Let’s take a look at the Thursday Night Football Schedule for the 2021 season. For an added bonus, check out some history and some fun facts on this NFL tradition.
Ok, the opening game is a biggie. Tom Brady and the Super Bowl Champs host the Dallas Cowboys to kick off the season. This game should also mark the return of Dak Prescott to the lineup. Who could ask for more?
Thursday Night Football Schedule 2021
Week 1: Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2: New York Giants at The Washington Football Team
3: Carolina Panthers at Dallas Texans
4: Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 5: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
6: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles
7: Denver Broncos at Cleveland Browns
8: Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals
Week 9: New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts
10: Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins
11: New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons
12: Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints
Week 13: Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints
14: Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings
15: Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
Week 16: San Francisco 49ers at Tennessee Titans
History Of Thursday Night Football
Thursday Night Football games, sometimes abbreviated to TNF, is a little slice of heaven sent down to serious football fans. Back in 2002, the NFL scheduled a Thursday night opening kick-off game after labor day leading into the full slate of games on Sunday.
In 2004, the NFL began awarding the first game hosting duties to the Super Bowl winner. The unfurling of the Super Bowl banner has become a tradition in the opening ceremonies before the game.
Games last about 3 hours or until the game ends.
When Thursday Night Football Started
In its current format, Thursday Night games began in 2006.
Through the years, some fans believe that Thursday night games are of lower quality relative to Sunday and Monday night games. But, a study by Sports on Earth writer Aaron Roberts showed that the games were of comparable or better quality than non-primetime games.
Some players have expressed concerns about playing on Thursday nights after limited rest. But, in 2015 the NFL released a health and safety report that showed that an average of 4.8 injuries occurred on Thursday games compared to 6.9 injuries on games played on Sundays and Monday.
Fun Facts about TNF
1.) The teams with the best winning percentages on TNF are the Green Bay Packers (.833), the New England Patriots (.833), Dallas Cowboys (.800), Indianapolis Colts (.778), the Kansas City Chiefs (.750) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (.727).
2.) The teams with the lowest winning percentages on TNF are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (.167), the Buffalo Bills (.288), and the Minnesota Vikings (.333).
3.) The original NFL Network broadcast team included Bryant Gumbel as play-by-play announcer and Chris Collinsworth providing color commentary.
4.) Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will call the games this year for FOX.
5.) Westwood One is the national radio broadcaster for Thursday Night Football games.
6.) NFL player Richard Sherman expressed his displeasure with Thursday night games by calling one a “poopfest.”
7.) According to the NFL health and safety report, Thursday night games result in an average of 4.8 injuries compared to 6.9 injuries for Sunday and Monday games. This was startling to many who believed the short week resulted in more injuries.
The NFL Conferences and Divisions
The NFL is made up of 32 teams that are split equally into two conferences of 16 teams: The National Football Conference (NFC) and The American Football Conference (AFC).
The conferences are further broken down by divisions. The NFC and the AFC each have 4 divisions: North, East, South, and West. Each division has four teams, e.g. the NFC North’s team include the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, and Chicago Bears.
How the NFL Schedule is Made
NFL schedule makers set the season schedule in the following manner:
1.) Six games are set against divisional opponents. So, continuing with our example, the Green Bay Packers would play the Vikings, Lions, and Bears twice in one season. One game on the road, and one game at home.
2.) Four games are scheduled against teams within its conference from a different division. So, the Packers will be scheduled against four teams from one of these divisions: NFC South, West, and East divisions. Two will be home games and two will be road games.
3.) Two games are scheduled with teams from the two remaining conferences not selected in point two above. The teams selected are based on division ranking from the previous year. One game will be a home game and one will be away.
4.) Four more games are scheduled with teams from a division in another conference. In the Packers’ case, that would be the AFC. Again, two home games and two away games are scheduled.
How are Teams Selected for Thursday Night Play
Each Spring the NFL using computers and multiple schedules to come up with the season’s schedule for all 32 teams. NFL schedule makers are looking for competitive games that will capture an audience’s interest. Like MNF, TNF is the only game on NFL teams for that particular date and time. As such, the NFL is interested in putting its best foot forward while also accommodating all of the teams’ interest in playing in such showcase games.
Most Thursday Night Football games feature divisional rivals like the Packers vs. Bears or Chiefs vs. Broncos. When teams are scheduled for Thursday Night games, they will not have to play a short week Thursday more than once per season.
Why Doesn’t the NFL Play on Fridays and Saturdays?
To protect the interests of high school football and college football, the NFL does play games on Fridays or Saturdays during the schools’ seasons. There are exceptions as to when Christmas falls on a Friday.
Thursday Night Football: 2020 Recap
Please note that all games are scheduled to be played at 7:20 pm CST on Thursday nights. Please note that the ET starts will be at 8:20 pm ET and for PT, it’s a 5:20 pm PT kickoff.
Week 1 — 2020 Season Opener
September 10, 2020, 7:20 PM CST, Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs (NBC)
Kansas City Chiefs: 34
Houston Texans: 20
The Chiefs powerful offense – with so many weapons – was just too much for the Texans to handle.
September 17, 7:20 PM CST, Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns (NFL Network)
September 24, 7:20 PM CST, Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL Network)
October 1, 7:20 PM CST, Denver Broncos at New York Jets (NFL Network)
October 8, 7:20 PM CST, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears (FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime)
October 15, 7:20 PM CST, Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills (FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime)
October 22, 7:20 PM CST, New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime)
October 29, 7:20 PM CST, Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime)
November 5, 7:20 PM CST, Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime)
November 12, 7:20 PM CST, Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans (FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime)
November 19, 7:20 PM CST, Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime)
Week 12 (Thanksgiving)
November 26, 7:20 PM CST, Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (NBC)
December 3, 7:20 PM CST, Dallas Cowboys at Baltimore Ravens (FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime)
December 10, 7:20 PM CST, New England Patriots at Los Angeles Rams (FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime)
December 17, 7:20 PM CST, Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders (FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime)
Week 16 (Friday)
December 25, 3:30 PM CST, Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints (FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime)
Thursday Night 2019 Recap
The oldest NFL rivalry starts off a season full of divisional match-ups. The Packers and the Bears are each featured twice on TNF games this year.
Week 1 (2019 Season Opener)
September 5: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (NBC).
September 12: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (NFL Network).
September 19: Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL Network).
September 26: Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers (FOX/NFL Network).
October 3: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (FOX/NFL Network).
October 10: New York Giants at New England Patriots (FOX/NFL Network).
October 17: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (FOX/NFL Network).
October 24: Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings (FOX/NFL Network)
You might like Super Bowl Quotes and FAQs.
Week 9 – (Halloween)
October 31: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals (FOX/NFL Network).
November 7: Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders (FOX/NFL Network).
November 14: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (FOX/NFL Network).
November 21: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (FOX/NFL Network).
Week 13 (Thanksgiving)
November 28: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
November 28: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (NBC).
November 28: Buffalo Bills at Dallas Cowboys.
December 5: Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears (FOX/NFL Network).
December 12: New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens (FOX/NFL Network).
By Greg Johnson and Mike O’Halloran
Greg, a Vikings fan, and Mike whose mutual fund of teams include the Vikes, Packers, and Chiefs have been writing about football for over a decade. Mike was a contributing writer to USA Football, the youth football arm of the NFL.
You’re on NFL Thursday Night Football Schedule 2020 page.
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