NEW YORK — Among the Patriots’ rewards for winning the Super Bowl is hosting the season opener. The opposition this year is another team with championship pedigree: the Pittsburgh Steelers.
New England and Pittsburgh will begin the NFL season on Thursday night, Sept. 10 with a game matching quarterbacks with six Super Bowl rings and nine Super Bowl appearances: Tom Brady vs. Ben Roethlisberger.
Since Brady became New England’s starting quarterback in 2001, he is 6-3 against the Steelers — he missed the 2008 game while injured — including 2-0 in the playoffs.
Other prime-time matchups on opening weekend will have the New York Giants at Dallas on Sunday, Sept. 13; Philadelphia at Atlanta, followed by Minnesota at San Francisco in a Monday night doubleheader.
Both conference championship rematches will be Sunday night affairs: Seattle at Green Bay in Week 2, Patriots at Colts on Oct. 18. Yet another Sunday game will be the latest Brady-Peyton Manning faceoff when the Patriots are at Denver on Nov. 29.
Three days earlier, the traditional Thanksgiving Day games will feature Detroit hosting the Eagles, followed by Carolina visiting the Cowboys.
The holiday evening contest is a renewal of the NFL’s longest-running rivalry, with Chicago at Green Bay. The Packers reportedly will honor Brett Favre that night, placing his jersey on the facade of Lambeau Field.
“I think it’s great, and it will be great for our fans, the first time we’ve had a Thanksgiving night game here at Lambeau Field,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think it will definitely be a special night.”
Three games in London will have the Jets against the host Dolphins at 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 4; Buffalo facing host Jacksonville on Oct. 25; and Detroit against host Kansas City on Nov. 1.
Among the oddities:
-- Philadelphia opens with three road games in four weeks because Pope Francis will be holding Mass in Philadelphia on Sept. 27. That forced the league to schedule the Eagles at the Jets.
-- Tennessee won’t travel for five weeks. After opening with two road games, the Titans are home in Weeks 3, 5, 6 and 7, and have a Week 4 bye. In 1990, as the Houston Oilers, the franchise also had four straight home games.
-- Two teams have a pair of three-game homestands, Baltimore and Detroit. The Ravens are home in Weeks 8, 10 and 11, with a bye in Week 9, and again in Weeks 14-16. Detroit doesn’t leave Ford Field in Weeks 5-7 and again in Weeks 11-13. Since the 1970 merger, 10 franchises have had multiple three-game homestands in a season, most recently the 2008 Chicago Bears. This will be the first time the Ravens or Lions have done it, according to STATS.
-- According to STATS, the last team with a four-game homestand was the 2008 Houston Texans. The last team not to leave home for five straight weeks was the 1993 Buffalo Bills. They had a bye in Week 3, a three-game homestand between Weeks 4-6, and then another bye in Week 7.
-- In all, 10 teams have three-game homestands. Four have the dreaded three-game road trips: Atlanta (Weeks 14-16); Buffalo (10-12); Miami (8-10); and Jacksonville (3-5).