One of the spoils of being champion: The New England Patriots will kick off the NFL season Sept. 7 by hosting the Kansas City Chiefs.
New England earned that honor with its record comeback to beat Atlanta in the Super Bowl. Its opening opponent in a Thursday night game won the AFC West last season.
The Falcons visit Chicago in their first game.
The rest of the opening weekend will feature what seems like a yearly occurrence, with Dallas hosting the New York Giants on Sunday night. They finished 1-2 in the NFC East in 2016.
On Monday night, New Orleans is at Minnesota, followed by the Chargers, in their first game representing Los Angeles since 1960, at Denver.
Five games will be held abroad, beginning with Baltimore vs. Jacksonville in London on Sept. 24. The next week, Miami hosts New Orleans. In Week 7, the Rams host the Cardinals, followed the next week by Minnesota against Cleveland.
The Patriots will also get into the international mix when they play a road game on Nov. 19 against Oakland at Mexico City.
Other highlights include:
• The Patriots have nine 1 p.m. kickoffs and just two 4:25 p.m. start times. That could change during the season because of flexible scheduling decisions, in which games times are changed to more attractive matchups on national television.
• There’s also a challenging six-week stretch where New England plays five road games.
• For the second consecutive year, New England will enjoy its bye week at the precise midpoint of the season, in Week 9 – the first weekend of November.
• After the Week 9 bye, New England plays at Denver on Sunday night, then against the Raiders in Mexico City. Both are high-altitude destinations, so the team may choose to make it a weeklong trip.
Around the league, Thanksgiving’s traditional games will have Minnesota at Detroit and the Chargers at Dallas. In prime time, Washington will be home against the Giants.
Christmas weekend will be busy.
Two Saturday games have Indianapolis at Baltimore in late afternoon and 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 for a late-afternoon matchup, followed by Oakland at Philadelphia.
The season ends when 2017 does, on Dec. 31.
The 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 scheduled, the same number as New England.
The Super Bowl rematch comes Sunday night, Oct. 22.
StubHub Center, the 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.
While three-game road or home strings once were taboo in the league, they are common now.
Half the teams have one or the other, with five clubs having both: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Oakland, San Francisco and Cincinnati. The Bengals play at Jacksonville, Tennessee and Denver, then immediately are home to Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Chicago.
Houston has three straight home games, then a bye in October.
Denver has one road game in the first six weeks – the Broncos also have a bye – before visiting the Chargers, Chiefs and Eagles.