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.
2021 Thursday Night Football schedule
Week 1: Dallas Cowboys 29, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31
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: New York Giants vs. Washington Football Team
Week two of Thursday Night Football features a matchup of the NFC East, or as many have come to call it the NFC Least. With no team finishing with a record better than 7-9 in 2020, this early season games features the defending divisional champion the Washington Football Team and the runner-up New York Giants.
Things did not get off to a great start for either team in week one. For the Giants, they opened at home against the Denver Broncos and were beat rather convincingly, 27-13. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones threw for 267 yards and a touchdown with no picks, but he did lose a fumble. Jones also led the team in rushing yards, but that's not something to be pleased about considering he had just 27 and star running back Saquon Barkley had just 26 yards in his first game back from tearing his ACL last year. The lone offensive bright spot was Sterling Shephard, who hauled in seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, the Giants couldn't stop Teddy Bridgewater and the Broncos, ceding 420 total yards.
A matchup against Washington could be just what the doctor ordered though for the Giants. The G-Men have won five straight games against their divisional rival, with their last loss against Washington coming in week eight of the 2018 season.
In Washington, the headline of a tough first loss against the Los Angeles Chargers (20-16) was the injury to starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The veteran suffered a hip injury and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. This means that backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke will be the man under center for the time being. If that name sounds familiar that would be because the formerly unknown player had a strong outing in Washington's playoff game in 2020 despite ultimately falling to the the eventual Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers. These next few weeks will prove if Heinicke could actually be the answer at quarterback for this team after his small sample size.
As for the game against the Chargers, the offense just couldn't get big plays and scoring plays going against the visiting team, while Washington's vaunted defense wasn't able to disrupt Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert enough, though they did do a good job of holding the Chargers out of the end zone on a number of drives that kept the game close.
One of these NFC East teams is poised to get back on track on Thursday night with a win, and let's hope that FedEx field, which is hosting the game, will have its plumbing issues fixed by then.
As of Sept. 14, Washington is favored by 3.5 points.
How to watch Thursday Night Football in the U.S.
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.
How to watch Thursday Night Football in the U.K.
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.
How to watch Thursday Night Football from anywhere
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.
Michael Balderston is a D.C.-based entertainment writer and content producer for What to Watch. He previously has written for TV Technology and Awards Circuit.
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