Got plans for Thursday night for the next four months? Now you do, as the NFL’s weekly Thursday Night Football game is back to first kick off the 2021 NFL season, and then serve as the start of the new NFL week for a majority of the rest of the year.
The Thursday Night Football game began in earnest in 2014 and has since expanded and become a permanent fixture of the NFL season. The 2021 season will feature 16 matchups including divisional rivalries and other exciting matchups.
Here is everything that you need to know about Thursday Night Football this year, from the complete schedule to how to watch.
Also: How to watch Sunday Night Football
Week 1: Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
Week 2: New York Giants at Washington Football Team, 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Week 3: Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans, 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Week 4: Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals, 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Week 5: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network
Week 6: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network
Week 7: Denver Broncos at Cleveland Browns, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network
Week 8: Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network
Week 9: New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network
Week 10: Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network
Week 11: New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network
Week 12: Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
Week 13: Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network
Week 14: Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network
Week 15: Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network
Week 16: San Francisco 49ers at Tennessee Titans, 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Matchup preview: Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The NFL season will kick off with the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking on the Dallas Cowboys from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
The Tampa Bay Bucs were the hot team going into the 2020 NFL season thanks to the arrival of a quarterback named Tom Brady (you may have heard of him). Though there were a few ups and downs to the season and the Bucs had to win three straight playoff games on the road to reach the Super Bowl, they were able to make history as the first team to win the big game when it was hosted at their home stadium. The title marked the second in the Bucs’ history, and number seven for Brady.
Expectations were high last year, but things only get tougher when you’re the defending champs. Fortunately for the Bucs, they spent most of their offseason keeping the band together, bringing back all 22 players who started in Super Bowl LV. Will they be able to repeat the kind of magic they had in the 2020 season, perhaps be even better with Brady now in his second season with the team? Or will Father Time finally catch up to the 44-year-old quarterback?
The first opponents looking to nix a Tampa Bay repeat in 2021 is the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas would like to forget the 2020 season as quickly as possible. Even with a hot start from quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys began the season 2-3 when Prescott went down with a season ending ankle injury. With their star quarterback out, the offense was not able to make up for the historically bad performance its defense put out for most of the season. A string of wins against some of the worst teams in the league in 2020 helped get the final record to 6-10.
Well, Dak is back to start the 2021 season, and even though he had some shoulder issues during training camp, he is said to be good to go for the season opener. The team also made moves to attempt to solve some of its problems on defense, most notably drafting linebacker Micah Parsons during the 2021 NFL Draft. Cowboys fans, and especially owner Jerry Jones, hope that the return of Prescott and a hopefully improved defense can take the Cowboys back to the playoffs where they can try and go for their first Super Bowl title since 1996.
As of publication, the betting line for the Cowboys vs. Buccaneers has Tampa as 7.5 favorites.
Thursday Night Football will hop around between three networks throughout the 2021 season, as well as more than half of the games being available via streaming.
First, NBC, Fox and the NFL Network will carry Thursday Night Football broadcasts. NBC kicks things off with the opening night game featuring the Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers; it will also broadcast the week 12 Thanksgiving edition of Thursday Night Football that has the Buffalo Bills play the New Orleans Saints.
The NFL Network will have exclusive broadcast coverage of the Thursday Night Football games during week 2, 3, 4 and 16. Every other week (not including the ones NBC has) will be simulcasted on Fox and the NFL Network.
NBC and Fox are basic cable networks that have a local affiliate in essentially every TV market across the country. This makes them available through all traditional cable and satellite providers, barring any carriage disputes; check local listings to find out what channels NBC and Fox are for you.
The NFL Network, meanwhile, is a premium cable network, so subscribers will need to check what package the network is available on through their cable subscriber.
An alternative cable option is through vMVPD services like Fubo TV, Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV. All of these services offer live streams of major networks, including Fox and NBC. In addition, they all carry the NFL Network as well, though it may depend on what package a consumer subscribes to.
Cord cutters will be able to watch Thursday Night Football action as well, with Amazon Prime Video offering live streams of 10 Thursday Night Football games (11 games in total) for the 2021 season, starting with the week 5 matchup between the Rams and Seahawks and continuing through week 15. All that is needed to watch these Thursday Night Football games via Prime Video is a subscription to Amazon Prime.
An FYI, starting in the 2022 NFL season, Amazon Prime Video will be taking over the rights to Thursday Night Football from Fox, sharing with the NFL Network, meaning all Thursday Night Football games will be available for streaming.
Any NFL fans over in the U.K. will have the opportunity to watch Thursday Night Football games via Sky Sports’ NFL Channel. The home of live NFL action in the U.K., Sky Sports shows live Sunday, Monday and Thursday games. Should be noted though, that with the time difference between across the Atlantic, the 8:20 p.m. ET kickoffs for Thursday Night Football means a 1:20 a.m. kickoff for U.K. viewers.
If that’s too late (or early) for you, NFL Game Pass is an option. The international version of this subscription service offers live broadcasts of games as well as does the opportunity to watch the full broadcast on-demand or a condensed version of the broadcast that only features the plays.
If none of those options are available or work for you, don’t worry, there’s a way to watch NFL action from anywhere in the world —a virtual private network. A VPN is designed to route network traffic through a specific set of servers in a specific country, allowing viewers to watch content on an encrypted feed over a computer.
ExpressVPN is one of the easiest and affordable ways to watch what you want from anywhere you want to watch it. Plus it’ll help keep your network traffic away from any prying eyes on public networks.
And it’s a great way to keep up with action from anywhere in the world.View Deal