Eagles, who have beaten Atlanta in three of their last four meetings, face new Falcons coach Arthur Smith in his debut and rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, a Philadelphia native.
— Pittsburgh at Buffalo — Steelers open on the road for the seventh year in a row, and it's Ben Roethlisberger against Josh Allen, who has a lot of young Ben Roethlisberger qualities.
— New York Jets at Carolina — If Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold is looking to exact revenge against his old team, he won't have to wait long. How does that No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson look?
— Minnesota at Cincinnati — Riley Reiff has gone from left tackle for the Vikings to right tackle for the Bengals, where he'll be blocking for the surgically reconstructed Joe Burrow. Reiff has the unenviable task of keeping Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter at bay.
— San Francisco at Detroit — Jared Goff makes his debut for the Lions and likely will square off against a familiar foe in Jimmy Garoppolo. But it could be rookie Trey Lance for the 49ers, and the Lions don't have a great track record against quarterbacks playing their first NFL game. They tied Arizona with Kyler Murray in 2019, and lost to the Jets' Darnold (2018) and the Falcons' Matt Ryan (2008).
— Jacksonville at Houston — One of two divisional matchups in Week 1. The retooled Texans, coming off a 4-12 season, get the first look at No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence, coach Urban Meyer ... and the repositioned Tim Tebow?
— Seattle at Indianapolis — Quarterback Carson Wentz gets a fresh start with the Colts and another crack at Seattle. His Philadelphia teams were 0-5 against the Russell Wilson-led Seahawks.
— Arizona at Tennessee — The Titans will open at home for the first time since 2017 and will face a familiar nightmare in Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins, a former AFC South terror. On defense for Arizona will be new cornerback Malcolm Butler, formerly of Tennessee.
— Cleveland at Kansas City — It's Baker Mayfield versus Patrick Mahomes in a rematch of a divisional playoff game that the Chiefs won on their way to the Super Bowl against Tampa Bay.
— Miami at New England — The other Week 1 divisional matchup. It's the fourth time in the last decade that these AFC East foes have faced each other in an opener. Both are trying to figure it out at quarterback, and it could well be second-year Tua Tagovailoa against rookie Mac Jones.
— Green Bay at New Orleans — Will Aaron Rodgers play another game for Green Bay? Brett Favre has joked that Rodgers could wind up as quarterback of the Saints. Rodgers reportedly dismissed that possibility in a text back to Favre, but wouldn't that be wild?
— Denver at New York Giants — Now, there's a distinct possibility to Rodgers winding up in Denver, and that would add juice to this opener. The Broncos played host to the Giants on Monday, Sept. 10, 2001 — one day before the 9/11 terror attacks. This game will be played one day after the solemn 20th anniversary of that tragic day.
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