American Football Wiki
2021 NFL season
Season information
Duration Regular Season September 9 – January 9
Playoffs January 16 – February 13
Super Bowl LVI

February 13, 2022

No. of games (per team) 17
No. of teams 32
2021 NFL Draft
No. 1 pick:
Trevor Lawrence, QB
Drafted by: Jacksonville Jaguars
2022 Pro Bowl
Date: February 6, 2022
Venue Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada
Score: TBD
NFC Championship Game
AFC Championship Game
Super Bowl LVI
Date February 13, 2022
Venue SoFi Stadium(Inglewood, California)
NFL seasons
<- 2020 NFL season
2022 NFL season ->

The 2021 NFL season is the 102nd season of the National Football League (NFL) and the first season to have 17 games in the regular season.[1] The season will begin on September 9, 2021 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, the home stadium of the Super Bowl LV champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The season will end with Super Bowl LVI, the league's championship game, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California on February 13, 2022.

Player movement

The 2021 NFL league year and trading period began on March 17. On March 15, teams were allowed to exercise options for 2021 on players with option clauses in their contracts, submit qualifying offers to their pending restricted free agents, and submit a Minimum Salary Tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2020 contracts and fewer than three accrued seasons of free agent credit. Teams were required to be under the salary cap using the "top 51" definition (in which the 51 highest paid-players on the team's payroll must have a combined salary cap). On March 17, clubs were allowed to contact and begin contract negotiations with players whose contracts had expired and thus became unrestricted free agents.

Positions key
C Center CB Cornerback DB Defensive back DE Defensive end
DL Defensive lineman DT Defensive tackle FB Fullback FS Free safety
G Guard HB Halfback K Kicker KR Kick returner
LB Linebacker LS Long snapper OT Offensive tackle OL Offensive lineman
NT Nose tackle P Punter PR Punt returner QB Quarterback
RB Running back S Safety SS Strong safety TB Tailback
TE Tight end WR Wide receiver        

Free agency

Free agency began on March 17. Notable players to change teams included:

  • Quarterbacks Andy Dalton (Dallas to Chicago), Ryan Fitzpatrick (Miami to Washington), and Mitchell Trubisky (Chicago to Buffalo)
  • Running backs Matt Breida (Miami to Buffalo), Kenyan Drake (Arizona to Las Vegas), Mark Ingram Jr. (Baltimore to Houston), Phillip Lindsay (Denver to Houston), and Jamaal Williams (Green Bay to Detroit)
  • Wide receivers Nelson Agholor (Las Vegas to New England), John Brown (Buffalo to Las Vegas), Corey Davis (Tennessee to New York Jets), A.J. Green (Cincinnati to Arizona), Kenny Golladay (Detroit to New York Giants), Marvin Jones (Detroit to Jacksonville), Will Fuller (Houston to Miami), Curtis Samuel (Carolina to Washington), Emmanuel Sanders (New Orleans to Buffalo), and Sammy Watkins (Kansas City to Baltimore)
  • Tight ends Jared Cook (New Orleans to Los Angeles Chargers), Hunter Henry (Los Angeles Chargers to New England), Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota to New York Giants), and Jonnu Smith (Tennessee to New England)
  • Offensive linemen Pat Elflein (New York Jets to Carolina), Matt Feiler (Pittsburgh to Los Angeles Chargers), Ted Karras (Miami to New England), Corey Linsley (Green Bay to Los Angeles Chargers), Alex Mack (Atlanta to San Francisco), Riley Reiff (Minnesota to Cincinnati), Matt Skura (Baltimore to Miami), Joe Thuney (New England to Kansas City), and Kevin Zeitler (New York Giants to Baltimore)
  • Defensive linemen Denico Autry (Indianapolis to Tennessee), Adam Butler (New England to Miami), Maliek Collins (Las Vegas to Houston), Morgan Fox (Los Angeles Rams to Carolina), Trey Hendrickson (New Orleans to Cincinnati), Carl Lawson (Cincinnati to New York Jets), Yannick Ngakoue (Baltimore to Las Vegas), Roy Robertson-Harris (Chicago to Jacksonville), Solomon Thomas (San Francisco to Las Vegas), Dalvin Tomlinson (New York Giants to Minnesota) and J.J. Watt (Houston to Arizona)
  • Linebackers Jeremiah Attaochu (Denver to Chicago), Bud Dupree (Pittsburgh to Tennessee), Samson Ebukam (Los Angeles Rams to San Francisco), Kamu Grugier-Hill (Miami to Houston), Matthew Judon (Baltimore to New England), Christian Kirksey (Green Bay to Houston), Kyle Van Noy (Miami to New England), Denzel Perryman (Los Angeles Chargers to Carolina), Haason Reddick (Arizona to Carolina) and Nick Vigil (Los Angeles Chargers to Minnesota)
  • Defensive backs Chidobe Awuzie (Dallas to Cincinnati), Justin Coleman (Detroit to Miami), Ronald Darby (Washington to Denver), Kyle Fuller (Chicago to Denver), Shaquill Griffin (Seattle to Jacksonville), Erik Harris (Las Vegas to Atlanta), Troy Hill (Los Angeles Rams to Cleveland), Mike Hilton (Pittsburgh to Cincinnati), Adoree Jackson (Tennessee to New York Giants), William Jackson (Cincinnati to Washington), Janoris Jenkins (New Orleans to Tennessee), Rayshawn Jenkins (Los Angeles Chargers to Jacksonville), John Johnson (Los Angeles Rams to Cleveland), Lamarcus Joyner (Las Vegas to New York Jets), Desmond King (Tennessee to Houston), Jalen Mills (Philadelphia to New England), and Patrick Peterson (Arizona to Minnesota)


