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NFL releases 2019 regular-season schedule

The New England Patriots will kick off defense of their sixth Super Bowl title on Sunday Night Football against a familiar rival.

The Patriots will host the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 8, at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC, the NFL announced Wednesday along with the entire 2019 regular-season schedule.

The league decided not to kick off the season with the Super Bowl champs on Thursday night (Sept. 5), but placing the dynastic Patriots in the Sunday prime-time slot to open the season is a worthy consolation. As has become customary in Foxborough, the Patriots will spend the pregame festivities hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and a new banner before it's faithful, boisterous crowd.

The matchup features familiar foes who have undergone transformations this offseason. Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger remain under center, but the Steelers parted ways with stars Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell while the Patriots said goodbye to the retired Rob Gronkowski.

While some of the offensive firepower that made this rivalry a spectacle in the past might be gone, they remain two of the AFC's most consistently great franchises since the turn of the Millennium. As long as GOAT Brady and Big Ben are under center, Patriots-Steelers stays appointment viewing.

Let's now briefly run down each of the other 15 Week 1 matchups (to see the full 2019 NFL regular-season schedule click here):

Thursday Night Kickoff, Sept. 5

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears, 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

Sunday afternoon games, Sept. 8

Los Angeles Rams at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. ET on FOX

The NFC champions begin their conference title defense in the east. Will Sean McVay's team avoid a Super Bowl hangover -- something Carolina fans know a thing or two about, missing the postseason following two Super Bowl failures -- and get back to play for a Lombardi Trophy? The Panthers, meanwhile, will get the first real look at Cam Newton coming off a latest shoulder issue, which ended his season prematurely last year. Newton's injury derailed the Panthers 2018 campaign. Will he be full-go for 16 games this time around?

Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET on CBS

The Cleveland Browns reign as the NFL's offseason media darling of 2019. With Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham, Myles Garrett and new coach Freddie Kitchens, the national love-affair with the team off the shores of Lake Erie won't end this summer -- four scheduled prime-time games this season speaks to the pervasive hype. The opener versus Tennessee will be the first salvo in a season-long path toward proving the hysteria true or distorted. The Titans, meanwhile, are hoping quarterback Marcus Mariota can prove healthy to open the season and remain there. With Derrick Henry demonstrating he can be a boatload out of the backfield down the stretch last season, the Titans' offense will be interesting to see in action to open the year under a new offensive coordinator.

How will the NFL's MVP top a 50-TD, 5,097-yard season? Patrick Mahomes begins that MVP-defense against what should still be one of the top defensive units in the NFL in Jacksonville. It might have been a down year for the Jags in 2019, but Jalen Ramsey, Calais Campbell, et al. didn't turn into fluffy kittens. Jacksonville forced Mahomes' first two interceptions of his year last season, and held him to his only regular-season game without a TD pass. Which side will come out of the gate hot? Nick Foles taking over for Blake Bortles is an immediate upgrade for Jacksonville, and the signal-caller will face a K.C. defense in transition with plenty of question marks after it got carved up last year.

Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET on CBS

The Ravens threw their weight 100 percent behind Lamar Jackson this offseason and head into the year looking like the most run-heavy team in the NFL once again. Will Jackson improve as a passer enough to help keep defenses like Miami's offbalance? The Dolphins are in clear rebuild mode under new coach Brian Flores. Currently veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick projects as the opening day starter. Will FitzMagic put on a show as he did to start last year, or will Baltimore's latest star safety (Earl Thomas) help the Ravens pick off the road win to open the year?

Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET on FOX

Let's call this one the 2018 Disappointment Bowl. Two teams coming off substandard seasons face off to open the year. Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins each quarterback units with potential firepower. We could be seeing two of the top wide receiver tandems on the field as well in Minnesota's Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen and Atlanta's Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. One of these clubs will open the season on the right foot, while the other will continue to answer questions that plagued them in 2018.

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets, 1 p.m. ET on CBS

Josh Allen and Sam Darnold face off to open the season in their potentially budding AFC East rivalry. Each quarterback only played in one of the divisional tilts during their rookie campaigns, with Darnold's Jets taking home the road victory. 2019 is a new horizon, however. There are plenty of question marks for both young signal-callers. How will Darnold mesh with new coach Adam Gase? Will the offense fit with his skill set? And will Sam make strides from a good rookie campaign? In Buffalo, will Allen continue the improvement he showed down the stretch last season, or will the accuracy issues persist? Have the Bills done enough to buffer their big-armed, athletic signal-caller this offseason?

The NFC East rivalry kicks off a pivotal season for both clubs. For Philadelphia, the persistent questions about Carson Wentz's health will begin to be answered, assuming the back issue will finally be something of the past by September. Wentz is out to show the injuries that wiped out the end of the past two years were flukes and he can regain MVP potential. The Redskins enter a season of questions at quarterback, receiver, and whether the talent on defense can manifest itself into consistent production. It's a crucial year for coach Jay Gruden. Beginning it on the road in Philly is a daunting task. Oh, and, while we're here: Can this technically be considered a #RevengeGame for DeSean Jackson? It feels like no, but I don't make the #RevengeGame rules.

Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m. ET on CBS

Donning their newly permanent home Powder Blues, the Chargers look to get back to the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 2008-09. L.A. will boast an array of offensive firepower in Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry (returning from injury). It's a skill-unit that can match up with the best in the NFL. However, they'll face a potentially underrated Colts defense led by reigning DROY, linebacker Darius Leonard. The last time the Colts traveled to Southern California for a season opener they got walloped by the Rams. Andrew Luck wasn't under center that game in 2017. Any time Luck takes the field, he gives the Colts a chance to pull out the road win. If the Indy offensive line improves from its impressive turnaround last year, the Colts' offense will be a load to handle for L.A.'s defensive front.

Cincinnati Bengals at Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m. ET on CBS

Russell Wilson and his new Brink's Truck will roll into CenturyLink Field against a rebuilding Bengals squad and new coach Zac Taylor. Under Pete Carroll the Seahawks want remain a run-first operation, but Wilson proved last year when allowed to sling it, he's among the best in the NFL. Will Carroll let the passer gun it out the gate this season against a Bengals unit that has seen attrition the past few seasons? What will Taylor's new offense look like for Cincy? Will Dalton remain the signal-caller or do the Bengals draft a QB of the future and hand him the reins in Week 1? Facing a perennially stellar defense in Seattle to open his career could be tough for the tenderfoot Taylor as he begins his coaching career.

Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX

Speaking of new NFL coaches, the flashiest one to take over gets a home opener against the NFC North cellar-dwelling Lions, who perennially struggle in Arizona. We won't know who Kliff Kingsbury's quarterback will be until next week's draft. Regardless of who is taking snaps, Kingsbury's will be an intriguing offense to monitor from the get-go. How will the Air Raid translate to the NFL? How pass-heavy will Kingsbury be out of the gate? Have the Cardinals done enough to improve upon the worst roster in the league? Lions coach Matt Patricia did a swell job scheming against offenses he knew well last season -- Patriots, Rams -- but with no NFL tendencies from Kingsbury to pick apart, how will a Detroit defense still in need of talent handle the task?

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX

This one isn't in prime-time, but the NFC East rivalry is renewed to open the season after a one-year hiatus. The Cowboys are coming off a division title, but have a plethora of questions (outside of how they'll eventually pay all the young stars) after restructuring the offensive coaching staff. What will Kellen Moore's offense look like? How will the Dak Prescott-Amari Cooper combination function after a full offseason? How much of the load will Ezekiel Elliott carry under Moore's direction? Beginning to answer these questions while facing a New York defense that currently constructed looks more mediocre than giant could help Dallas' cause. Big Blue, meanwhile, looks poised to open up what could be Eli Manning's final season in New York with an improved offensive line and dynamic run game behind Saquon Barkley. But can the offense make up for the loss of a game-breaking talent like Odell Beckham Jr.?

San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX

Bruce Arians takes over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the explicit goal of turning around Jameis Winston's deflating career. The first test comes in a home tilt against the 49ers. Winston must prove he can quit making boneheaded plays under Arians' guidance and take advantage of the receiving threats at his disposal with consistency. San Francisco, meanwhile, should have Jimmy Garoppolo back under center to kick off the season after his ACL tear. With the 49ers boasting the deepest backfield in the NFL, will Kyle Shanahan lean on the ground game to open the year? Either way, the opening matchup in Tampa features two quarterbacks with a lot to prove in 2019.

Monday Night Football, Sept. 9

Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints, 7:10 p.m. ET on ESPN

Monday Night Football kicks off with what could be a doozy between two division winners. There is star-power galore in this tilt. Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney on one side; Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Cameron Jordan, Marshon Lattimore on the other. The Texans lost some star-power in the secondary this season, which could open the door for Brees to have a big day out of the gate. Meanwhile, Watson could take advantage of a Saints defense that has perennially started the season slow. Perhaps a shootout could be in store for ESPN's opening tilt?

Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders, 10:20 p.m. ET on ESPN

Jon Gruden is back on Monday Night Football for the second straight season. It remains apropos for the prodigal football son to return to the airwaves in which he broadcast for nearly a decade. This season, however, the Raiders might actually boast the entertainment value to live up to the billing. The trade for Antonio Brown and upgrades throughout the receiver corps could provide Derek Carr the chance to speed out of the gate. If, however, his offensive line can't keep Von Miller and Bradley Chubb off his back, that car will be stalled -- and likely berated by Gruden on national TV -- in the opener. The Broncos new reign gives us Joe Flacco in a non-purple jersey for the first time in his pro career. How will the re-imagined Denver offense behind Flacco look against a Raider D that currently constructed has more holes than a whiffle ball?

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