The 2021 NFL season will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 9 with Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys. ESPN will have Monday Night Football on Sept. 13 featuring Las Vegas Raiders hosting the Baltimore Ravens (8:15 p.m. ET).
The NFL will change its schedule for the first time in 44 years, expanding to 17 regular-season games. The final regular-season games will be played January 9, 2022. The playoffs begin January 15, 2022, and continue through Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022, at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium.
Here's what in store for the Rams:
Sept. 12: vs. Chicago Bears
Sept. 19: at Indianapolis Colts
Sept. 26: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Oct. 3: vs. Arizona Cardinals
Oct. 7: at Seattle Seahawks
Oct. 17: at New York Giants
Oct. 24: vs. Detroit Lions
Oct. 31: at Houston Texans
Nov. 7: vs. Tennessee Titans
Nov. 15: at San Francisco 49ers
Nov. 21: Bye
Nov. 28: at Green Bay Packers
Dec. 5: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Dec. 13: at Arizona Cardinals
Dec. 19: vs. Seattle Seahawks
Dec. 26: at Minnesota Vikings
Jan. 2: at Baltimore Ravens
Jan. 9: vs. San Francisco 49ers
Strength of schedule: 10th, .515
Other than popping the popcorn for Jared Goff's return to L.A. on Oct. 24 with the Detroit Lions? The Rams' schedule is built for success. Unlike last season, when they traveled to the East Coast three times in the first five weeks, the Rams do not face any grueling road stretches in 2021. Their most difficult road stretch will come at the end of the season, with consecutive games at Minnesota and Baltimore over the holidays. And in a good twist of fortune, the Rams have a bye between potentially difficult matchups against the 49ers and Packers in Week 10 and 12, respectively. They should be well-rested for the new long season.
Early season game vs. Bucs will provide Super Bowl barometer
The Rams will learn early in the schedule -- Week 3 -- whether they are true Super Bowl contenders when they host Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers at SoFi Stadium. This matchup would potentially provide more drama if scheduled down the stretch, but instead it will provide Rams coach Sean McVay, quarterback Matthew Stafford and the defending top-ranked Rams defense, led by three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and All-Pro Jalen Ramsey, an early challenge and the chance to build upon and any successes and correct any shortcomings as the season continues on.
What Vegas thinks
The oddsmakers have the Rams win total at 10.5, which they can certainly exceed if they play to their potential. With Stafford at quarterback, McVay is expected to open the playbook and return the Rams’ offense to one of the most productive in the league. The key will be whether the Rams starters on offense and defense remain healthy. Depth is a concern.
A year after they played an entire season in their new home without fans, the Rams will play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. The Rams went all in -- again -- to make a Super Bowl run when they completed a blockbuster trade for Stafford, then spent their first draft pick on another speedy receiver in Tutu Atwell after signing receiver DeSean Jackson in free agency. The Rams' way of building is clear: Win now and address future roster needs later.