The following notable trades were made during the 2021 league year:

  • March 17: Detroit traded QB Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for QB Jared Goff, a 2021 third round selection (No. 101), a 2022 first round selection, and a 2023 first round selection.[2]
  • March 17: Philadelphia traded QB Carson Wentz to Indianapolis in exchange for a 2021 third round selection and a conditional 2022 second round selection.[3]
  • March 17: Las Vegas traded C Rodney Hudson and 2021 seventh round selection to Arizona in exchange for a 2021 third round selection.[4]
  • March 17: New England traded OT Marcus Cannon and 2021 fifth and sixth round selections to Houston in exchange for 2021 fourth and sixth round selections.[5]

Notable retirements

  • QB Drew Brees - Thirteen-time Pro Bowler, five-time All-Pro (one first-team, four second-team), two-time Offensive Player of the Year (2006 and 2011), Super Bowl XLIV Champion and MVP, 2004 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, and 2006 Walter Payton Man of the Year. Played for the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans during his 20-year career.[6][7]
  • LB Thomas Davis – Three-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro (one first-team, one second-team) and 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year. Played for Carolina, the Los Angeles Chargers, and Washington during his 16-year career.[8]
  • G Mike Iupati - Four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro (one first-team, one second-team). Played for San Francisco, Arizona, and Seattle during his 11-year career.[9]
  • C Maurkice Pouncey - Nine-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro (three first-team, two second-team). Played for Pittsburgh during his entire 11-year career.[10]
  • C Mike Pouncey - Four-time Pro Bowler. Played for Miami and the Los Angeles Chargers during his 10-year career.[10]
  • QB Philip Rivers – Eight-time Pro Bowler and 2013 NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Played for the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers and Indianapolis during his 17-year career.[11]
  • TE Jason Witten - Eleven-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro (two first-team, two second-team), and 2012 Walter Payton Man of the Year. Played for Dallas and Las Vegas during his 17-year career.[12]

Other retirements


  • Main article: 2021 NFL DraftThe 2021 draft is scheduled to be held from in Cleveland April 29 from May 1, 2021.[28] Jacksonville, by virtue of having the worst record in 2020, holds the first selection.

