The NFL’s 2017 regular season schedule is set to be announced later this week. While it’s already known that the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots will host the 2017 season kickoff game on Sept. 7, it was unknown who they would be playing.
Most thought the league would opt for a Super Bowl rematch between the Patriots and Atlanta Falcons to open season, however, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reports that the Patriots will “almost certainly” play the Kansas City Chiefs for the “Thursday Night Football” season opener at Gillette Stadium.
The Falcons are on New England’s home schedule this season and could have been an option for Week 1. But according to Volin, the Falcons are likely to open the season in their new stadium on “Sunday Night Football.”
The Patriots’ other home opponents in 2017 include the Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.
The Panthers played the season-opening game last season against the Broncos, in a rematch of Super Bowl 50, and they were not happy about it. The Jets, Dolphins, and Bills were unlikely as there have only been two divisional games played in the opener since the Super Bowl champ started hosting it on Thursday night — the Giants opened the season against Washington in 2008 and the Cowboys in 2012.
That left the Falcons, Texans, and Chiefs. As the Globe noted, the Falcons are likely to open their new stadium at home, and the NFL probably does not want to take a chance on putting the quarterback-starved Texans in such a national spotlight.
The Chiefs went 12-4 last season and lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round of the playoffs after winning the second seed in the conference as the AFC West champions.