2017 NFL schedule: Here's the early scoop on the who, where and when

The NFL will kick off the 2017 season on Sept. 7 with the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots hosting the Kansas City Chiefs on opening night, and the 256-game regular-season slate concludes on New Year’s Eve, likely with two division rivals battling it out — a matchup to be flexed in at a later date — with a spot in the postseason hanging in the balance.

The league released the 2017 NFL schedule in its entirety officially on Thursday night, and now the fun and the planning begin for the quest to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium on Feb. 4.

The Patriots return to the field for the first time in Tom Brady’s age-40 season with the 12th-hardest schedule by opponents’ win percentage, and they carry a 10-game win streak (including playoffs) into a tough opening game against a Chiefs team that won the AFC West a year ago with a 12-4 mark. Later in the season, the Patriots will play five games on the road in a six-game stretch — one that includes a Week 11 game against the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City in what could be a terrific showdown of AFC powerhouses.

The New England Patriots will kick off the 2017 NFL season against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP)
The New England Patriots will kick off the 2017 NFL season against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP)

The rematch for Super Bowl LI — yes, the greatest comeback in SB history — against the Atlanta Falcons comes in Week 7 in Foxborough in a prime-time game at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night, Oct. 22. After Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera complained this past season about having to face the Denver Broncos in the season opener last year, the league appeared willing to cut the runners-up a break and not schedule Falcons at Patriots in Week 1.

The Falcons open their new home field, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with a game against the Green Bay Packers — a rematch of the NFC title game — assuming construction on their new digs is completed by then, otherwise they’ll have to go back next door to the old haunt. The Falcons will open on the road, however, in a Week 1 game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

The rest of the Week 1 slate appears strong with a terrific battle of NFC heavyweights, the Seattle Seahawks and Packers, meeting at Lambeau Field at 4:25 ET on Fox. This one has it all: Aaron Rodgers vs. Russell Wilson … the Eddie Lacy reunion game … and we can’t wait for the brothers showdown of the Bennett Boys — Seattle’s Michael against Martellus, who signed with Green Bay in the offseason.

The three other Week 1 prime-time matchups after the Thursday opener: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (NBC) on Sunday night; New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings for the early Monday night game; and the Los Angeles Chargers — their first game after moving this offseason — at Denver Broncos for the second game of the Monday doubleheader, with the latter two games both on ESPN.

The longest current losing streak currently belongs to the Los Angeles Rams at seven games, followed by their new crosstown rivals, the Chargers, at five straight losses to end the 2016 season. The Chargers will open in their new city — though not permanent home — at the 30,000-seat StubHub Center against the Miami Dolphins in Week 2 in the first NFL game at the venue.

We’ve known the NFL’s London matchups for some time, but we now know when those games will be played:

Those will all be 9:30 a.m. ET, except for the Cardinals-Rams game.

Jumping forward a few months, Thanksgiving offers three good helpings: Vikings at Detroit Lions for the early game; Chargers at Dallas Cowboys for the middle game; and New York Giants at Washington Redskins for the late meal ticket.

There will be a pair of Saturday games each in Week 15 (Bears at Lions; Chargers at Chiefs) and Week 16 (Indianapolis Colts at Ravens; Vikings at Packers). In addition, Week 16 falls on Christmas weekend — 12 games on Sunday, which is Christmas Eve, and two more (Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans; Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles) on Christmas proper.

For many, however, the NFL schedule release day is the real Christmas. We now know where and when the next 256 games will be played.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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