2021 deaths

Pro Football Hall of Fame members

Floyd Little
Little spent all nine years of his professional career as a running back with the Denver Broncos and was inducted into the Hall in 2010. He died January 1, age 78.[29]



Training camps are scheduled to be held from late July through August.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Game is expected to be held on August 5 between Dallas and Pittsburgh. The two teams were previously scheduled to play the 2020 game before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[30]

Regular season

Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in March 2020, the 2021 regular season is to be expanded from 16 to 17 games.[31]

Under the NFL's current scheduling formula for a 16-game regular season, each team plays the other three teams in its own division twice. In addition, a team plays against all four teams in one division from each conference. The remaining two games on a team's schedule are against the two remaining teams in the same conference that finished in the same position in their respective divisions the previous season (e.g., the team that finished fourth in its division will play all three other teams in the conference that also finished fourth).

Under the current 16-game formula, the division pairings for 2021 are:


AFC East vs AFC South

AFC North vs AFC West

NFC East vs NFC South

NFC West vs NFC North


AFC East vs NFC South

AFC North vs NFC North

AFC South vs NFC West

AFC West vs NFC East

This has been modified due to the regular season being expanded. On December 16, 2020, NFL owners approved a plan to have the 17th regular season game be a fifth interconference match-up against a team from one of the other three divisions, based on the position in their respective divisions the previous season (e.g. the team that finished fourth in its division would play the club that finished fourth in a division of the other conference).[32] Later on, the league said that the 17th game would be between interconference divisions that had played each two years earlier. AFC teams would host the extra game in odd-numbered years, including 2021, with NFC teams getting an extra home game in even-numbered years.[33]

The 17th game has been approved in 2021[34], pairings for this game would be with the AFC team having the home games:

AFC East vs NFC East

AFC North vs NFC West

AFC South vs NFC South

AFC West vs NFC North

Highlights of the 2021 season will tentatively include:

  • NFL Kickoff Game: The 2021 season is scheduled to begin on September 9, presumably at the home stadium of the Super Bowl LV champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The game will be televised nationally by NBC.
  • NFL International Series: The previous season's NFL International Series games were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting overseas travel restrictions in place. The 2021 international games will also depend on whether the pandemic overseas has subsided and travel restrictions are lifted.
  • Thanksgiving: As has been the case since 2006, three games will be scheduled for Thursday, November 25, including the traditional afternoon games hosted by Detroit and Dallas, and a game held in primetime.
  • Christmas: Christmas Day in 2021 falls on a Saturday. When this occurs, as it most recently did in 2010, the league typically schedules one or two Christmas Day games along with the regular slate of Sunday games.

The schedule will tentatively be released the second week of May.[35]

Regular season standings

Standings as of Week 18 of the 2021 season

American Football Conference
Division Team Wins Loses Ties Win-Loss %
AFC East z-Buffalo Bills 11 6 0 .647
x-New England Patriots 10 7 0 .588
e-Miami Dolphins 9 8 0 .529
e-New York Jets 4 13 0 .235
AFC North z-Cincinnati Bengals 10 7 0 .588
x-Pittsburgh Steelers 9 7 1 .559
e-Cleveland Browns 8 9 0 .471
e-Baltimore Ravens 8 9 0 .471
AFC South *-Tennessee Titans 12 5 0 ..706
e-Indianapolis Colts 9 8 0 .529
e-Houston Texans 4 13 0 .235
e-Jacksonville Jaguars 3 14 0 .176
AFC West z-Kansas City Chiefs 12 5 0 .706
x-Las Vegas Raiders 10 7 0 .588
e-Los Angeles Chargers 9 8 0 .529
e-Denver Broncos 7 10 0 .412
National Football Conference
Division Team Wins Loses Ties Win-Loss %
NFC East z-Dallas Cowboys 12 5 0 .706
x-Philadelphia Eagles 9 8 0 .529
e-Washington Football Team 7 10 0 .412
e-New York Giants 4 13 0 .235
NFC North *=Green Bay Packers 13 4 0 .765
e-Minnesota Vikings 8 9 0 .471
e-Chicago Bears 6 11 0 .353
e-Detroit Lions 3 13 1 .206
NFC South z-Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13 4 0 .765
e-New Orleans Saints 9 8 0 .529
e-Atlanta Falcons 7 10 0 .412
e-Carolina Panthers 5 12 0 .294
NFC West z-Los Angeles Rams 12 5 0 .706
x-Arizona Cardinals 11 6 0 .647
x-San Francisco 49ers 10 7 0 .588
e-Seattle Seahawks 7 10 0 .412
  • z= Clinched division
  • x= Clinched playoff
  • e= Eliminated
  • *=Clinched division and bye
Updated: 12:45, 10 January 2022 (UTC)


