The NFL announced its regular-season schedule for 2016, which kicks off on Thursday night, September 8, in Denver, and concludes on Sunday, January 1, with 16 division games.
The season opener on September 8 on NBC (8:30 PM ET) will spotlight the defending champion Denver Broncos hosting the Carolina Panthers in a Super Bowl 50 rematch at Mile High. It marks the first Super Bowl rematch played on Kickoff Weekend since 1970 (Kansas City-Minnesota).
Week 1 is a FOX national weekend with the key doubleheader game on Sunday, September 11 (4:25 PM ET), featuring the New York Giants at the Dallas Cowboys in a clash between NFC East rivals.
NBC’s Sunday Night Football gets underway on September 11 when the Arizona Cardinals host the New England Patriots (8:30 PM ET). Both clubs advanced to the Conference Championship Game last season.
Kickoff Weekend concludes on Monday, September 12 with an ESPN Monday Night Football doubleheader. The Washington Redskins will host the Pittsburgh Steelers (7:10 PM ET) in the first game, followed by the return of the Los Angeles Rams, who visit the San Francisco 49ers in the nightcap (10:20 PM ET).
In Week 2, the Rams will return home to Los Angeles when they host the Seattle Seahawks at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday afternoon (4:05 PM ET, FOX). That night in primetime (8:30 PM ET, NBC), the Minnesota Vikings will open their new home – U.S. Bank Stadium – when they host the rival Green Bay Packers.
ESPN will televise one game each Monday night in Weeks 2-16. There will be no Monday night game on the final regular-season weekend (Week 17) to provide more flexibility for the scheduling of the opening weekend of the NFL playoffs.
The NFL will continue its International Series of regular-season games with three games being played in London, and one in Mexico City.
On Sunday, October 2, the Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Indianapolis Colts at London’s Wembley Stadium (9:30 AM ET, CBS). In the first-ever NFL game at Twickenham Stadium, the Los Angeles Rams will host the New York Giants on Sunday, October 23 (9:30 AM ET, NFLN). The following week, the Cincinnati Bengals will host the Washington Redskins at Wembley on Sunday, October 30 (9:30 AM ET, FOX). The NFL will return to Mexico City on Monday, November 21 (8:30 PM ET, ESPN) when the Oakland Raiders host the Houston Texans in the first-ever Monday Night Football game to be played outside the United States.
Thanksgiving will feature a tripleheader on Thursday, November 24. The first game will send the Minnesota Vikings to Detroit to face the Lions (12:30 PM ET, CBS). The late afternoon game will feature the Washington Redskins visiting the Dallas Cowboys (4:30 PM ET, FOX). The holiday concludes with the Indianapolis Colts hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers on NBC (8:30 PM ET).
In Week 16, the majority of games will be played on Saturday, December 24 due to the Christmas holiday, highlighted by a primetime matchup on NFL Network between the Cincinnati Bengals visiting the Houston Texans (8:25 PM ET).
There will be two games played on Christmas – the Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Baltimore Ravens on NFL Network (4:30 PM ET), followed by the Denver Broncos visiting the Kansas City Chiefs on NBC (8:30 PM ET).
The regular season will conclude with Week 17 on Sunday, January 1. For the seventh consecutive year, all 16 games scheduled for Week 17 are division contests, enhancing the potential for more games with playoff ramifications. Additionally, over the final three weeks there are 33 division games, tied for the most in NFL history.
This season, the NFL will use a “Tri-Cast” distribution model of broadcast (CBS/NBC), cable (NFL Network) and digital (Twitter) for 10 Thursday Night Football games.
The playoffs begin with Wild Card Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, January 7-8. The two division winners with the best records in each conference will earn first-round byes.
Wild Card Weekend winners join the top two division champions in each conference in the Divisional Playoffs on Saturday and Sunday, January 14-15. The AFC and NFC Championship Games will be played on Sunday, January 22. The winners meet two weeks later on Sunday, February 5 in Super Bowl LI at Houston’s NRG Stadium (FOX).
In addition to the return of the Rams, Southern California fans also were anxious to see the San Diego Chargers schedule for 2016. The Chargers will open the season at Arrowhead Stadium on the 15th Anniversary of 9-11 when they face the Chiefs on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 10 a.m. PT. Kansas City will be a formidable opponent to start the season as the Chiefs went 11-5 in 2015 and reached the divisional playoffs.
“The day the NFL releases the schedule is always an exciting one for our fans,” acknowledged Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy. “As a coaching staff, we are excited to get to work on the 2016 season. We already knew who and where we would be playing, but now we know when. We’ve got some very talented teams coming here, including all three of our very tough division rivals. We have the world champions (Denver) as well as the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers on our schedule. But right now our first priority is to get ready for the opener on Sept. 11 in Kansas City.”
A week later the Chargers will make their 2016 home regular-season debut when they face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 18 at Qualcomm Stadium at 1:25 p.m. Head Coach Gus Bradley’s team will bring a potent offense to San Diego led by quarterback Blake Bortles and a multi-talented receiving corps that features Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, along with tight ends Julius Thomas and Marcedes Lewis.
The Chargers will play five of their first eight games on the road followed by five of their last eight at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers will play their only stretch of back-to-back road games in Weeks 7 and 8 when they head east to face the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on Oct. 23 (1:05 p.m. PT), followed by another meeting with the Broncos, this time at Sports Authority Field, on Oct. 30, also at 1:05 p.m. PT.
After playing 14 straight weeks, including the preseason, the Chargers will finally have their bye in Week 11 before playing six straight to close out the regular season.
The Bolts will close out the 2016 regular season while ringing in the new year against the same team they began it with as the Chargers host Andy Reid and the Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium on New Year’s Day Jan. 1. Kickoff for the Bolts and Chiefs is 1:25 p.m.
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services