Champion Pats host Chiefs to open '17 season

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots will open the 2017 NFL season at home against the Kansas City Chiefs, on Thursday, Sept. 7.

The matchup was one of the highlights as the league officially released the entire schedule of games Thursday night. Other Week 1 matchups include:

The NFL had previously said that the Patriots and Raiders would be playing in Mexico City this season but hadn’t announced a date. The game will be played on Sunday, Nov. 19, at 4:25 p.m. ET.

The NFL will play four games in London, beginning with Baltimore vs. Jacksonville on Sept. 24. The next week, Miami hosts New Orleans. In Week 7, the Rams host the Cardinals, followed the next week by Minnesota vs. Cleveland.

Thanksgiving’s traditional games will have Minnesota at Detroit and the Chargers at Dallas. In prime time, the Redskins will be home for the Giants.

Christmas weekend will be busy. Two Saturday matches have Indianapolis at Baltimore in late afternoon, followed by Minnesota at Green Bay at night on Dec. 23. Most of the rest of the schedule will be played on Dec. 24, with no night game. On Christmas Day, Pittsburgh will go to Houston in a late-afternoon matchup, followed by Oakland at Philadelphia.

The season ends when 2017 does, on Dec. 31.

The Atlanta Falcons are scheduled to open their new stadium in an NFC championship rematch with Green Bay on Sunday night in Week 2. Atlanta has five prime-time games, the same number as New England. The Super Bowl rematch comes Sunday night, Oct. 22.

StubHub Center, the new and temporary home of the Chargers, will have its first regular-season contest in Week 2 when Miami visits.

Every team except Cleveland and Jacksonville will get prime-time exposure. Neither of those clubs has a Thursday game, either. It’s the first time since the league went to a full season of Thursday night football that any clubs have been omitted.

Once again, Sunday nights will have flexible scheduling, from Weeks 10 through 15 and for the final weekend. Also, two of the five Sunday night matchups in Weeks 5 through 9 can be flexed.

Byes will occur Weeks 5 through 11.

As for New England’s opener, while some speculated that a Super Bowl LI rematch between the Falcons and Patriots might be the opener, the NFL has elected to hold that game for Oct. 27.

The Falcons visit the Chicago Bears in their opener.

The Patriots last hosted the Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs after the 2015 regular season. New England posted a 27-20 victory in that game, with tight end Rob Gronkowski‘s two touchdown receptions helping the Patriots open a 21-6 lead in the third quarter in a game in which they weren’t truly threatened.

Gronkowski figures to be a big storyline again in the 2017 opener, as he is expected to return from back surgery that sidelined him for the final five regular-season games and the entire playoffs.

Another storyline will be commissioner Roger Goodell’s presence at the game. He announced at the league’s owners meetings in March that he would attend the season opener. It will mark his first appearance at the Patriots’ home stadium since Deflategate and the league’s legal fight to uphold a four-game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady.

The more notable prime-time matchup between the teams came on Sept. 29, 2014, when the Chiefs throttled the Patriots 41-14 on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

In the days following that game, after his Patriots had fallen to 2-2, coach Bill Belichick’s “on to Cincinnati” mantra became a rallying point for the team and its fans en route to a Super Bowl XLIX victory.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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