The 2021 playoffs are scheduled to begin on the weekend of January 15–16, 2022. There will be three Wild Card teams per conference, and the conference's top seed receives a first round bye.[36] Three games will be played each day.[36]

In the Divisional Round scheduled for January 22–23, the top seed in the conference will play the lowest remaining seed and the other two remaining teams will play each other. The winners of those games will advance to the Conference Championships scheduled for January 30.[37] Super Bowl LVI is scheduled for February 13, 2022 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.[37]


January 15

Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) TBD
Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) TBD

New England Patriots (10-7) TBD
Buffalo Bills (11-6) TBD

Head coaching and front office changes

Head coaches


Team Departing coach Interim coach Incoming coach Reason for leaving Notes
Atlanta Falcons Dan Quinn Raheem Morris Arthur Smith Fired After an 0–5 start, Quinn was fired on October 11, 2020. He had a 43–42 (.506) record during his 5+ season tenure with the Falcons, with two playoff appearances and one Super Bowl appearance.

Morris, the team's defensive coordinator, was previously the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with a record of 17–31 (.354) and no playoff appearances. He finished out the 2020 season with a 4–7 (.364) record.

Smith has spent the last decade with the Tennessee Titans and has been offensive coordinator for the last two seasons; the Falcons hired Smith on January 16. This would be his first NFL head coaching job.

Detroit Lions Matt Patricia Darrell Bevell Dan Campbell Patricia was fired on November 28, 2020. He had a 13–29–1 (.314) record during his 2+ season tenure with the Lions, with no playoff appearances and finishing both complete seasons in last place in the NFC North.

Bevell, the team's offensive coordinator, was promoted to interim head coach. This was his first head coaching position. He finished out the 2020 season with a 1–4 (.200) record.

Campbell, who had a 5–7 (.417) record as interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins for part of 2015, was hired on January 20. He previously served as the assistant head coach/tight ends coach of the New Orleans Saints from 2016 to 2020.

Houston Texans Bill O'Brien Romeo Crennel David Culley After an 0–4 start, O'Brien was fired on October 5, 2020. He had a 52–48 (.520) record during his 6+ season tenure with the Texans, with four AFC South titles.

Crennel, the team's associate head coach, was previously the head coach of the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs, with a combined record of 28–55 (.337) and no playoff appearances. At age 73, he became the oldest head coach in NFL history. He finished out the 2020 season with a 4–8 (.333) record.

The Texans hired Culley, former Baltimore Ravens' assistant head coach, wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator, on January 29. This would be his first head coaching job. Culley became the oldest first-time head coach in NFL history at age 65.

Jacksonville Jaguars Doug Marrone Urban Meyer After 4+ seasons with a 23–43 (.348) record, Marrone was fired on January 4. The Jaguars made the playoffs once during his tenure, advancing to the AFC Championship Game. They finished 1–15 (.063) in 2020, ending the season on a 15-game losing streak.

Meyer, an experienced college football head coach with a combined record of 187–32 (.854) with Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, and Ohio State, and three national championships, was hired on January 14. This would be his first NFL coaching position.

Los Angeles Chargers Anthony Lynn Brandon Staley Lynn was fired on January 4 after four seasons with the team with a 33–31 (.516) record and one playoff appearance. The Chargers finished 7–9 (.438) in 2020.

Staley was hired on January 17. He had spent the previous season as defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams. This was his first head coaching position.

New York Jets Adam Gase Robert Saleh Gase was fired on January 3 after finishing the 2020 season 2–14 (.125). He was 9–23 (.281) in two seasons with the Jets, with no playoff appearances.

