Champion Patriots open vs. Steelers; 5 international games
By BARRY WILNER AP Pro Football Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL’s 100th season will begin with its most classic rivalry and feature the Super Bowl champion Patriots hosting Pittsburgh in the first Sunday night game.
As previously announced, NFL 100 will kick off with Green Bay at Chicago for the 199th meeting of a series that began in 1921. That Sept. 5 game in the Thursday night slot usually reserved for hosting by the NFL champ forced New England to open three nights later.
The Patriots have a home schedule loaded with top attractions, including Kansas City on Dec. 8 in an AFC title game rematch, and Dallas on Nov. 24.
Monday night’s doubleheader on ESPN will feature Houston at New Orleans and Denver at Oakland.
“We know every year there seems to be a last-to-first story,” said new Broncos coach Vic Fangio, the Bears’ defensive coordinator last season. “We were that in Chicago last year. I suppose a lot of teams counted us as a win last year. Every season is a new season and the order they choose for us to play them in, we’ll play them in.”
Week 2 includes an intriguing Monday night matchup of Cleveland at the New York Jets. The very first Monday nighter was a Browns win over Joe Namath and the defending champion Jets in 1970. This one will feature the return to the Meadowlands for now-Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and two young, potential star quarterbacks in Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield and New York’s Sam Darnold.
National broadcasts rarely have included the downtrodden Browns, but they’re a popular choice this year: Cleveland will have four prime-time games, also facing the Rams, San Francisco and archrival Pittsburgh.
Every team will have at least one national TV appearance. New England, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Green Bay, Seattle and the Rams get the maximum prime-time games, five.
The traditional Thanksgiving Day games will have Detroit at home to Chicago, then Buffalo at Dallas. The night game to close the holiday schedule will be New Orleans at Atlanta in another long-time rivalry.
The NFC champion Los Angeles Rams will host Cincinnati in London for one of five international games on the 2019 schedule. The Rams and Bengals will face off at Wembley Stadium on Oct. 27.
Earlier in October, the league will play two games at Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium in London. The Raiders will host the Bears on Oct. 6, and the Buccaneers will be the home team against the Panthers on Oct. 13.
Wembley will be the site of the fourth London match, with Houston facing host Jacksonville on Nov. 3.
The league returns to Mexico, after last season’s Chiefs-Rams game was moved to Los Angeles because of poor field conditions at Azteca Stadium. On Monday night Nov. 18, the Chiefs will play LA’s other team, the Chargers.
In Week 16, the NFL has left 10 teams in semi-limbo. Three games are scheduled for NFL Network on Saturday, Dec. 21, and will be chosen among these five: Detroit at Denver; Oakland at the LA Chargers; Buffalo at New England; the Rams at San Francisco 49ers; and Houston at Tampa Bay. The non-Saturday games will be played Sunday.
The season ends Dec. 29, when Chicago finishes at Minnesota for the fourth successive year. All finales are divisional games for the 11th straight season.
“This is an exciting time,” said Giants coach Pat Shurmur, whose team opens at Dallas. “This week, we started the offseason program. And now we can see when we’re going to play. We knew who our opponents would be and where we are going to play, but there’s an excitement that builds once the schedule comes out.”
Among the oddities, in one stretch the Raiders will go seven weeks before playing a game in Oakland. They entertain the Chiefs on Sept. 15, then have road games at Minnesota and Indianapolis, host Chicago in London, are off Oct. 13, then go to Green Bay and Houston. They return to Oakland on Nov. 3.
Miami opens with four 2018 playoff opponents: home for Baltimore and New England, at Dallas, home for the Chargers. Then the Dolphins have a bye.
One team, Philadelphia has three straight home games and three consecutive road games. No other team has three away matches in a row, though the Rams will be away from LA for a visit to Atlanta on Oct. 20, that “home” contest in London the next week, then a bye and a trip to Pittsburgh.
Also with three straight home games will be Green Bay, Atlanta, Arizona, San Francisco, Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Houston.
AP Pro Football Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. contributed.
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