After a Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Super Bowl victory to culminate the 2020 NFL season, the league got underway with the new 2021 season in mid-March 2021. Free agency began on March 17 with a number of key players heading to new teams. The offseason’s biggest news revolved around Green Bay QB and reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, who reportedly wasn’t interested in playing for the Packers any longer.
Rodgers is, of course, in camp with Green Bay as is the rest of the league. The 2021 regular season is not that far away. Here’s a look at the key dates for the upcoming 2021 season.
Aug. 31 – Roster Deadline
All 32 NFL teams must reduce their rosters to a maximum of 53 players. The rosters must be submitted to the league office by 4 p.m. ET. Teams that have players on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform or Active/Non-Football Injury lists must select a designation for such players. Designations include placing them on the active roster, waiving them, negotiating a trade, terminating their contract or making their current designation permanent.
Sept. 1 – Waivers/Practice Squads
After the roster cutdown, teams have until 4 p.m. ET to claim players from the waiver list. Teams may begin assembling a Practice Squad that may consist of 12 players. The NFL increased the size of the Practice Squad by two players prior to last season. Any team participating in the NFL’s International Development program is permitted to sign one extra (international) player to its practice squad.
Any players placed on Injured Reserve or the Reserve/Non-Football Injury lists may be designated for return later in the season.
Sept. 9 – NFL Kickoff Thursday
Introduced in 2002, the NFL annual Kickoff Game will take place this season on Thursday, Sept. 9. As is tradition, the game is hosted by the previous year’s Super Bowl champion. This year, Tampa Bay will play host to Dallas, which finished just 6-10 last season. International recording superstar Ed Sheeran is scheduled to perform at the NFL Experience prior to the game. The game officially marks the beginning of the 2021 regular season.
Sept. 12-13 – NFL Week 1 Continues
Week 1 of the 2021 regular season continues on Sunday, Sept. 12 with 14 games schedules. Kansas City, which lost to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl LV, will be at home against Cleveland. Chicago, which went 8-8 in 2020, will travel to Los Angeles to take on the Rams in the first edition of Sunday Night Football in 2021.
Week 1 concludes on Monday night with the Baltimore Ravens traveling to Las Vegas to face the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. In previous seasons, the league normally played a doubleheader on the first Monday of the season. That was eliminated this season and will be replaced with a Saturday doubleheader in Week 18 (Jan. 8, 2022).
Oct. 10 – London Series
Formerly known as the NFL’s International Series, the NFL will resume playing overseas. The coronavirus pandemic eliminated any games outside of the US in 2020. The NFL London Series will resume with the New York Jets playing the Atlanta Falcons at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Oct. 12-13 – Fall League Meeting
Each season, officials from the league’s front office as well as team owners and ownership groups will meet to discuss a variety of topics. Subjects range from the current season to rules changes to sales of franchises.
October 17 – London Series
The NFL’s second London Series game will played on this date. The Miami Dolphins will face in-state rival Jacksonville and new head coach Urban Meyer in a game to also be played at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Mid-October – Injured May Return
Beginning the sixth day prior to a team’s seventh regular season game, players that were placed on Injured Reserve, Physically Unable to Perform, or Reserve/Non-Football Injury may begin practice. Those players may be activated during a 21-day practice period or prior to 4 p.m. ET on the day after the 21-day practice period ends.
Nov. 2 – NFL Trade Deadline
All trades must be completed by 4:00 p.m. ET on Nov. 2. Paperwork must be finalized and submitted to the league office.
Nov. 25 – Thanksgiving Day
As has been tradition for the past several years, three NFL games will be played on Thanksgiving Day. The annual game in Detroit kicks off the day at 12:30 p.m. The Lions will host the Chicago Bears. At 4:30 p.m., the Dallas Cowboys play host to the Las Vegas Raiders. The night game is scheduled for 8:20 p.m. and features the Buffalo Bills playing the New Orleans Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Jan. 8-9 – Week 18 (Final Week of Regular Season)
The league voted to add an extra game to the regular season schedule and, as a result, another week was added. The final week of play will now be Week 18. A doubleheader is scheduled to be played on Saturday, Jan. 8. The games will feature teams that have playoff implications heading into the final week of play.
Jan. 15-16 – Wild Card Weekend
The NFL instituted new playoff rules last season. In addition to the four division winners in each conference, three wild card teams are selected for the postseason. That pushed the number of playoff teams from 12 to 14. Only the No. 1 seed in each conference receives a bye in the first round of the NFL playoffs.
Jan. 22-23 – Divisional Playoffs
The winners from Wild Card Weekend advance to play in the NFL’s divisional playoffs. The winners of these games advance to the following week’s conference championship games.
Jan. 30 – Conference Championship Games
The highest seeded team remaining in each conference hosts the other remaining team in the AFC and NFC championship games.
Feb. 13 – Super Bowl LVI
After the two-week break, the AFC and NFC champions will meet in Super Bowl LVI, which is scheduled to be played at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. It will be the first Super Bowl to be played in the stadium, which debuted just last season. It is the home of the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers.
2021 NFL Football Season