Saleh, who was a longtime defensive coach in the NFL and on the college level, was hired on January 14. He was most recently the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator from 2017 to 2020. This was his first head coaching position.

Philadelphia Eagles Doug Pederson Nick Sirianni Pederson was fired on January 11 after 5 seasons with the Eagles, with a total regular season record of 42–37–1 (.531), and a playoff record of 4–2 (.667). His tenure included 3 playoff appearances, 2 NFC East division titles, and a Super Bowl LII title. The Eagles finished 4–11–1 (.281) in 2020.

Former Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni was hired as Eagles' head coach on January 24. This marked Sirianni's first head coaching job.


Stadium changes

  • 2020 was the last season for Mercedes-Benz's naming rights deal to the New Orleans Saints' Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The stadium will be seeking a new corporate sponsor or revert to the original Louisiana Superdome name if they cannot find a sponsor.[38]
  • The Kansas City Chiefs sold naming rights to the playing field at Arrowhead Stadium to GEHA, marking the first time in the stadium's nearly 50-year history in which it included an advertiser’s name. For sponsorship reasons, the stadium is now GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.[39]


Uniform changes

  • Cincinnati unveil new uniforms. The primary logo and helmet design are confirmed to be retained for the overhaul.[40]
  • Jacksonville will make its alternate teal jerseys its designated primary uniform. The team had previously used teal jerseys as the primary uniform from 1995–2011.[41]


Broadcast rights


This will be the eighth year under the current broadcast contracts with CBS, ESPN, Fox, and NBC. This includes "cross-flexing" (switching) Sunday afternoon games between CBS and Fox before or during the season, regardless of the conference of the visiting team. NBC airs Sunday Night Football, the Kickoff Game, and the Thanksgiving night game. ESPN airs Monday Night Football, with select games simulcast on ABC, and the Pro Bowl, which is also simulcast on ABC. As part of ESPN's renewal of rights to Monday Night Football, a Saturday doubleheader on the final week of the regular season has been added, which will also air on ABC.[42][43] Thursday Night Football airs on NFL Network, with Fox and Amazon Prime Video simulcasting selected games.[44]

NBC will televise Super Bowl LVI. CBS was originally scheduled to broadcast the game under the current rotation. However, CBS traded the game to NBC in exchange for Super Bowl LV. Super Bowl LVI falls during the 2022 Winter Olympics, the first to be scheduled during an ongoing Olympic Games (NBC also holds the U.S. broadcast rights to the Olympics).[45]

On March 18, the NFL announced its future television deals for 2023–2033, which will see CBS, Fox, and NBC maintain their existing Sunday packages with expanded digital rights for their streaming services, and Thursday Night Football move exclusively to Amazon Prime. ESPN also entered into a new agreement for Monday Night Football beginning in 2022.[42][43]


