2021 NFL schedule: London games, Week 1 release and key dates

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2021 NFL schedule: London games, Week 1 release and key dates originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The unveiling of the National Football League schedule is one of the biggest events of the offseason. With each team will be playing 17 regular season games for the first time in league history, the 2021 NFL schedule release was bigger than ever before.

The NFL decided to give fans a sneak peek by releasing Week 1 of the matchups before the complete reveal Wednesday night, including Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers traveling to New Orleans to take on Jameis Winston and the Saints -- or will it be Jordan Love vs. Taysom Hill?

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If you’re excited to see your favorite team’s schedule for this season, here are some important facts and key dates to know before for the 2021 NFL schedule kicks off this fall.

Will there be a 2021 NFL game in Mexico City? 

Due to the amount of coronavirus cases in Mexico, the National Football League has decided there will be no regular season games played at the Estadio Azteca this upcoming season. The Arizona Cardinals were originally scheduled to play one of their home games in Mexico City, but they will not be able to in 2021.

Will there be 2021 NFL games in London? 

The league will return to London for two games at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium during the 2021 season. The Atlanta Falcons will be “at home” against rookie Zach Wilson’s New York Jets on Oct. 10, and Trevor Lawrence’s Jacksonville Jaguars are set to host the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 17. The Falcons will be playing 10 of their 17 games away from the Superdome, which is an NFL record. How do they not have the hardest ranked strength of schedule in 2021?For fans looking to attend international NFL games, travel restrictions and guidelines are still unclear at this time. 

Which NFL teams will play on Thanksgiving this season?

The Detroit Lions will host the Chicago Bears for an early game on Thanksgiving this season, making it the third time in four years that the Bears meet Detroit on turkey day. The Dallas Cowboys will host the Las Vegas Raiders and the Buffalo Bills will play the New Orleans Saints for the other 2021 Thanksgiving Day games.

Which NFL teams will play on Christmas Day 2021?

Christmas Day falls on a Saturday in 2021, so the NFL has decided to give fans the gift of a doubleheader. First up on Dec. 25 will be the Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers, followed by the Indianapolis Colts at the Arizona Cardinals in the evening.

What can fans look for in their team’s 2021 NFL schedule?

While having marquee matchups on your team’s schedule is exciting, sometimes it’s the little details that make or break an NFL squad’s season. Here are a few other key factors you should look out for when your team’s lineup is announced on Wednesday evening.

Front-loaded vs. back-loaded

Bears fans prefer to have a back-loaded schedule, as playing NFL behemoths early in the season could result in a 2-6 start. That kind of a record leads to coaches being fired or starting quarterbacks losing their jobs. It's much better to play the weakest teams on the schedule in September and October, and hope you catch Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in late December when they have the AFC wrapped up and are resting their starters for the third year in a row.

Travel factor

Playing games on the road has always been difficult, but being an east coast team that travels to the West may be one of the biggest challenges while away from home. Teams would prefer to travel across coast lines close to their bye week to allow time for rest and recuperation after a grueling travel schedule. The Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Ravens and Washington Football Team have found themselves at a disadvantage in the past as they traveled further West.

Weather factor

As we transition into the fall season, football games will be played in colder weather. While teams out West may not be affected by inclement weather, teams on the East Coast will have to adapt. They also have an advantage by hosting games against Dome teams from the South, but as they travel West they may struggle with playing during heat in December.