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The New England Patriots, fresh off a dramatic Super Bowl 51 win over the Atlanta Falcons, will officially return to the gridiron Thursday, September 7, when they host the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL‘s regular-season opener at Gillette Stadium.
However, that game is just one of 256 that will shake out between September and the end of December—all of which were unveiled Thursday when the NFL officially released its 2017 schedule.
|2017 NFL Key Dates to Know|
|Thursday, September 7||Regular-Season Opener|
|Sunday, September 10||Regular-Season Kickoff Weekend|
|Sunday, December 31||Final Day of Regular Season|
|Saturday, January 6||NFL Playoffs Begin|
|Sunday, February 4||Super Bowl 52 (U.S. Bank Stadium)|
Now that the complete 2017 slate has been released at NFL.com, here’s a rundown of each team’s matchups and some storylines to track as the season approaches.
Division to Watch: NFC East
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All eyes in the NFC East figure to be trained on the Dallas Cowboys, who stunned observers by going 13-3 in 2016 on the backs of breakout rookie campaigns by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.
However, the Cowboys crashed out of the playoffs in a heartbreaking loss to the Green Bay Packers that deprived them of a spot in the NFC Championship Game.
Now looking ahead to the 2017 season, the Cowboys will be viewed as favorites in a conference jam-packed with title hopefuls.
The question is: Will they be able to live up to last season’s lofty standards and stave off the New York Giants for another division crown?
While the Giants’ 2016 season came to a disappointing end with a loss to the Packers in the Wild Card Round, they attacked the offseason wisely and bolstered their receiving corps with Brandon Marshall—who will now flank Odell Beckham Jr. and the fast-rising Sterling Shepard.
Combine that aerial weaponry with a defense that was one of the league’s stingiest last season thanks to the performances of Landon Collins, Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, and there’s reason to believe Big Blue will give the Cowboys a run for their money a year after they swept the regular-season series.
As the New York Daily News‘ Pat Leonard wrote: “The Giants (11-5) beat Dallas in both of their head-to-head meetings and will be bringing back at least a large percentage of the defense that contained and/or smothered Dak Prescott and Co. in both victories. In short, the Giants really were the only team that seemed to have a blueprint for beating Dallas.”
NFC East intrigue, though, is not limited to the Giants and Cowboys.
The Philadelphia Eagles will also be under the microscope as Carson Wentz slides under center with a bevy of new weapons like Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith at his…