  1. NFL owners approve enhanced schedule with 17 regular-season games per team (in en-US).
  2. LionsWire. Retrieved on March 22, 2021.
  3. Colts Acquire QB Carson Wentz from Eagles in Exchange for Draft Picks (March 17, 2021).
  4. Cardinals Make Trade For 3-Time Pro Bowl Center Rodney Hudson (March 17, 2021).
  5. Patriots Acquire T Trent Brown in a Trade with Las Vegas; Trade T Marcus Cannon to Houston; Release DL Beau Allen and WR Marquise Lee (March 18, 2021).
  6. Triplett, Mike (March 14, 2021). New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees Announces Retirement After 20 Seasons.
  7. Saints QB Drew Brees announces retirement after 20-year career.
  8. Maya, Adam (December 29, 2020). Washington LB Thomas Davis plans to retire after this season.
  9. Shook, Nick (February 22, 2021). Mike Iupati, Four-time Pro Bowl Guard, Retires after 11 seasons.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Patra, Kevin (February 12, 2021). Longtime offensive linemen Maurkice and Mike Pouncey retire from NFL.
  11. Patra, Kevin (January 20, 2021). Philip Rivers retiring from football after 17 seasons in NFL.
  12. Shook, Nick (January 27, 2021). Jason Witten retiring after 17-year career; TE will retire as member of Cowboys.
  13. Veteran safety Antoine Bethea retires after 14 NFL seasons. ESPN.
  14. Spofford, Mike. "Former Packers safety Morgan Burnett announces retirement", March 29, 2021. 
  15. Shook, Nick (January 12, 2021). Colts LT Anthony Castonzo retiring after 10 seasons.
  16. Cowboys DL Tyrone Crawford Retiring from NFL after 9 season. (March 25, 2021).
  17. Patra, Kevin (March 18, 2021). Longtime Patriots S Patrick Chung Announces Retirement.
  18. Robinson, Sam (January 28, 2021). One Time Pro Bowl Fullback Patrick DiMarco Announces Retirement.
  19. Shook, Nick (December 4, 2020). Veteran K Stephen Hauschka announces retirement after 13 seasons.
  20. Olson, Andrew (March 26, 2021). Former Mississippi State DL Kyle Love announces retirement from NFL.
  21. Patra, Kevin (January 22, 2021). Steelers TE Vance McDonald retires after eight seasons.
  22. Bryan, Will (January 24, 2021). Greg Olsen announces his retirement.
  23. Donald Penn Retires as a Raider. (March 15, 2021).
  24. Shook, Nick (January 4, 2021). Falcons QB, former Texans standout Matt Schaub retiring.
  25. "Chiefs FB Anthony Sherman announces his retirement from NFL", Chiefs Wire 2021, 4 March 2021. 
  26. Eisen, Michael (February 9, 2021). QB Alex Tanney Retires After Nine Seasons.
  27. Hodkiewicz, Wes (March 16, 2021). Packers CB Tramon Williams Announced His Retirement.
  28. Dates are set for 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland (April 28, 2020).
  29. Floyd Little, Broncos Hall of Fame running back, dies at age 78. MediaNews Group, Inc..
  30. Bumbaca, Chris (June 25, 2020). NFL cancels Hall of Fame Game, Class of '20 enshrinement postponed due to coronavirus. USA Today.
  31. NFL owners approve enhanced schedule with 17 regular-season games per team (in en-US).
  32. Florio, Mike (December 16, 2020). 17th game will give each team a fifth interconference matchup.
  33. FMIA: New Insight On NFL’s 17-Game Schedule. Plus The Story Of One QB’s Quick (Door) Dash To Top 5 Prospect. Pro Football Talk on NBC Sports (March 1, 2021).
  34. NFL owners approve enhanced schedule with 17 regular-season games per team (in en-US).
  35. Florio, Mike (2021-03-04). NFL schedule release will happen later than ever this year (in en-US).
  36. 36.0 36.1 Seifert, Kevin. "NFL owners vote to approve expanded 14-team playoff format", ESPN, March 31, 2020. 
  37. 37.0 37.1 NFL Playoff Schedule 2021 (in en). FBSchedules.
  38. Dixon, Ed. "New Orleans Saints seek Superdome naming rights partner as Mercedes exits", SportsPro, May 20, 2020. 
  39. Chiefs and GEHA Announce Naming Rights Agreement for GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
  40. Hobson, Geoff (January 21, 2021). Bengals Helmet Still At Head Of The Class. Cincinnati Bengals.
  41. Shook, Nick. "Jacksonville Jaguars announce primary uniform switch from black to teal", NFL Enterprises, LLC, February 17, 2021. 
  42. 42.0 42.1 NFL reaches TV deals with ESPN, other networks (in en) (2021-03-18).
  43. 43.0 43.1 NFL gets $10 billion per year from networks/Amazon in new rights deal (in en-US) (2021-03-18).
  44. Spangler, Todd (April 29, 2020). Amazon Renews NFL 'Thursday Night Football' Through 2022, Scores Exclusive Game per Season.
  45. "Goal of spectacle and colors NFL's thinking about Super Bowl halftime show", Chicago Tribune, February 6, 2011. 

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