While the NFL schedules games for every Thursday and Monday night, with the exception of Week 17, the best prime-time matchups are usually reserved for “Sunday Night Football.” The season kicks off with a contest between the losers of last year’s conference championship games, followed by some of the best games of the 2016 regular season.
The New England Patriots visit the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night of Week 1, though Tom Brady won’t play because of his four-game suspension. It’s the first of nine Sunday night games that are scheduled between two playoff teams.
The Patriots are scheduled to play on Sunday night three times, tying them for the most appearances with the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. The defending champion Denver Broncos are on the schedule twice, and the Carolina Panthers, whom they defeated in Super Bowl 50, are only on the schedule once.
The Week 2 contest between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings is the first of nine divisional matchups on the schedule. Of the three games that don’t feature a playoff team from last year, two are NFC East matchups.
It’s almost a guarantee that the schedule at the beginning of the season will look different from the final Sunday night schedule. Up to two Sunday night games can be changed between Weeks 5-10 because of the “flex” schedule. The games between Weeks 11-16 can be swapped, as well, and the Week 17 Sunday night game won’t be determined until six days beforehand.
NBC broadcasts every Sunday night game at 8:30 p.m. ET. Below is a look at the complete schedule for “Sunday Night Football” in the 2016 season, prior to Week 1.
Week 1, Sept. 11: New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals
Week 2, Sept. 18: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Week 3, Sept. 25: Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys
Week 4, Oct. 2: Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 5, Oct. 9: New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
Week 6, Oct. 16: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
Week 7, Oct. 23: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
Week 8, Oct. 30: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
Week 9, Nov. 6: Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders
Week 10, Nov. 13: Seattle Seahawks at New England Patriots
Week 11, Nov. 20: Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins
Week 12, Nov. 27: New England Patriots at New York Jets
Week 13, Dec. 4: Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks
Week 14, Dec. 11: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Week 15, Dec. 18: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Week 16, Dec. 25: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs