Archives for category: Super Bowl LI

The National Football League confirmed that global superstar Justin Timberlake will headline the PEPSI SUPER BOWL LII HALFTIME SHOW on NBC at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota on Sunday, February 4, 2018.

A multi-talented actor and musician, Timberlake has won ten Grammys and numerous other awards. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, he rapidly became a highly respected musician, winning two Grammys for his debut solo album, “Justified.” He’s been recognized for a range of performances, including Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Dance Recording and Best Music Video. Timberlake was most recently nominated for an Academy Award® for the song “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!” from the film TROLLS for which he won his 10th Grammy.

A gifted actor, Timberlake has appeared in diverse films including: ALPHA DOG, BLACK SNAKE MOAN, SHREK THE THIRD and THE SOCIAL NETWORK. He has also won four Emmys for his appearances on “Saturday Night Live.” Timberlake is a co-star of the upcoming film WONDER WHEEL, which opens later this year.

This will be Timberlake’s third time performing on the Super Bowl Halftime stage, giving him the distinction of having the most appearances by an individual entertainer. He previously performed at Super Bowls XXXV and XXXVIII.

This announcement is just the beginning. Leading up to Super Bowl LII, fans may visit Pepsi.com for behind-the-scenes looks into Timberlake’s journey to the Pepsi Super Bowl LII Halftime Show, as well as other surprises along the way.

Timberlake joins an esteemed list of recent halftime acts including Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Madonna, The Who, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Prince, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, U2 and more.

The Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show is the most-watched musical event of the year. Last year’s show was the most-watched musical event of all-time across all platforms and the most-watched Super Bowl Halftime performance in history through broadcast and digital channels, reaching more than 150 million unique people, garnering more than 80 million views and totaling 260 million minutes watched. Super Bowl LII and Halftime Show will be broadcast by NBC from U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota.

Super Bowl LII marks Pepsi’s sixth year as title sponsor of the Super Bowl Halftime Show and 16th year as an NFL partner. Pepsi and the NFL have teamed again to provide fans with a halftime experience worthy of pop-culture’s biggest stage.

The PEPSI SUPER BOWL LII HALFTIME SHOW is an NFL NETWORK PRODUCTION and will be executive produced by Ricky Kirshner and directed by HAMISH HAMILTON.

Visit Pepsi.com leading up to Super Bowl LII to see what this historic Halftime Show has in store for fans. For more information about Super Bowl LII, visit SuperBowl.com.

After a Super Bowl for the ages, the draft, mini-camps and training camps, football season is finally here and kicked off last Thursday night in Foxboro as the New England Patriots got their accolades, Super Bowl rings and the Lombardi Trophy. The hunter is NOW the hunted as the other 30 teams start their trek to perhaps getting their own Lombardi. For teams that were in the post-season last year, it’s a chance to get back to the post-season party. As for those teams that struggled last year, it’s a chance to get some revenge. The beauty of the regular season is that if you lose this week, you have a whole week to think about what went wrong. It’s not the end of the world. Two teams have already started the journey Thursday night in western Massachusetts, while the other 30 teams will get their shot this weekend. Miami and Tampa Bay will have to sit out a week because of Hurricane Irma.

After all those days of OTA’s, preseason games, sleeping in dorms for the first time since college, the 2017 National Football League season got underway last Thursday night in Foxboro as the New England Patriots got their rings and lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Foxboro. That was the first of a 17-week, 256-game regular-season schedule that comes to an end on Sunday, December 31 with 16 division games that will take place in week 17.

Like we said… The hunter is now the hunted.

New England has the Lombardi Trophy for now. There are 31 other teams that would like nothing more than to knock the Pats off the mountain.

SUPER STARTERS: History indicates that the best way for a team to start its drive toward a Super Bowl championship is to win in Week 1.

The 51 Super Bowl winners have a 41-9-1 record in the Kickoff Weekend games of their title seasons. The Super Bowl LI champion New England Patriots, who hosted Kansas City in the season opener Thursday night, have won their past eight home openers played on Kickoff Weekend and 12 of their past 13 overall in Week 1.

Since 1978 when the NFL went to the 16-game schedule and excluding the abbreviated season of 1982, teams that are victorious in their season openers are more than twice as likely to reach the playoffs than losers of an opening game:
•Of the 570 teams which won openers…297 went to the playoffs (179 won division titles).
•Of the 571 teams which lost openers…137 went to the playoffs (79 won division titles).

Note: There are a different number of winning and losing teams in season opening games due to the fact the NFL had 31 teams in each season from 1999 to 2001, which creates an odd number for the total number of results.

In 2016, nine of the 12 playoff teams – Detroit, Green Bay, Houston, Kansas City, New England, the New York Giants, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Seattle – were victorious on Kickoff Weekend.

STRONG OUT OF THE GATE: Over the past 10 years, six teams – New England (.758), Denver (.706), Dallas (.676), Green Bay (.676), Baltimore (.647) and Arizona (.618) – have a winning percentage of at least .600 through the season’s first month. Those six clubs have combined for 37 playoff berths and nine Super Bowl appearances – including five Super Bowl championships – during the span.

On Thursday night, the Patriots, who have an NFL-best 25-8 record in the month of September since 2007, hosted Kansas City and Denver (24-10, .706), who own the second-highest opening-month winning percentage in the NFL over the past 10 seasons, host the Los Angeles Chargers in an AFC West showdown in the second game of a Monday Night Football doubleheader at 10:20 p.m. on ESPN.

Teams with the best opening month records over the past 10 seasons (2007-16): (Thursday’s game not included)

TEAM (W-L, PCT)(PLAYOFF BERTHS)(SUPER BOWL BERTHS)(SUPER BOWL WINS)
New England (25-8, .758)(9)(4)(2)
Denver (24-10, .706) (5)(2)(1)
Dallas (23-11, .673) (4)(0)(0)
Green Bay (23-11, .676) (9)(1)(1)
Baltimore (22-12, .647) (6)(1)(1)
Arizona (21-13, .618)(4)(1)(0)

OUT OF THE BLOCKS: Dallas hosts the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football at 8:30 p.m. on NBC, as the two NFC East rivals meet on Kickoff Weekend for the fourth time in the past five seasons. The contest will feature two of the NFL’s most successful teams in season openers. The Cowboys’ .661 winning percentage (37-19-1) is tied with Denver for the highest of any team in NFL history, while the Giants have the third-most wins on Kickoff Weekend (50).

The teams with the best winning percentage on Kickoff Weekend:

TEAM (KICKOFF WEEKEND RECORDS, WIN PCT.)
Dallas (37-19-1, .661)
Denver (37-19-1, .661)
Houston Texans (9-6-0, .600)
Chicago (54-38-5, .587)
Green Bay (54-39-3, .581)
New York Giants (50-37-5, .575)
Note: Ties prior to 1972 did not count in winning percentage.

The teams with the most wins on Kickoff Weekend:

TEAM (KICKOFF WEEKEND WINS)
Chicago (54)
Green Bay (54)
New York Giants (50)
Detroit (47)
Pittsburgh (42)

STARTING STREAKS: Some clubs have excelled in openers. Below is a sampling of notable active NFL Kickoff milestones and streaks:

•Chicago, who hosts Atlanta to open their 2017 campaign, have the most wins (65) all-time in home openers.

•Dallas, who welcomes the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football, have 32 wins in home openers since 1970, the most in the NFC.

•Denver, who hosts the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday Night Football, have posted a 43-13-1 (.768) record in home openers, the top mark in the NFL. Denver has won 23 of its past 26 home openers.

•Green Bay, who welcomes Seattle on Kickoff Weekend into Lambeau, have won their past four home openers. The Packers are tied with the Bears for the most wins (54) on Kickoff Weekend.

•Houston, who hosts Jacksonville on Kickoff Weekend, have won six of their past seven home openers.

•San Francisco, who hosts Carolina on Kickoff Weekend, have the NFL’s longest active winning streak (six) on Kickoff Weekend.

START ME UP: Some players have excelled in openers. Below is a sampling of notable individual performances on NFL Kickoff Weekend:

•New Orleans running back Adrian Peterson has 885 rushing yards in 10 career season-opening games and needs 115 yards to become the fifth player with at least 1,000 rushing yards in season-opening games. The four players to accomplish the feat are Emmitt Smith (1,247), Walter Payton (1,067), Edgerrin James (1,062) and Jim Brown (1,043). Smith, Payton and Brown are all enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

•Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has 918 receiving yards and eight touchdown receptions in 13 career season-opening games and needs 82 yards to become the fifth player with at least 1,000 career receiving yards and eight touchdown catches in season-opening games, joining Jerry Rice (1,385 yards, nine TDs), Andre Reed (1,225, 10), Randy Moss (1,194, 10) and Don Maynard (1,025, nine). Rice, Reed and Maynard are all members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

MR. 300: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has 297 touchdown passes with 72 interceptions in 12 career seasons. With three touchdown passes against Seattle on Sunday, Rodgers would become the 11th quarterback in NFL history with 300 career touchdowns passes and the first quarterback in league history to reach 300 career passing touchdowns with fewer than 100 interceptions.

The quarterbacks who reached 300 career touchdown passes with the fewest interceptions:

QUARTERBACK – TEAM(S) (INTERCEPTIONS AT TIME OF 300TH TOUCHDOWN PASS)
Tom Brady – New England (115)
Philip Rivers – San Diego (142)
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis (152)
Drew Brees – San Diego and New Orleans (153)
Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh (160)
Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay (72)*
*Has 297 career touchdowns passes entering Week 1

START ’EM EARLY: Cleveland rookie quarterback De Shone Kizer, a second-round pick (No. 52 overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft, is expected to make his first career start against Pittsburgh on Sunday. With a start by Kizer on Sunday, at least one rookie quarterback will have started in Week 1 in 10 consecutive seasons, the longest streak in the NFL since at least 1950.

The rookie quarterbacks to start in Week 1 since 2008:

SEASON – QUARTERBACK (TEAM, STARTING RECORD AS ROOKIE)
2008 – Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens, 11-5)
2008 – Matt Ryan (Atlanta, 11-5)
2009 – Mark Sanchez (New York Jets, 8-7)
2009 – Matthew Stafford (Detroit, 2-8)*
2010 – Sam Bradford (St. Louis Rams, 7-9)*
2011 – Andy Dalton (Cincinnati, 9-7)
2011 – Cam Newton (Carolina, 6-10)*
2012 – Robert Griffin III (Washington, 9-6)
2012 – Andrew Luck (Indianapolis, 11-5)*
2012 – Ryan Tannehill (Miami, 7-9)
2012 – Brandon Weeden (Cleveland, 5-10)
2012 – Russell Wilson (Seattle, 11-5)
2013 – E.J. Manuel (Buffalo, 4-6)
2013 – Geno Smith (New York Jets, 8-8)
2014 – Derek Carr (Oakland, 3-13)
2015 – Marcus Mariota (Tennessee, 3-13)
2015 – Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay, 6-10)*
2016 – Dak Prescott (Dallas, 13-3)
2016 – Carson Wentz (Philadelphia, 7-9)
2017 – DeShone Kizer (Cleveland, 0-0)^
^Expected to start in Week 1
*No. 1 Overall Pick

RUN FORREST RUN! A tough, reliable running game allows an offense to command a game’s pace and in the majority of contests, it can also control the game’s result.

In 2016, NFL teams with a 100-yard rusher posted a 68-27-1 record for a .714 winning percentage. That rated higher than clubs with a 100-yard receiver (94-73-2, .562) or a 300-yard passer (56-60-2, .483).

Pittsburgh running back LE’VEON BELL ranked fifth in the NFL with 1,268 rushing yards last season, despite playing only 12 games. The Steelers were 6-0 in games in which Bell rushed for at least 100 yards.

“Le’Veon’s one of the greatest players on our team,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethilsberger told KDKA-TV and the Pittsburgh Gazzette. “He’s one of the best running backs in the world. It’s an honor to play with him.”

Over the past five years, teams have compiled a 359-141-6 record (.715) a player has eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark. By comparison, clubs with a 100-yard receiver have a .558 winning percentage (509-403-4), while offenses with a 300-yard passer have won 51.5 percent of their games (316-298-3).

Here are the winning percentage of teams with a 100-yard rusher, 100-yard receiver or 300-yard passer over the past five seasons:

100-YARD RUSHERS
YEAR: W-L-T, WIN PCT.
2012: 83-35-1, .702
2013: 60-33-2 .642
2014: 75-23-2 .760
2015: 73-23 .760
2016: 68-27-1 .714
Total :359-141-6 .715

100-YARD RECEIVERS
YEAR: W-L-T WIN PCT.
2012: 92-78-1 .541                                      :
2013: 98-82 .544
2014: 105-74-1 .586
2015: 120-96 .556
2016: 94-73-2 .562
Total: 509-403-4 .558

300-YARD PASSERS
YEAR: W-L-T WIN PCT.
2012: 61-65 .484
2013: 60-58 .508
2014: 70-52-1 .573
2015: 69-63 .522
2016: 56-60-2 .483
Total: 316-298-3 .515

EVERY NFL SNAP STARTS UNDER CENTER: It all starts with the guy under center. Nothing begins on an NFL field without the quarterback. NFL QBs put together a historically proficient and prolific year in 2016.

The league-wide completion percentage (63.0) tied the previous record set in 2015, while the league-wide passer rating (89.3) ranked second behind only the 2015 season (90.2). There were touchdown passes thrown in 2016, the fourth-highest total in NFL history.

Games averaged 700.8 total net yards per game, the mark in NFL annals (705.3 in 2015). Explosive offenses fueled that trend, with an average of 483.0 yards per game, the second-highest total all-time in 2015).

The league-wide interception percentage of 2.3 percent lowest of any season in NFL history, surpassing previous mark of 2.4 in 2015. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, despite missing four games for his role in Deflategate, finished the 2016 season with interception percentage (two INTs in 432 passing attempts), the third-lowest interception percentage quarterback since 1960. Brady passed for 28 touchdown passes and two interceptions last season, recording the highest touchdown/interception ratio history.

There were 57 individual performances with three touchdown passes without an interception in 2016, the highest of any season in NFL history (59 in 2015, 2014). Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the league with seven games of at least touchdown passes without an interception, tied third-most in a single season in NFL history.

“It’s a passing league,” Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Light told the Tampa Tribune. “It’s a quarterback-driven league, so you want a great quarterback. If you’ve got a great quarterback, you’ve got a chance.”

As professional football has evolved, the sophistication and importance of the passing game have grown consistently. Defenders have grown stronger and faster while defensive coordinators have become more creative. Moving the ball downfield three yards at a time via the run has grown increasingly difficult.

This trend has helped allow the growing number of star NFL quarterbacks – ranging from established veterans like Brady, Rodgers, Drew Brees and Ben Roethilsberger to talented youngsters like Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Dak Prescott – to fully showcase their passing talents.

An NFL-record 13 passers reached the 4,000-yard mark in 2016, eclipsing 2015 for the most of any season in NFL history (12). Brees led the NFL with 5,208 passing yards, the fourth-highest passing yardage total in league history. Brees is the first player to lead the league in passing yards seven times, extending his NFL record.

Five quarterbacks recorded a 100+ passer rating in 2016, led by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, whose 117.1 rating was the fifth-highest in NFL history.

4,000+ PASS YARDS
PLAYER – YARDS
Drew Brees – 5,208
Matt Ryan – 4,944
Kirk Cousins – 4,917
Aaron Rodgers – 4,428
Philip Rivers – 4,386
Matthew Stafford – 4,327                –
Joe Flacco – 4,317
Andrew Luck – 4,240
Carson Palmer – 4,233
Russell Wilson – 4,219
Andy Dalton – 4,206
Jameis Winston – 4,090
Eli Manning – 4,027

30+ PASS TDs
PLAYER – TDs
Aaron Rodgers – 40
Matt Ryan – 38
Drew Brees – 37
Philip Rivers – 33
Andrew Luck – 31

100+ PASSER RATING
PLAYER – RATING
Matt Ryan – 117.1
Tom Brady – 112.2
Dak Prescott – 104.9
Aaron Rodgers – 104.2
Drew Brees – 101.7

TIGHT ENDS ON THE RISE: NFL tight ends have been performing at an historic level and the 2016 season was no different.
Last year, tight ends recorded the second-most catches (2,494) and receiving yards (27,340) in a single season for the position.

SINGLE-SEASON TIGHT END RECORDS: Last season, four tight ends – Baltimore’s Dennis Pitta (86), Kansas City’s Travis Kelce (85), Minnesota’s Kyle Rudolph (83) and Carolina’s Greg Olsen (80) – reached the 80-reception mark, tied for the most tight ends with at least 80 receptions in a single season in NFL history.

In 2016, Olsen recorded 1,073 receiving yards and became the first tight end in NFL history to record three consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards

Los Angeles Chargers tight end Antonio Gates had seven receiving touchdowns in 2016 and has 111 career touchdown catches, tying Tony Gonzalez for the most by a tight end in history.

Gates brought his career receiving yardage total to 11,192, becoming the third tight end in NFL history to reach 11,000 career receiving yards, joining Gonzalez (15,127) and Dallas’ Jason Witten (11,888).

The importance of the tight end position was evident in this year’s NFL Draft as well. Three tight ends – O.J. Howard (Tampa Bay, No. 19), Evan Engram (New York Giants, No. 23) and David Njoku (Cleveland, No. 29) and) – were chosen in the first round, tied for the most first round tight ends (1970 and 2002) since the advent of the common draft in 1967.

YEAR – REC. YARDS
2015 – 27,553
2016 – 27,340
2013 – 27,284
2011 – 27,080
2012 – 26,197

YEAR CATCHES
2015 – 2,518
2016 – 2,494
2012 – 2,401
2013 – 2,384

SEASON MOST TEs W/ 80+ RECEPTIONS IN SINGLE SEASON
2016 – 4
2014 – 4
2011 – 4
2004 – 4
Many tied with 3

CONVERSION: Excelling on third down extends drives and keeps your opponent off the field, which can be an important factor in winning games.

Last season, six playoff teams converted at least 40 percent of their third-down attempts – Green Bay (46.7 percent), New England (45.8), Detroit (42.6), Dallas (42.3), Atlanta (42.1) and Pittsburgh (41.1).

Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb understands the importance of converting. “We talk about it continuously,” Cobb told the Milwaukee Sentinel. “Being able to break a tackle and picking up a first down is important. We try and do that consistently throughout games.”

Converting on third down extends drives ultimately leading towards the end zone. Last season, nine of the top 10 offensive scoring teams converted at least 40 percent of third downs. Atlanta and New England, who met in Super Bowl LI, both converted at least 40 percent of third downs last season.

FOURTH-AND-ONE: In fourth-and-one situations, the offense or defense must not only overpower its opponent but also outsmart it in order to retain or gain possession. It is an art that must be studied for mastery.

Three teams were perfect on fourth-and-one conversions in 2016 (minimum five attempts) – Dallas, Cleveland and Carolina. Three teams with perfect fourth-and-one conversion rates (minimum five attempts) are tied for the most in a single season in NFL history (2005).

Just as converting on third and fourth downs are important for the offense, it’s equally important for the defense to stop scoring drives and save games.

A stop on fourth-and-one for a defense is as important as forcing a turnover. While the offense needs to convert to prolong its drive hoping to control the clock and find the end zone, the defense can hand the ball over to its offense with field position by stifling an offense.

Thirteen teams stopped at least half of their opponents’ fourth-and-one attempts, including seven playoff teams – Houston, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Miami, New York Giants and Oakland.

TOTAL MILES TRAVELED AND NOTES ON 2017 TRAVEL (Mileage is based on the estimated round-trip distance for every regular-season road game)

Talk about frequent flyer miles! All 32 teams will board a plane or bus during the season to get from stadium to stadium during any given season.

• The total distance traveled by all teams during the regular season will be 564,820 miles.

• The teams of the NFC West (110,848) have the highest combined mileage total of all divisions.

• The remaining division totals ranking from highest to lowest are the AFC West (90,546), NFC East (80,956), AFC East (75,105), AFC South (67,352), NFC South (56,146), AFC North (48,797) and NFC North (35,070).

• Five teams – the Los Angeles Rams (32,600), Oakland (30,899), Arizona (30,035), Miami (27,520) and the Los Angeles Chargers (26,134) – will “travel around the world” at least once. A trip around the globe is 25,000 miles.

Below are the teams and the distance they will travel in 2017 (please return your trays to the upright position).

TEAM – MILES
1. Los Angeles Rams – 32,600
2. Oakland – 30,899
3. Arizona – 30,035
4. Miami – 27,520
5. Los Angeles Chargers – 26,134
6. Jacksonville – 24,522
7. Seattle – 24,121
8. San Francisco – 24,092
9. New York Giants – 21,883
10. New Orleans – 20,968
11. Washington – 20,762
12. Philadelphia – 20,227
13. Denver – 18,842
14. Houston – 18,546
15. Dallas – 18,084
16. Baltimore – 18,055
17. New England – 17,830
18. New York Jets – 16,483
19. Cleveland – 16,386
20. Kansas City – 14,671
21. Tampa Bay – 13,683
22. Buffalo – 13,272
23. Tennessee – 13,048
24. Atlanta – 11,687
25. Indianapolis – 11,236
26. Minnesota – 10,460
27. Carolina – 9,808
28. Chicago – 8,318
29. Detroit – 8,218
30. Green Bay – 8,074
31. Cincinnati – 7,662
32. Pittsburgh – 6,694

2017 NFL STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
TEAM (OPPONENTS’ 2016 PCT AND RECORD) (GAMES VS. TEAMS, .500 OR BETTER) (GAMES VS. 2016 PLAYOFF TEAMS)
Denver (.578; 147-107-2) (8) (10)
Kansas City (.576; 147-108-1) (8) (11)
Los Angeles Chargers (.568; 145-110-1) (8) (11)
Oakland (.564; 144-111-1) (6) (11)
Buffalo (.561; 143-112-1 (7) (10)
Miami (.547; (140-116-0) (5) (9)
Washington (.543; 138-116-2) (7) (9)
New York Jets (.535; 137-119-0) (7) (9)
New York Giants (.535; 135-117-4) (6) (10)
Dallas (.531; 134-118-4) (7) (10)
Philadelphia (.531; 134-118-4) (7) (10)
New England P(.527; (135-121-0) (7) (9)
Atlanta (.521; 133-122-1) (6) (9)
Tampa Bay (.518; 132-123-1) (7) (8)
New Orleans (.510; 130-125-1) (6) (10)
Carolina (.504; 129-127-0) (6) (9)
Los Angeles Rams (.482; 121-130-5) (5) (9)
Green Bay (.480; 122-132-2) (6) (10)
Chicago (.479; 122-133-1) (6) (10)
San Francisco (.475; 119-132-5) (5) (8)
Cleveland (.469; 119-135-2 (5) (10)
Detroit (.469; 119-135-2) (5) (9)
Arizona (.467; 118-135-3) (6) (10)
Baltimore (.461; 117-137-2) (7) (10)
Houston (.455; 115-138-3) (4) (9)
Seattle (.455; 115-138-3) (5) (8)
Pittsburgh (.453; 115-139-2) (5) (10)
Minnesota (.453; 115-139-2) (6) (9)
Cincinnati (.449; 115-141-0) (5) (11)
Tennessee (.439; 111-142-3) (6) (9)
Jacksonville (.439; 111-142-3) (4) (9)
Indianapolis (.424; 107-146-3) (4) (8)

NFL fans continue to tune in to the sport they love. Here’s a look at what’s in store on TV in 2017. The regular-season schedule – spanning 17 weeks and 256 games – kicked off on Thursday night in New England and concludes on Sunday, December 31 with 16 division games. The season begins with the NFL’s annual primetime kickoff game. The opener on September 7 on NBC at 8:30 p.m. will feature the defending champion New England Patriots hosting Kansas City at Gillette Stadium.

Week 1 is a FOX national weekend with the key doubleheader game on Sunday, September 10 at 4:25 p.m. featuring Seattle traveling to Lambeau to take on Green Bay. week 3 is the first CBS national weekend with the key doubleheader game showcasing Cincinnati taking on Green Bay at Lambeau Field.

NBC’s Sunday Night Football gets underway on September 10 when Dallas hosts the New York Giants at 8:30 p.m. at AT&T Stadium. Kickoff Weekend concludes on Monday, September 11 with an ESPN Monday Night Football doubleheader. Minnesota hosts New Orleans at 7:10 p.m. in the first contest, while Denver hosts the Los Angeles Chargers at 10:20 p.m. in the nightcap.

ESPN will televise one game each Monday night in Weeks 2-16. There will be no Monday night game on the final regular-season weekend (Week 17) to provide more flexibility for the scheduling of the opening weekend of the NFL playoffs. The 2018 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 28 at 3 p.m. at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium and will be simulcast nationally on ABC and ESPN. It marks the first time the Pro Bowl will air on both broadcast and cable networks.

A select number of games will be “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring potentially under-distributed games to wider audiences. Some of those contests have already been announced, including the Seahawks at the Giants (4:25 PM ET, CBS) in Week 7 and Minnesota at Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. on CBS in Week 14. Other “cross-flexed” games will be decided during the season.

The regular season will conclude with Week 17 on Sunday, December 31. For the eighth consecutive year, all 16 games scheduled for Week 17 are division contests, enhancing the potential for more games with playoff ramifications.

Other highlights of the schedule include:

In Week 2, the Atlanta Falcons will open their new home – Mercedes-Benz Stadium – on Sunday, September 17 in primetime at 8:30 p.m. on NBC when they take on Green Bay in a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game. Earlier that day, the Chargers will make their return to Los Angeles as they host the Miami Dolphins at the StubHub Center at 4:05 p.m. on CBS.

The Patriots will host the Falcons in Week 7 on Sunday night, October 22 at 8:30 p.m. on NBC in a rematch of Super Bowl LI, the first Super Bowl in NFL history to go into overtime.

Thanksgiving will feature a tripleheader on Thursday, November 23. The first game will send the Vikings to Detroit to face the Lions at 12:30 p.m. on FOX for the second consecutive year. The late afternoon game will feature the Los Angeles Chargers visiting Dallas at 4:30 p.m. on CBS and the holiday concludes with Washington Redskins hosting the NeW York Giants in Landover on NBC at 8:30 p.m.

In Week 16, NBC’s Sunday Night Football game (Minnesota at Green Bay) will move to Saturday night, December 23 at 8:30 p.m. on  NBC due to Christmas Eve and is not subject to flexible scheduling. Christmas Day will feature a doubleheader on Monday, December 25 with Houston hosting Pittsburgh at 4:30 p.m. on NBC/NFLN/Amazon Prime) in the first game and Oakland visiting Philadelphia at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN in primetime.

The NFL’s international slate includes four games in London – the fi rst time the league will play four games in the UK – and one in Mexico City. On Sunday, September 24, Jacksonville will host the Baltimore Ravens at London’s Wembley Stadium (9:30 AM ET) in a contest that will be streamed globally by Verizon. The next weekend, on Sunday, October 1, Miami will host New Orleans at Wembley at 9:30 a.m. on FOX. In Week 7, the Los Angeles Rams will host Arizona at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday, October 22 at p.m. on FOX. The following week, Cleveland will host Minnesota at Twickenham on Sunday, October 29 at 9:30 a.m. on NFL Network. The NFL returns to Mexico City on Sunday, November 19 at 4:25 p.m. on CBS when Oakland hosts New England at Estadio Azteca.

The NFL has partnered with Amazon Prime this season and will once again use a “Tri-Cast” distribution model of broadcast (CBS/NBC), cable (NFL Network) and digital (Amazon Prime) for 10 Thursday Night Football games and a Christmas Day contest. CBS and NBC will each broadcast five Thursday Night Football games which will be simulcast on NFL Network and streamed to Amazon Prime members worldwide. NBC will also broadcast the Christmas Day game. CBS will start in Week 4 (Thursday, September 28) when the Packers host Chicago. NBC’s Tri-Cast package begins in Week 10 (Thursday, November 9) when the Seahawks visit the Arizona Cardinals. Additionally, NFL Network will also exclusively televise a seven-game schedule comprised of three Thursday Night Football games, three late-season Saturday contests and a Sunday morning London matchup.

The NFL’s 32 teams will each play 16 games over 17 weeks. Byes will begin in Week 5 and end in Week 11.

“Flexible scheduling” will be used in Weeks 10-15 and 17. Additionally, in Weeks 5-9, flexible scheduling may be used in no more than two weeks. In Weeks 5-15, the schedule lists the games tentatively set for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon start time. Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights. A flexible scheduling move would be announced at least 12 days before the game. For Week 17, the Sunday night game will be announced no later than six days prior to December 31. The schedule does not list a Sunday night game in Week 17 but an afternoon game with playoff implications will be moved to that time slot. Flexible scheduling ensures quality matchups in all Sunday time slots in those weeks and gives “surprise” teams a chance to play their way into prime time.

The playoffs will include four division winners and two wild cards from each conference. The playoffs begin with Wild Card Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, January 6-7. The two division winners with the best records in each conference will earn first-round byes.

Wild Card Weekend winners join the top two division champions in each conference in the Divisional Playoffs on Saturday and Sunday, January 13-14. The AFC and NFC Championship Games will be played on Sunday, January 21. The winners meet two weeks later on Sunday, February 4 in Super Bowl LII at Minnesota’s U.S. Bank Stadium on NBC.

The Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 28 at 3 p.m. on ABC/ESPN at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.

The NFL is the only sports league that presents all regular-season and postseason games on free, over-the-air television in local markets. All postseason games are televised nationally.

FLEXIBLE SCHEDULING: Flexible scheduling will be used in Weeks 10-15 and 17. Additionally, in Weeks 5-9, flexible scheduling may be used in no more than two weeks.

In Weeks 5-15, the schedule lists the games tentatively set for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon start time. Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights. A flexible scheduling move would be announced at least 12 days before the game.

For Week 17, the Sunday night game will be announced no later than six days prior to December 31. The schedule does not list a Sunday night game in Week 17 but an afternoon game with playoff implications will be moved to that time slot.

Flexible scheduling ensures quality matchups in all Sunday time slots in those weeks and gives “surprise” teams a chance to play their way into prime time.

Additionally, a select number of games are being “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring potentially under-distributed games to wider audiences.

In the 2017 season, the City of Angels will have two teams for the first time since the 60s as the Chargers make their way up I-5 to relocate in Los Angeles, where they first started. The Atlanta Falcons will move into their new stadium, Mercedes Benz Stadium, located next to their old nest, the Georgia Dome. Speaking of new… this season, six NFL teams – the Buffalo Bills (Sean McDermott), Denver Broncos (Vance Joseph), Jacksonville Jaguars (Doug Marrone), Los Angeles Chargers (Anthony Lynn), Los Angeles Rams (Sean McVay) and San Francisco 49ers (Kyle Shannahan) – welcome new head coaches.

Once again, the NFL will have divisional games in the final week to close things out. Some games will have playoff implications, other games will be revenge matches.

Week 1 is a FOX national weekend with the key doubleheader game on Sunday, September 10 at 4:25 p.m. featuring the Seattle Seahawks at the Green Bay Packers. Week 3 is the first CBS national weekend with the key doubleheader game showcasing the Cincinnati Bengals facing the Packers at Lambeau Field.

NBC’s Sunday Night Football gets underway on September 10 when the Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants at 8:30 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in a key NFC East matchup.

Will there be Monday Night Football? Of course! As an added bonus, Kickoff Weekend concludes on Monday, September 11 with an ESPN Monday Night Football doubleheader. The Minnesota Vikings will host the New Orleans Saints at 7:10 p.m. in the first game followed by the Los Angeles Chargers visiting the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in the nightcap at 10:20 p.m.

ESPN will televise one game each Monday night in Weeks 2-16 and there will be no Monday night game on the final regular-season weekend (Week 17) to provide more flexibility for the scheduling of the opening weekend of the NFL playoffs. A select number of games will be “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring potentially under-distributed games to wider audiences. Some of those contests were announced  when the 2017 schedule was released, including the Seahawks traveling to upstate New Jersey to play at the New York Giants at 4:25 p.m. on CBS in Week 7 and the Vikings at the Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. on CBS in Week 14. Other “cross-flexed” games will be decided during the season.

The 2017 schedule will also have an international flavor, as the international slate includes four games in London – the first time the league will play four games in the UK – and one in Mexico City. On Sunday, September 24, the Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Baltimore Ravens at London’s Wembley Stadium at 9:30 a.m. with distribution to be announced at a later date). The next weekend, on Sunday, October 1, the Dolphins will host the Saints at Wembley at 9:30 a.m. on FOX. In Week 7, the Los Angeles Rams will host the Arizona Cardinals at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday, October 22 at 1 p.m. in an NFC West matchup on FOX on Sunday, October 29. The following week, the Cleveland Browns will host the Minnesota Vikings at Twickenham on Sunday, October 29 at 9:30 a.m. on NFL Network. The NFL will return to Mexico City on Sunday, November 19 at 4:25 p.m. on CBS when the Oakland Raiders and Derek Carr host the Patriots and Tom Brady at Estadio Azteca.

Other highlights of the schedule include:

In Week 2, the Atlanta Falcons will open their new home – Mercedes-Benz Stadium – on Sunday, September 17 in primetime at 8:30 p.m. on NBC when they host the Packers in a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game. Earlier that day, the Chargers will make their return to Los Angeles as they host the Miami Dolphins at the StubHub Center at 4:05 p.m. on CBS.

As was the case last year, the two teams that met in last year’s Super Bowl will meet this year. New England hosts Atlanta in week 7 on Sunday night, October 22nd at 8:30 p.m. on NBC. It’s a rematch of Super Bowl LI in Houston, the first Super Bowl in NFL history to go into overtime.

Yes, there’s football on Turkey Day. Thanksgiving will feature a tripleheader on Thursday, November 23. The first game will send the Vikings to Detroit to face the Lions at 12:30 p.m. on FOX for the second consecutive year as NFC North foes meet in the Motor City. The late afternoon game will feature the Chargers visiting the Cowboys at 4:30 p.m. on CBS and the holiday concludes with an NFC East matchup in Landover as the Washington Redskins host Eli Manning and the New York Giants on NBC at  8:30 p.m.

The playoffs (PLAYOFFS?! PLAYOFFS! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!) will include four division winners and two wild cards from each conference. The playoffs begin with Wild Card Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, January 6-7. The two division winners with the best records in each conference will earn first-round byes. Wild Card Weekend winners join the top two division champions in each conference in the Divisional Playoffs on Saturday and Sunday, January 13-14. The AFC and NFC Championship Games will be played on Sunday, January 21. The winners meet two weeks later on Sunday, February 4 in Super Bowl LII at Minnesota’s U.S. Bank Stadium on NBC.

It’s time to get “Back to Football!”

The preseason is over. Training camp? Done.

Time to get it on for real.

“Being selected to play in the season-opening game and having a league-high six prime-time contests is a tremendous honor and a tribute to our team and organization,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid told the Kansas City Star. “We’ve already started preparation for these teams and we know we have a lot of great challenges ahead of us.”

Home teams have won 13 of the last 14 openers since 2002. That’s not bad at all and it keeps your fan base happy.

The NFL primetime kickoff games since 2002 (Home teams in CAPS):

September 5, 2002 at Giants Stadium – San Francisco 16, NEW YORK GIANTS 13 (San Francisco’s Jose Cortez kicks a 36-yard field goal with six seconds remaining in the NFL’s first Thursday night opener since 1949.)

September 4, 2003 at FedExField – WASHINGTON 16, New York Jets 13 (Washington kicker John Hall converts a game-winning 50-yard field goal with five seconds remaining to lift the Redskins.)

September 9, 2004 at Gillette Stadium – NEW ENGLAND 27, Indianapolis 24 (New England quarterback Tom Brady passes for 335 yards and three TDs as the defending Super Bowl champions defeat the Colts.)

September 8, 2005 at Gillette Stadium – NEW ENGLAND 30, Oakland 20 (New England quarterback Tom Brady throws for 306 yards and two TDs while running back Corey Dillon adds two scores for the defending Super Bowl champions.

September 7, 2006 at Heinz Field – PITTSBURGH 28, Miami 17 (Pittsburgh quarterback Charlie Batch, subbing for Ben Roethlisberger, passes for three TDs and running back Willie Parker adds 115 rushing yards as the defending Super Bowl champions defeat Miami.

September 6, 2007 at RCA Dome – INDIANAPOLIS 41, New Orleans 10 (The Super Bowl champion Colts rack up 452 yards of offense as quarterback Peyton Manning passes for 288 yards and three TDs.)

September 4, 2008 at Giants Stadium – NEW YORK GIANTS 16, Washington 7 (Quarterback Eli Manning scores a TD and the Giants’ defense allows just 209 total yards as the defending Super Bowl champions defeat division-rival Washington.

September 10, 2009 at Heinz Field – PITTSBURGH 13, Tennessee 10 (OT) (Pittsburgh’s Jeff Reed kicks a 33-yard game-winning field goal in overtime as the defending Super Bowl champions defeat Tennessee.)

September 9, 2010 Louisiana Superdome – NEW ORLEANS 14, Minnesota 9 (New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees throws for 237 yards and a TD to lead the Saints past the Vikings in a rematch of the 2009 NFC Championship Game.)

September 8, 2011 at Lambeau Field – GREEN BAY 42, New Orleans 34 (Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers passes for 312 yards and three TDs and the Packers’ defense makes a goal-line stand on the game’s final play as the defending Super Bowl champions defeat the Saints.)

September 5, 2012 at MetLife Stadium Dallas 24, NEW YORK GIANTS 17 (Dallas quarterback Tony Romo throws for 307 yards and three TDs, including two to Kevin Ogletree, as the Cowboys defeat the defending Super Bowl champion Giants.)

September 5, 2013 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High – DENVER 49, Baltimore 27 (Denver quarterback Peyton Manning ties an NFL single-game record with seven TD passes as the Broncos knock off the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens.)

September 4, 2014 CenturyLink Field – SEATTLE 36, Green Bay 16 (Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson throws two TDs while running back Marshawn Lynch rushes for 110 yards and two scores as the defending champion Seahawks win at home.)

September 10, 2015 at Gillette Stadium – NEW ENGLAND 28, Pittsburgh 21 (New England quarterback Tom Brady throws four touchdown passes as the defending champion Patriots defeat the Steelers.)

September 8, 2016 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High – DENVER 21, Carolina 20 (Denver running back C.J. Anderson scores two touchdowns as the Broncos defeat the Panthers in a rematch of Super Bowl 50.)

ANOTHER OPENING, ANOTHER SHOW… Since 1978 when the NFL went to the 16-game schedule and excluding the abbreviated season of 1982, teams that are victorious in their season openers are more than twice as likely to reach the playoffs than losers of an opening game:

Of the 570 teams which won openers…298 went to the playoffs (179 won division titles).

Of the 571 teams which lost openers…137 went to the playoffs (79 won division titles).

Note: There are a different number of winning and losing teams in season opening games due to the fact the NFL had 31 teams in each season from 1999 to 2001, which creates an odd number for the total number of results.

In 2016, nine of the 12 playoff teams – Detroit, Green Bay, Houston, Kansas City, New England, the New York Giants, Pittsburgh, Oakland and Seattle – were victorious on Kickoff Weekend.

HOME SWEET HOME: The Seattle Seahawks, who host San Francisco in Week 2, have won eight consecutive home openers, the longest active streak in the league…the Baltimore Ravens (14-7), who host Cleveland in Week 2, have a .667 winning percentage in home openers, the third-best mark in the AFC…the Pittsburgh Steelers, who open at home in Week 2 against Minnesota, have the most wins (49) among AFC teams in home openers…and the Detroit Lions, who begin the year by hosting Arizona, have a 52-35 (.598) record in openers at home, the third-most wins in NFL history.

HEAD COACHES: New England’s Bill Belichick is 15-7 (.682) on Kickoff Weekend and his 15 wins are the most among active head coaches…Belichick and Kansas City’s Andy Reid (10-8; .556) are the only active head coaches who have won at least 10 Kickoff Weekend games and own an opening weekend winning percentage above .500…Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis has won three consecutive games on Kickoff Weekend, the longest current streak among active head coaches… Dirk Koetter (1-0) of the Buccaneers, Ben McAdo (1-0) of the Giants and Doug Pederson (1-0) of the Eagles are the only active head coaches with perfect records on Kickoff Weekend.

YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME! (Apologies to Herm Edwards!)… With only 16 games per team, every game is important. It’s just that, some weeks, some games seem to be even more important!

The following is a 2017 Weeks 1-17 list of “Headline Games” but far from the only ones:

Week  1: Kansas City at New England Thursday-night Kickoff Weekend opener features meeting of 2016 playoff clubs.
Week  2: Miami at Los Angeles Chargers/Green Bay at Atlanta – Chargers return to Los Angeles and Atlanta opens Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Week  3: Baltimore at Jacksonville (London) – 2017 international slate of games kicks off at London’s Wembley Stadium.
Week  4: Chicago at Green Bay – NFL’s oldest rivalry continues on Thursday Night Football in battle of NFC North foes.
Week  5: Kansas City at Houston – Texans host Chiefs in Sunday Night Football meeting of 2016 AFC division winners.
Week  6: Indianapolis at Tennessee – Battle between two contenders from AFC South on Monday Night Football.
Week  7: Atlanta at New England – Super Bowl LI rematch on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
Week  8: Minnesota at Cleveland (London) – Showdown at Twickenham Stadium is last of four games played in UK in 2017.
Week  9: Atlanta at Carolina – Past two NFL MVPs – Matt Ryan and Cam Newton – face off in NFC South battle.
Week 10: Seattle at Arizona – NFC West rivalry will be tri-cast on NBC, NFLN and Amazon Prime.
Week 11: New England at Oakland (Mexico City) – Oakland hosts New England as NFL returns to Mexico for second consecutive year.
Week 12: Minnesota at Detroit/Los Angeles Chargers at Dallas/New York Giants at Washington – Thanksgiving triple-header featuring food, family and football!
Week 13: Denver at Miami – Broncos first-year head coach Vance Joseph squares off against his former team.
Week 14: Dallas at New York Giants – Giants host Cowboys as NFC East foes square off at MetLife Stadium.
Week 15: Chicago at Detroit/Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City – Saturday double-header features two divisional matchups.
Week 16: Pittsburgh at Houston/Oakland at Philadelphia – Christmas Day doubleheader showcases three teams from 2016 playoff field.
Week 17: 16 Division Matchups Final weekend features all division games with playoff berths on the line!

KEEPING HOPE ALIVE… The 2016 season was full of excitement, but that should be no surprise. Unpredictability is the norm in today’s NFL. Close games and great comeback victories, new teams making the playoffs and winning divisions, consistent teams excelling once again, records falling and so much more. The NFL never fails to surprise and 2016 was no different.

The 2016 season featured many exciting games with close finishes, as 57 percent were decided by one score – 146 of 256 games were decided by eight or fewer points, the most of any season since the NFL adopted the two-point conversion in 1994.

Games continued to have a flare for the dramatic, as tight contests frequently came down to the wire. In 2016, there were 72 games in which the winning team trailed at some point in the fourth quarter, the most such games in a season in NFL history, surpassing the previous high of 70 in The Detroit Lions won eight games when trailing in the fourth quarter in 2016, the most in a single season in NFL history.

The teams with the most wins after trailing in the fourth quarter in a single season in NFL history:
2016 – Detroit (8)
2009 – Indianapolis (7)
Many tied with 6

The 2017 season promises more of the same. Every enters the new year with hope.

Six teams that missed the postseason in 2015 – Atlanta (11-5) Dallas (13-3), Detroit (9-7), Miami (10-6), the New York Giants (11-5) and Oakland (12-4) – advanced to playoffs. Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

MILESTONES: In the 2017 campaign, players and teams will have opportunities to set milestones on the gridiron.

PLAYER MILESTONES

Drew Brees (New Orleans) needs 290 completions to surpass Peyton Manning (6,125) for the second-most all-time. Brees needs 465 completions to surpass Brett Favre (6,300) for the all-time record. In 16 seasons, Brees has 5,836 completions. Brees has led the league in completions five times and can tie Dan Marino (six) for the all-time record.

Brees can extend his NFL record streak of consecutive seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes. Brees has passed for at least 30 touchdowns in each of the past nine seasons and can surpass Favre (nine) and Peyton Manning (nine) to become the only quarterback to throw at least 30 touchdown passes in 10 different seasons.

Brees needs 35 touchdown passes to join Peyton Manning (539) and Favre (508) as the only players with 500 career touchdown passes. In seasons, Brees has touchdown passes.

Brees needs 3,889 passing yards to join P. Manning (71,940) and Favre (71,838) as the third quarterback with 70,000 career passing yards. In 16 seasons, Brees has 66,111 passing yards.

Brees needs f ve games with at least four touchdown passes to surpass P. Manning (35) and move into first place on the NFL’s all-time list for games with at least four touchdown passes.

Brees can become the first player to lead the league in passing yards eight times in his career. Sonny Jurgensen (five) and Dan Marino (five) are tied for the second-most such seasons in NFL history. Brees led the NFL with 5,208 passing yards in 2016.

Brees can extend his NFL-record streak of seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards. Brees has passed for at least 4,000 yards in 11 consecutive seasons.

Brees has four seasons with at least 35 touchdown passes and can become the first player in NFL history to pass for at least 35 touchdown passes in five seasons.

Brees can become the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 40 touchdowns in three seasons. Brees has two seasons with at least 40 touchdown passes.

Tom Brady (New England) has six seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes and can join Favre (nine), Peyton Manning (nine) and Brees (nine) as the only players to pass for at least 30 touchdowns in seven seasons. Brady has four seasons with at least 35 touchdown passes and can become the first player in NFL history to pass for at least 35 touchdowns in five seasons. He has led the league in touchdown passes four times in his career and can tie Brees (five) as the only players to lead the league in touchdown passes five times.

Brady has 183 regular-season wins and needs four wins to pass Peyton Manning (186) and Favre (186) for the most regular-season wins by a starting quarterback in NFL history. Brady has 51 career games with three touchdown passes and no interceptions and needs one to pass P. Manning (51) for the most such games in NFL history. Brady has passed for at least 4,000 yards eight times in his career and can join Peyton Manning (14) and Brees (11) as the only players to pass for 4,000 yards in nine seasons.

Eli Manning (New York Giants) needs 1,786 passing yards to become the seventh player in NFL history with 50,000 career passing yards. In 13 seasons, Manning has 48,214 passing yards, Manning needs 30 touchdown passes to become the sixth player NFL history with 350 career touchdown passes. In 13 seasons and has 320 touchdown passes.

Philip Rivers (Los Angeles Chargers) needs 4,167 passing yards to become the seventh player in NFL history to reach 50,000 career passing yards. In 13 seasons, he has 45,833 passing yards. Rivers has 3,811 career completions and needs 189 to become the eighth player in history with at least 4,000 completions.

Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) needs 3,186 passing yards to become the seventh player in NFL history with 50,000 career passing yards. In 13 seasons, he has 46,814 passing yards. Roethlisberger can become the eighth player in NFL history with 4,000 career completions. In 13 seasons, Roethlisberger has 3,804 career completions.

Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) needs three touchdown passes to become the 11th player in NFL history to reach the 300 mark. In 12 seasons, Rodgers has 297 touchdown passes. Rodgers can become the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 40 touchdowns in three seasons.

Rodgers has passed for at least 40 touchdowns in two seasons. Rodgers has four seasons with at least 35 touchdown passes and can become the first player in NFL history to pass for at least 35 touchdown passes in five seasons.

Carson Palmer (Arizona) needs 15 touchdown passes to become the 11th player in NFL history to reach 300 career touchdown passes (see Rodgers note). In 13 seasons, Palmer has 285 touchdown passes.

Matt Ryan (Atlanta) has passed for at least 4,000 yards in six consecutive seasons and can become the second player in NFL history with 4,000 passing yards in seven consecutive seasons, joining Brees (11)

Matthew Stafford (Detroit) has passed for at least 4,000 yards in six consecutive seasons and can become the second player in NFL history with 4,000 passing yards in seven consecutive seasons, joining Brees (11).

Derek Carr (Oakland) needs 3,000 passing yards to become the sixth player in NFL history to start their career with four consecutive 3,000 yard seasons.

Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay) needs 35 touchdown passes to become the fourth player in NFL history to pass for at least 85 touchdowns in his first three seasons. In two seasons, Winston has 50 touchdown passes.

Adrian Peterson (New Orleans) needs 10 rushing touchdowns to join LaDainian Tomlinson (nine) as the only players in NFL history to rush for 10 touchdowns in at least nine different seasons. Peterson is currently tied with Emmitt Smith (eight).

Peterson has six 200-yard rushing games in his career. He needs one 200-yard game to surpass O.J. Simpson (six) for the most all-time.

Peterson needs three rushing touchdowns to become the ninth player in NFL history with 100 rushing touchdowns. In 10 seasons, Peterson has 97 rushing touchdowns.

Peterson needs 566 rushing yards to pass Thurman Thomas (12,074), Franco Harris (12,120), Marcus Allen (12,243), Edgerrin James (12,246), Marshall Faulk (12,279) and Jim Brown (12,312) to move into 10th all-time in rushing yards. In 10 seasons, Peterson has 11,747 rushing yards.

Frank Gore (Indianapolis) needs 1,000 rushing yards to join Curtis Martin (10), Barry Sanders (10), Walter Payton (10) and Emmitt Smith (11) as the only players in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in at least 10 different seasons. In 12 seasons, Gore has rushed for 1,000 yards nine times.

Gore needs 935 rushing yards to become the fifth player in NFL history to reach 14,000 career rushing yards. In 12 seasons, Gore has 13,065 rushing yards.

Darren Sproles (Philadelphia) needs 672 all-purpose yards to move into fifth place in NFL history. In 12 seasons, Sproles has 19,011 all-purpose yards.

Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona) needs 75 receptions to join Jerry Rice (1,549) and Tony Gonzalez (1,325) as the only players in NFL history to record 1,200 receptions. In 13 seasons, Fitzgerald has 1,125 catches.

Fitzgerald needs eight touchdown catches to pass Gonzalez (111) and Antonio Gates (111) and move into sixth place all-time. In 13 seasons, Fitzgerald has 104 touchdown receptions.

Brandon Marshall (New York Giants), needs 59 receptions to become the 15th player in NFL history with 1,000 career catches. In 11 seasons, Marshall has 941 receptions.

Mike Evans (Tampa Bay) has at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons and can become the third player in NFL history to record at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first four seasons, joining A.J. Green and Randy Moss.

Jason Witten (Dallas) needs 112 receiving yards to join Gonzalez (15,127) as the only tight ends in NFL history to reach 12,000 career receiving yards. In 14 seasons, Witten has 11,888 receiving yards.

Witten needs 11 receptions to become the sixth player in NFL history to record at least 1,100 career receptions. In 14 seasons, Witten has 1,089 catches.

Antonio Gates (Los Angeles Chargers) needs one touchdown catch to pass Tony Gonzalez (111) for the most all-time by a tight end.

Rob Gronkowski (New England) has three seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards and can join Gonzalez (four) and Witten four) as the only tight ends with at least four seasons with 1,000 receiving yards.

Julius Peppers (Carolina) needs 6.5 sacks to become the fourth player with 150 sacks since the sack became an official statistic in 1982. In 15 seasons, Peppers has 143.5 sacks.

J.J. Watt (Houston) can increase his NFL record total of 20-sack seasons. In six seasons, Watt has two seasons with 20 sacks, the most since the sack became an official statistic in 1982.

Watt has three seasons with at least 15 sacks and can tie Reggie White (four) for the most seasons with at least 15 sacks since the sack became an official statistic in 1982.

Watt has led the league in sacks twice in his career and can become the first player to lead the league three times since the sack became an official statistic in 1982.

Elvis Dumervil (San Francisco) needs one sack to reach 100 career sacks. In 10 seasons, Dumervil has recorded 99 sacks.

Adam Vinatieri (Indianapolis) needs to convert 36 fi eld goals pass Morten Andersen (565) for the most made fi eld goals in NFL history. In 21 seasons, Vinatieri has converted 530 field goals. Vinatieri needs 22 points to become the third player in NFL history to record 2,400 career points. In 21 seasons, Vinatieri has 2,378 points.

Stephen Gostkowski (New England) has led the league in scoring fi ve times in his career and can surpass Don Hutson (five) and Gino Cappelletti (five) as the only player to lead the league in points scored six times.

Gostkowski has led the league in field goals three times in his career and can join Lou Groza (five), Ward Cuff (four) and Jack Manders (four) as the only player to lead the league in field goals at least four times.

With 30 field goals, Gostkowski will join David Akers (five) and John Carney (five) as the only players in NFL history with five seasons of 30 or more field goals.

Sebastian Janikowski (Oakland) needs 100 points to become the 12th NFL player with 11 career seasons scoring at least 100 points.

Janikowski needs 23 made field goals to move into eighth on the NFL’s all-time made field goals list.

Matt Prater (Detroit) needs four field goals of at least 50 yards to climb into the top five of converted 50-yard field goals in NFL history. In 10 seasons, Prater has 36 field goals of at least 50 yards.

TEAM MILESTONES

New England needs one Super Bowl victory to tie the Pittsburgh Steelers (six) for the most Super Bowl wins in NFL history.

The Patriots have recorded a winning record in 16 consecutive seasons (2001-16) and can surpass San Francisco (1983-98) and Dallas (1970-85) for the most consecutive seasons with a .500 or better record since the 1970 merger.

New England has qualified for the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons (2009-16), tied with Green Bay (2009-16), Pittsburgh (1972-79), the Los Angeles Rams (1973-80), Dallas (1966-73) and San Francisco (1983-90). With a playoff berth, New England would tie Dallas (1975-83) and Indianapolis (2002-10) for the most consecutive playoff appearances (nine) in NFL history.

Dallas needs seven wins to reach 500 regular-season victories. Dallas’ all-time regular-season record is 493-367-6.

Denver needs 12 victories to reach 500 total victories. Denver’s all-time record is 488-412-10.

Baltimore needs four victories to reach 200 total victories. Baltimore’s all-time record is 196-162-1.

Many NFL owners will be celebrating notable milestones in 2017, including Arizona’s William V. Bidwill, whose family has reached the 85th anniversary of when his father, Charles V. Bidwill, purchased the team when the franchise was located in Chicago.

Here are some of the notable owner milestones for 2017:

FRANCHISE – OWNER (RELATIONSHIP; YEAR ACQUIRED – MILESTONE)
Arizona Cardinals – William V. Bidwill (Son of Charles W. Bidwill; 1932 – 85th Anniversary)
Pittsburgh Steelers – Arthur J. Rooney II (Grandson of Art Rooney; 1933 – 85th Season)
Cincinnati Bengals – Mike Brown (Son of Paul Brown; 1967 – 50th Anniversary)
Indianapolis Colts – James Irsay (Son of Robert Irsay; 1972, 45th Anniversary)
San Francisco 49ers – Denise DeBartolo York (Daughter of Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr.; 1977 – 40th Anniversary)
Carolina Panthers – Jerry Richardson (1993 – 25th Season)
Seattle Seahawks – Paul Allen (1997 – 20th Anniversary)
Atlanta Falcons – Arthur M. Blank (2002 – 15th Anniversary)
Miami Dolphins – Stephen M. Ross (2008 – 10th Season)
Cleveland Browns – Jimmy Haslam (2012 – 5th Anniversary)

There are also going to be some celebrations of anniversaries of events that took place on the field over the last half century.

ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS
125th – William “Pudge” Heffelfinger becomes the first professional football player (1892).
120th – The Latrobe Athletic Association football team becomes the first team to play a full season with only professional players (1897).
115th – A precursor to what would eventually become the Super Bowl called the World Series of Pro Football is played for the first time (1902).
95th – The American Professional Football Association changes its name to the National Football League (1922).
85th – The Washington Redskins franchise plays its first season. The team is founded in Boston and is called the Braves (1932).
85th – Official statistics are kept for the first time (1932).
85th – On December 18, 1932, the NFL has its first playoff game and first indoor game. Chicago’s Wrigley Field is scheduled to host the game but a blizzard makes it impossible to play and the game is moved indoors to Chicago Stadium.
85th Season – The Pittsburgh Steelers franchise plays its first season. The team is called the Pirates (1933). The Philadelphia Eagles franchise plays its first season (1933).
65th – The Pittsburgh Steelers are the last pro team to abandon the single-wing in favor of the T-formation (1952).
55th – The NFL reaches a single-network agreement with CBS for telecasting all regular season games for $4.65 million annually (1962).
55th Season – The Pro Football Hall of Fame is established (1963).
55th Season – The Chiefs franchise moves to Kansas City (1963).
50th – The Green Bay Packers defeat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in the coldest NFL game on record: the 1967 NFL Championship dubbed forevermore as the “Ice Bowl.”
50th – On August 15, 1967, Denver defeats Detroit in a preseason game, 13-7, to notch the AFL’s fi rst win over an NFL team.
45th – The Miami Dolphins complete the NFL’s only perfect championship season (1972).
45th – The “Immaculate Reception” touchdown was scored in an AFC Divisional playoff game by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Franco Harris on December 23, 1972.
45th – The inbounds lines are moved closer to the center of the field so that they are 23 yards, 1 foot, 9 inches from the sidelines (1972).
30th – The first two NFL games on ESPN produce the two highest-rated and most-watched sports programs in basic cable history (1987).
15th – The NFL kicks off the season on Thursday night for the first time in history (2002).
15th – The Houston Texans franchise is founded (2002).
10th – The first regular season game is played in London, as the New York Giants defeat the Miami Dolphins 13-10 at Wembley Stadium (2007).
10th – The New England Patriots become the first team to complete a perfect regular season since the league expanded to a 16-game season (2007).

Seven divisional rematches grace the Sunday and Monday part of week one’s schedule. Week one got underway in Foxboro and ends in Denver as the Broncos host the Los Angeles Chargers in the second game of a Monday night twin-bill.

The NFL returns this week and it’s time to get back to football. That means the next five months will be packed with the sizzle and suspense that comes only with the National Football League and will culminate with Super Bowl LII, which will be played on Sunday, February 4, 2018 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota.

America’s favorite sport roared back into action Thursday night in the first game of NFL Kickoff 2017 Weekend. The opener featured Super Bowl champion New England hosting Kansas City.

Everybody is ready for the unique unpredictability of the NFL. And every team enters the new season with hope.

Last year, 146 games (57.0 percent) were decided by one score (eight points or fewer), the most of any season in NFL history. And there were six new playoff teams in 2016: Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, the New York Giants and Oakland. Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

The 2017 season promises more of the same. As the season begins, it comes packed with changes, quests and questions:

•CAN THE SUPER BOWL CHAMPION PATRIOTS REPEAT?: It’s tough, having happened only eight times since the first Super Bowl in 1967. The last team to accomplish the feat was New England in 2004 (Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX).

•MILESTONES ON THE HORIZON: New Orleans QB Drew Brees (66,111) needs 3,889 passing yards to become the third QB in NFL history with 70,000. Brees (465) needs 35 touchdown passes to become the third player ever to reach 500…New England QB Tom Brady (183) needs four wins for the most victories by a starting QB…

New York Giants QB Eli Manning (48,214), Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger (46,814) and Los Angeles Chargers QB Philip Rivers (45,833) can each reach 50,000 career passing yards… New Orleans RB Adrian Peterson can become the second player in NFL history to rush for 10+ TDs in nine seasons…

Indianapolis RB FRANK GORE can become the fifth player all-time to rush for 1,000+ yards in 10 seasons…Arizona WR LARRY FITZGERALD (1,125) can become the third player in NFL history to record 1,200 receptions…Carolina DE JULIUS PEPPERS (143.5) needs 6.5 sacks to become the fifth player with 150…and Indianapolis K ADAM VINATIERI (530) needs 36 field goals for the most in NFL history.

•NEW COACHES/PLAYERS IN NEW PLACES: There are six new head coaches hired to lead their teams in 2017 – Vance Joseph in Denver, ANTHONY LYNN with the Los Angeles Chargers, DOUG MARRONE in Jacksonville, Sean McDermott in Buffalo, Sean McVay with the Los Angeles Rams and Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco.

And there are a lot of well-known players with new teams, including RBs Le Garrette Blount (Philadelphia), Jamaal Charles (Denver), Eddie Lacy (Seattle), Marshawn Lynch (Oakland) and Adrian Peterson (New Orleans); WRs Brandin Cooks (New England), DE Sean Jackson (Tampa Bay), Alshon Jeffery (Philadelphia), Brandon Marshall (New York Giants) and Sammy Watkins (Los Angeles Rams); TE Martellus Bennett (Green Bay); and defenders CB A.J. Bouye (Jacksonville), DE Calais Campbell (Jacksonville), CB Stephon Gilmore (New England), CB Joe Haden (Pittsburgh), S Tony Jefferson (Baltimore), DE Julius Peppers (Carolina), DL Sheldon Richardson (Seattle) and S T.J. Ward (Tampa Bay).

•ON-THE-FIELD TRENDS IN 2016: Close games and comeback victories…new teams making the playoffs…consistent teams excelling again…records falling…young players making their mark…and QBs performing at record levels.

In 2016, 135 games (52.7 percent) were decided by seven points or fewer, the most in NFL history…There were 184 games (71.9 percent) within one score in the fourth quarter, the most ever… There were 72 comeback victories by a team trailing in the fourth quarter, the most in NFL history… The margin of victory was 10.23 points per game, the lowest figure since 1935 (10.08)…A total of 11,661 points and 1,306 touchdowns were scored, both the third-most ever in a season… Games averaged 700.8 total net yards, the second-best mark in NFL history… The league-wide completion percentage (63.0) tied the previous record (2015) and the league-wide passer rating (89.3) ranked second in league annals (90.2 in 2015). The league-wide interception percentage of 2.3 percent was the lowest in NFL history.

•NEW RULES: With player health and safety remaining a priority, here are some of the key rules changes for 2017:

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Makes permanent the rule that automatically disqualifies a player that is penalized twice in the same game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. These types of fouls include:

Throwing a punch or kick without making contact

Use of abusive or threatening language

Any act that constitutes taunting

Also, it is now an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock.

Replay Reviews: All sideline replay monitors will be replaced with a hand-held device and designated members of the NFL Officiating department will be authorized to make the final decision on replay reviews from the NFL league office.

Leaping: Prohibits a player who is off the line of scrimmage from running and jumping over offensive lineman on the line of scrimmage in an attempt to block a FG or PAT attempt.

Touchbacks: For the 2017 season, after a touchback resulting from a kickoff or safety kick, the ball will be placed at the receiving team’s 25-yard line. The rule, which was also used in 2016, was approved on a one-year basis for 2017.

Crackback Blocks: Prohibits crackback blocks by a backfield player in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped.

Defenseless Receiver Protection: Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection when the defender approaches him from behind or the side.

Overtime: The length of preseason and regular season overtime periods is reduced from 15 minutes to 10 minutes.

Clock Stoppages: All illegal acts to conserve time are not permitted after the two-minute warning of either half. The previous rule applied inside of one minute of either half.

Additionally, after conversations with more than 80 current and former players, Commissioner Goodell announced in May that the league will relax its rules on touchdown celebrations to allow players more room to express themselves.

The 2017 season will also start with a postponement in Miami as the Dolphins home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, originally scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Hard Rock Stadium, will not be played in Miami on Sunday, the NFL announced Tuesday. In a statement from the league office, in the interest of public safety in light of the current state of emergency, the NFL, in consultation with state and local officials as well as both clubs, has decided that playing an NFL game in South Florida this week is not appropriate. Both clubs have a BYE week on November 16th (week 11) and will meet in Miami for that contest.

Now normally, we’d select a game and call that contest “DRILL WORTHY.” Since you’ve been so patient with waiting for the draft and the release of the regular season and pre-season schedules, we figure that we would make every game on the Sunday and Monday docket “DRILL WORTHY!” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 57 last June and dates a 42-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

Last year, we were 183-83 as far as picks go. That’s not bad. It would have been better if we had all of our picks right… but then again, that would be boring. Having said that, here are Sunday and Monday’s picks for week 1.

ATLANTA (11-5) at Chicago (3-13), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 711. It’s chicken and waffles vs. deep dish pizza as the defending NFC champs travel to the Windy City for their season opener with Chicago at Soldier Field.

The Falcons made it all the way to Super Bowl LI before letting a 21-point lead against New England get away from them in Houston get away from them, allowing New England to tie things up in regulation, then falling to the Pats 34-28 in overtime. Atlanta ruled the roost in the NFC South, losing just one contest in that division and the Falcons easily outrushed their opponents 1,928-1,672, while MVP QB Matt Ryan threw for 4,944 yards and 38 TDs (6 of them to All Pro WR Julio Jones) with only seven interceptions. Chicago finished last in the NFC North and would like to change that and unseat Green Bay as king of the NFC North mountain. The Monsters of the Midway closed out the 2016 campaign losing their last four in a row.

Da Bears lead the series 14-12, have outscored Atlanta 498-447 and have won the last two meetings in the series, with Chicago coming away 27-13 winners in 2014 in the Big Peach. Atlanta’s last win over Chicago also came in the Peach State, as the Falcons would take Da Bears to task by a final of 21-14 in 2009. Atlanta’s favored by 6 1/2 and the over/under is 48 1/2. Chicago’s better than their 3-13 record but they’re playing the defending NFC champs. Atlanta wins in the Windy City and covers the 6 1/2.

New York Jets (5-11) at Buffalo (7-9), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 705. A pair of AFC East rivals meet in upstate New York as GangGreen travels to the shores of Lake Erie for a contest with the Bills. It’s also the debut of Sean McDermott as he roams the sidelines for the Bills. Both clubs are looking to forget their somewhat dismal seasons in the AFC East, as they look to unseat New England as leaders of that division.

Bill starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor was not a lock to play in the team’s season opener Sunday against the New York Jets. According to head coach Sean McDermott, Taylor is still making his way through the concussion protocol.

“I think he’s getting better, but he’s still in the concussion protocol,” McDermott told USA Today. It should be noted that a player in the concussion protocol can still practice as part of the Return-to-Participation process.

League guidelines state that a player may be considered to return to practice only after the player has returned to baseline status with rest and exertion, has repeat neurophysiological testing, which is interpreted by the team neuropsychology consultant as back to baseline levels of functioning, and has completed the Return to Participation protocol. He also must be cleared by the Team Physician and the Independent Neurological Consultant. With it being so early in the week, McDermott has not set a drop dead date to turn to backup QB Nate Peterman as the starter for this week’s game.

“With any starter it gets to the point in the week where you have to say, ‘Hey we’re going to have to go one way or another,’” McDermott said. “We’ll cross that road when we come to it.” Third-string QB T.J. Yates is also still in the concussion protocol, which is what prompted the signing of QB Joe Webb.

The Bills lead the series 59-53 and have outscored GangGreen 2,330-2,296 (including contests that were played when the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! were known as the Titans and played their home games at Shea Stadium) The two AFC East rivals met last year and it was GangGreen taking the series in contests in upstate New York and New Jersey.

Round 1 – Week two in upstate New York on a Thursday night. The Jets, then led by Rex Ryan, led Buffalo 20-10 at the half in Orchard Park and then held off the Bills 37-31. New York outrushed Buffalo 123-86, with Jets RB Matt Forte leading all rushers with 100 yards in the contest. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 374 yards passing (24 of 34) outpaced Tyrod Taylor, who threw for 297 yards and three TDs. The Jets on third down tries in the first meeting went 8 of 13 on third down conversions and kept the ball for 39:12, while the Bills, who were 3 of 10 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth downs, kept the pigskin for 20:48.

The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! completed the sweep of the series in the Meadowlands in week 17, taking a 30-10 win in a game that meant nothing for either club, since both were long out of the playoff picture. GangGreen led 10-3 at the half after a scoreless first quarter and proceeded to pull away from the Bills. New York outrushed Buffalo 127-68 and Fitzpatrick threw for 210 yards and a pair of TDs, while Jets RB Bilal Powell ran for 122 yards. Neither club did anything to write home about on third or fourth downs in the season finale (Buffalo was 6 of 16 and 0 of 1, while the Jets were 4 of 13 and 0 of 2) but as was the case in the first meeting, the Jets ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 31:27, while Buffalo held it for 28:33.

In the week two contest in the Meadowlands, GangGreen was favored by 1 and the over/under was 40. New York won by 6, covering the spread and both clubs combined for 68 points, covering the over/under. Buffalo’s favored by 8 1/2 and the over/under’s 40. While these teams were somewhat bad last year, this one may be worth your time and energy. GangGreen makes this one interesting but the Bills prevail in upstate New York

Baltimore (8-8) at Cincinnati (6-9-1), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 706. It’s a pair of AFC North rivals meeting along the shores of the Ohio River as the Ravens travel to the Queen City. The Ravens took Pittsburgh to the edge in a Winner-take-all contest in the Steel City to determine the champion for that division before falling to the Steelers on Christmas night, while the Bengals, who will be without the services of LB Vontaze Burfict (suspension) are looking to get back to the playoffs.

There have been 42 games played between these two teams and the series is even 21-21 and Baltimore has outscored Cincy 895-  783. Both teams split last season’s contests, each taking wins at home.

The first meeting took place in Charm City in week 12 and the Ravens led 16-3 at the half, holding off the Bengals to come away 19-14 winners at M&T Bank Stadium. Neither club ran for 100 yards in that first meeting but the Ravens managed to outrush Cincy 92-64 in the win. Flacco threw for 234, while Dalton threw for 283 (each had a TD pass in the contest and both men combined to be sacked five times; Flacco was sacked twice, Dalton sacked three times). Both clubs were a dismal 5 of 16 on third down tries, while the Bengals, who turned the ball over twice, went 1 of 1 on fourth down tries (Baltimore was 1 of 2). Time was the ally of the victorious Ravens, who held the pigskin for 31:17, while the Bengals held the ball for 28:43.

The second meeting was along the shores of the Ohio River in week 17 to close out the season and with neither team going to the post-season dance, it was a win for the Bengals, who took care of the Ravens 27-10 at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals led 20-3 at the half and never looked back, outrushing Baltimore 153-72 (Cincy’s Rex Burkhead led all rushers with 119 yards and a pair of TDs). In the season finale, Dalton threw for 226 yards for the home team, while Flacco threw for 267 yards and three sacks. The Ravens were much better on third down in the second meeting, going 8 of 16 (1 of 3 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 29:18. The Bengals struggled on third down at 1 of 8 but managed to rule the clock and kept the ball for 30:42.

Baltimore covered the 4 1/2 spread in the week 12 contest but neither club covered the 40 1/2 over/under, scoring only 31 ponits. The Bengals covered the 2 1/2 spread in the finale but as was the case in the first meeting, the over/under of 41 1/2 was safe with both clubs combining for a whopping 37 points. Cincy’s a 3-point favoring in this one and the over/under’s 42. Both numbers make sense. Cincinnati may not cover the 3 but they take the win at home.

Pittsburgh (11-5) at Cleveland (1-15), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 707. A pair of teams that went in opposite directions meet along the shores of Lake Erie as Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers take on the Cleveland Browns. Pittsburgh made it all the way to the AFC championship game before falling to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Foxboro, seeing their Super Bowl hopes die at Gillette Stadium. For the Browns, it’s a chance to right their ship, as they struggled in the AFC North, taking their lone win at home on Christmas Eve.

Pittsburgh leads the series 70-58, have outscored Cleveland 2,617-2,459 and the Steelers have won the last four meetings, including taking wins last year, along the shores of Lake Erie in week 11 and in the Steel City in week 17. (Cleveland’s last win over Pittsburgh came in 2014, when they were 31-10 winners along the shores of Lake Erie.)

In the first meeting (week 11) in Cleveland, the Steelers led the Browns 14-0 at the half and never look back, coming away 24-9 winners in the Buckeye State. LeVeon Bell accounted for all 146 of Pittsburgh’s rushing yards, while the Browns were held to 33 in that first meeting. Neither club did much to talk about in the first meeting on third down (Pittsburgh was 5 of 12, Cleveland was 4 of 15) but both clubs did strike paydirt on fourth down (Pittsburgh 1 of 1, Cleveland 5 of 6) and the Steelers ruled the clock in the first contest, holding the ball for 33:58 to Cleveland’s 26:02.

The defending AFC North champs completed the series sweep in front of the home folks at Heinz Field in week 17, taking a 27-24 overtime win in the Keystone State. Pittsburgh led 21-14 with 3:28 left in regulation when the Browns’ Greg Atkinson scored on a 5 yard run. In the overtime, the Browns took the lead when K Chris Parkey connected on a 34-yard field goal with 7:17 left in the extra period. Pittsburgh, needing to either tie the contest or take the win, chose to take the win at home and they did. Landry Jones, taking over for Roethlisberger, engineered a 9-play, 75-yard drive that used 4:20 of clock and ended when Jones (277 yards, three TDs) and WR Chris Hamilton connected on a 26-yard TD strike with 2:57 left in overtime. The Steeler rushing game went missing as if they were on a milk carton, tallying only 69 yards, while the Browns’ Isiah Crowell ran amok, tallying 152 of his team’s 231 yards in the contest. Cleveland on third down? 8 of 15 and the Browns held the ball for 38:54, while Pittsburgh went 3 of 14 on third down (2 of 2 on fourth down) and the Steelers held on to the pigskin for 33:09.

The Steelers covered the 9-point spread in the first meeting, winning by 15 but neither club covered the 49 over/under, tallying only 33 points. The second meeting, Pittsburgh failed to cover the 7-point spread with their 3-point win but Cleveland and Pittsburgh scored 51 points, allowing them to cover the 44 over/under. The Steelers are a 9 1/2-point favorite on the road and the over/under’s 46 1/2. If you’re a Steelers’ fan, watch this one. On the other hand, if you’re a Browns fan, you might want to consider watching that “Bar Rescue” marathon on “Spike” (there’s nothing better than seeing Jon Tapper blow a fuse!). Steelers cover the 9 1/2 and win in Cleveland.

Arizona (7-8-1) at Detroit (9-7), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 712. Arizona leaves the desert and heads to Detroit for a meeting at Ford Field with Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions. For Arizona, they would love to take Seattle to task and win the NFC West, while the Lions look to go back to the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since they did the feat in the 1994 and 1995 seasons.

The Lions lead the series 31-28-5, which includes contests that took place when the Lions were in Portsmouth and known as the Spartans and the Cardinals called the Windy City home before moving to St. Louis and Arizona. Detroit has outscored Arizona in the series 1,147-1,062. However… the Desert Angry Birds have won the last seven meetings in the series, with Arizona coming away 42-17 winners in the Motor City in 2015, while Detroit’s last win came in 2005 (also in Detroit) by a final of 29-21.  Arizona’s favored by 2 in the Motor City and the over/under is 48. Lions roar over the Desert Angry Birds in the Motor City and covers the 2.

Jacksonville (3-13) at Houston (9-7), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 708. They’re separated by 871 miles and they’re both in the same division. The Jaguars, who lost 10 of their last 11 games in 2016, will have a familiar face at the helm as Doug Marrone takes the interim title off and takes over as the team’s fifth head coach in their history. As for the Texans, while they were the defending AFC South champs, they have bigger things to deal with, such as helping their community recover from Hurricane Harvey last August. Houston and J.J. Watt took Oakland to task in the first round of the AFC playoffs at home before traveling to Foxboro and losing to New England in the divisional round.

Houston holds a 19-11 lead in the series along I-10, they’ve outscored Jacksonville 693-594 and have won the last six contests, including sweeping last year’s games. Both contests were close, both were single-digit wins and the Texans were on the good end of those games, taking wins in the Sunshine State and Lone Star State. (Jacksonville’s last win in the series came in the 2013 campaign, when they swept the Texans, with their last win coming in the Sunshine State by a final of 27-20).

Contest number one… week 10 at EverBank Field. Houston led 14-10 at the half and then held off the Jaguars in the second half for a 24-21 win. Houston outrushed Jacksonville 181-80 in the three-point win in the Sunshine State and that was a good thing, because Bortles out-passed Osweiller 265-96 (each threw a pair of TDs).  Jacksonville was 10 of 17 on third down tries in the loss at home and kept the ball for 32:10, while the Texans, who held on to the ball for 27:50, went 7 of 15 on third down tries (both clubs were 0 for 1 on fourth down).

Contest number two… week 15 in Houston at NRG Stadium. Jacksonville actually led 20-11 after 45 minutes of play before the Texans rallied in the final 15 minutes of the contest, coming away 21-20 winners. Trailing 13-5 at the break, Houston outscored Jacksonville 16-7 in the second half to take the 1-point win. Neither club shattered the 100-yard barrier in the first meeting (Jacksonville tallied 67, while the Texans mustered 79) and Houston’s Tom Savage took over for Osweiller, throwing for 260 yards, while Bortles tallied 92. As far as third down tries in the first meeting? Jacksonville was 3 of 13, Houston was 4 of 14 (both were 0 of 1 on fourth down) and the Texans ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 36:42, while Jacksonville kept it for 23:18.

In the week 10 contest in the Lone Star State, the Texans were favored by 1 1/2 and would come away with the 3-point win to cover the spread. Both clubs did well in covering the 42 1/2 over/under, scoring 45. In the week 15 meeting in north Florida, the Texans were favored by 6 but won by a single point. That was the bad news. The good news? Both Jacksonville and Houston covered the 39 over/under with their 41 combined points. Houston’s favored by 5 and the over/under is 39 1/2. Jacksonville gave the Texans a scare in both meetings last year and they could very well do the same. Houston will play inspired football after their city was hit by Harvey two weeks. Texans cover the 5 and win at home.

Oakland (12-4) at Tennessee (9-7), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 709. A pair of up and coming quarterbacks meet in the Music City as the Silver and Black come east to square off against the Tennessee Titans. For the Raiders and David Carr, who will call Oakland home for the last time before heading to Las Vegas, while they watched Kansas City win the AFC West, they did managed to get into post-season play as a Wild Card team, losing to J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans 27-14 in the Lone Star State. As for Tennessee and Marcus Marriota, although they failed to make the post-season and finish at the .500 mark after going 2-14 the season before, Tennessee was a much improved ball club, which made Titans fans happy.

Including games played in Houston, when the Titans were known as the Oilers and the Raiders called Los Angeles home, the Silver and Black lead the series 25-20 but the Titans have outscored Oakland 1,050-1,010.

The Silver and Black and the Titans met in week three in the Music City last year and the Raiders were 17-10 winners in that affair. Oakland took a 17-3 lead with them to the half and then held off the Titans in the second half for the 7-point win. Tennessee outrushed Oakland 181-123 with Titans RB DeMarco Murray (TD) accounting for 114 of those yards. Mariota threw for 214 yards and a pair of interceptions, while Carr threw for 249 with a TD and an interception (each man was sacked in the contest). The Titans were 2 of 12 on third down conversions and 0 of 1 on fourth down, keeping the ball for 30:57 at Nissan Stadium, while the Raider were 5 of 13 and held on to the pigskin for 29:03. Tennessee won by 7, covering the 1 1/2 spread and the 47 over/under was safe as the Silver and Black and the Titans could only muster 27 points. Tennessee’s favored by 2 1/2 and the over/under’s 50 1/2. The 50 1/2 is a bit high. The 2 1/2 makes sense. Tennessee covers the 2 1/2 and wins in the Music City.

Philadelphia (7-9) at Washington (8-7-1), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 710. They meet again in the nation’s capital. A pair of NFC East rivals with a lot of history under their belts meet in Landover as the Redskins host Philadelphia at Fed Ex Field. Both clubs are looking to rule the NFC East and take out Dallas in the process. Philly lost five in a row in mid-season before beating the playoff-bound New York Giants and Dallas to close out the campaign. After winning the NFC East two seasons ago, Washington came back to Earth last year and missed the post-season party, falling to their 8-7-1 mark.

The Redskins lead the series with their NFC East rival 85-73-5… but the Eagles have outscored Washington 3,402-3,254.  Washington has won five of the last six meetings and swept the series with the Eagles in the 2016 campaign, taking wins at Landover and Philadelphia in weeks 6 and 14. (Philly’s last win in the series came in the City of Brotherly Love in 2014 by a final of 37-34.

Contest number one… Landover in week 6. Washington led 21-14 at the break at FedEx Field, then held off their NFC East rivals to come away 27-20 winners. While they sacked Wentz twice in the contest, the Redskins also outrushed Philly 230-94 and ‘Skins RB Matt Jones led the way with 135 yards and a TD (Cousins threw for 263 yards with a pair of TDs). Washington was 7 of 13 on third down conversions in northern Maryland and held the ball for 34:13, while Philly kept the ball for 25:47, going 4 of 12 on third down.

Game two… the City of Brotherly Love… week 14. The Redskins completed the series sweep, erasing a 13-7 deficit at the break to take a 27-22 win. Washington took the lead for keeps in the final two minutes of play when RB Chris Thompson scored on a 25-yard run with 1:56 left in regulation. As was the case in the first contest, Washington outrushed Philly 107-95 and Cousins threw for 234 yards and a pair of TDs, while Wentz threw for 314 yards and a TD (Wentz was sacked four times, Cousins was sacked twice). The Eagles were 9 of 18 on third down tries at Lincoln Financial Field (2 of 3 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 36:38, while the ‘Skins were 2 of 7 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs, holding on to the ball for 23:22. Philly was favored by 2 in the first contest in Landover and the ‘Skins covered with their 7-point win at home and both teams covered the 45 over/under with 47 points. In the second meeting in the City of Brotherly Love, the Eagles were again the favorite and the spread that day was 1 point, the over/under was 46 1/2 and Washington covered the spread, winning by 5 and the over/under was covered that day with 49 points. Although they’re the road team, the Eagles are favored by 1 1/2 and the over/under’s 48. Philly’s trying to stop a team that’s given them fits. The Redskins? They want to stay the course. Washington fans will be singing “Hail to the Redskins” this week. Washington covers the 1 1/2 and wins in Landover.

Indianapolis (8-8) at Los Angeles Rams (4-12), 4:05 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 714. A pair of teams looking for a chance to right their ships meet in Tinseltown as Chuck Pagano’s Colts travel to Los Angeles for a late afternoon (Eastern time) contest with the Rams. Indy finished 8-8 for the second straight season and still will not have the services of Andrew Luck (broken leg) and need to improve if Pagano wants to stay as head coach. As for the Rams, they have a new man on the sidelines as they hired Sean McVay to take over for a Los Angeles team that lost their last seven contests in 2016 and was outscored 221-75 in those games.

Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard announced Monday that the team’s starting quarterback will not suit up for Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Los Angeles Rams, adding that “no timetable” exists for Luck’s return.

The decision comes as no great surprise to Colts fans. Still on the mend from offseason shoulder surgery, Luck has been a ghost all summer, missing all of training camp and the entire preseason. Colts owner Jim Irsay prefaced the confirmation by saying that “the odds are most likely he (Luck) probably won’t open up against the Rams.”

In his place, backup Scott Tolzien will make the start against Los Angeles, an ominous scenario after the overwhelmed quarterback struggled mightily from wire-to-wire during the preseason. The team also acquired quarterback Jacoby Brissett from New England in exchange for wide-out Phillip Dorsett but Ballard weighed in Monday, saying: “It’s Tolzien’s job [for now], because Brissett has to get up to speed.”

Including contests that were played when the Rams were in Los Angeles and then St. Louis and the Colts were in Baltimore, the Colts lead the series 23-18-2 but the Rams have outscored the Colts 950-936. Their last meeting took place in the Hoosier State in 2013, when the Rams came away 38-8 winners. Indy’s last win over the Rams came in 2009 when they played in St. Louis and Peyton Manning was under center, with the Colts coming away 42-6 winners. The Rams are favored by 4 1/2 on the West Coast and the over/under’s 41 1/2. Even with no Andrew Luck under center, Indy takes this one on the road, although the Rams make this one closer than 4 1/2.

Seattle (10-5-1) at Green Bay (10-6), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 715. Wilson. Rodgers. Two QBs with Super Bowl rings meet in the land of cheese, beer and Bratwurst as Seattle travels to Green Bay for a late afternoon meeting at Lambeau. Both teams won their respective divisions, allowing them to advance to the post-season, where they would eventually meet Atlanta and both lost in the Peach State (Seattle losing 36-20 in the NFC divisional playoffs, Green Bay losing in the NFC Championship game 44-21). Although they went 3-3 in their last six games, the Seahawks did manage to take the top spot in the NFC West over Arizona and took Detroit to task in the first round of the playoffs in the Pacific Northwest before losing at Atlanta in the Divisional Round. Green Bay won their last six regular season contests, taking Eli Manning and the New York Giants in the Wild Card round at Lambeau, then won in Dallas in the Divisional round in the final seconds before losing a chance to take on Brady and the Pats as they were manhandled by Atlanta in the Big Peach.

Green Bay leads the series 10-7, have outscored Seattle 445-351 and have won the last two meetings, including last year’s affair at Lambeau Field (Seattle’s last win in the series came in 2014 in the land of grunge, Salmon and Starbucks, coming away 36-16 winners).

The Seahawks and Packers met in week 14 in the land of cheese, beer and Bratwurst and Green Bay were 38-10 victors at Lambeau. Rodgers and Jordy Nelson connected for a pair of TDs in the win on the Frozen Tundra and the Packers were never really threatened, leading 21-3 at the half. Seattle did outrush Green Bay 136-93 but Rodgers threw for 246 yards and three TDs, outpacing Russell Wilson, who tallied 240 yards, while being sacked three times and picked off five. Green Bay, who took advantage of six Seattle turnovers, was 4 of 11 on third down tries and kept the ball for 28:10, while Seattle held on to the ball for 31:50 (both clubs were 0 for 1 on fourth down). Green Bay took the 28-point win in the land of beer, cheese and Bratwurst (they were favored by 3) and the 46 over/under was taken care of, as both clubs scored 48 points. Green Bay’s favored by 3 and the over/under’s 51. A pair of playoff teams last year meeting in upstate Wisconsin could very well be a preview for the post-season and this one could go into overtime. Seattle will make things tough for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers but Green Bay prevails at home in the land of beer, cheese and Bratwurst, although they won’t cover the 3.

Carolina (6-10) at San Francisco (2-14), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 716. Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers travel to northern California for a meeting with the San Francisco 49ers at Levis Stadium in Santa Clara. After making it to Super Bowl 50 on the same field and losing to Denver, the Panthers struggled in the 2016 campaign, finishing last in the NFC South behind Atlanta. Meanwhile, losing 13 in a row and finishing in last in the NFC West, the 49ers hired Kyle Shannahan away from Atlanta to right their ship on the West Coast.

Carolina leads the series 12-7, outscoring San Francisco 494-423 and won the last five regular season meetings, including last year’s contest in Charlotte (San Francisco’s last win in the series came in 2001, when they came away 25-22 overtime winners in Charlotte (they swept the series last year when both team were in the NFC West).

Newton and the Panthers met San Francisco last year in the Tar Heel State and Carolina came away with the 46-27 win at Bank of America Stadium in week two. Leading 17-10 at the half, Carolina proceeded to floor the gas and outscore the 49ers 29-17 in the final =30 minutes of action. Carolina easily outrushed San Francisco 176-65, with Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker running for 100 yards and Newton throwing for 353 yards and four TDs (San Francisco’s Blaine Gabbert threw for 243 yards with a pair of TDs but was sacked twice and picked off twice). Carolina was 7 of 15 on third down tries in the lopsided win, while the 49ers were 4 of 12 and 0 for 1 on third and fourth down conversions. Carolina also ruled the clock, holding on to the ball for 35:54, while the 49ers kept it for 24:06.

New York Giants (11-5) at Dallas (13-3), 8:30 p.m. on NBC. A pair of NFC East foes meet in the Lone Star State in the first Sunday night game of the 2017 season as Eli Manning and the New York Giants travel to Arlington to meet Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot and the Dallas Cowboys in Jerry World.

Both teams were found themselves in the post-season and both suffered opening losses to Green Bay. The Giants found themselves on the short end of a 38-13 loss to the Packers at Lambeau in the Wild Card round and then Dallas fell to Aaron Rodgers and the Pack at home in the Divisional Round, losing a heart-breaker in Arlington by a 34-31 final.

For the Cowboys, it is off-field distractions that have had the team in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Elliot, who rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 TDs last year, found himself in the ire of commissioner Roger Goodell, who wanted to suspend the star for 10 games for domestic violence. Elliot, along with the NFLPA, appealed the decision and the NFLPA also got the legal system involved as well, petitioning to a federal court to stop any suspension. Meanwhile, the arbitrator that was hearing the case ruled that the six-game suspension would stand. That was the bad news. The good news? Because the ruling came late, Elliot would be allowed to play on Sunday night and he is slated to do so.

Including contests that took place at Yankee Stadium, the Yale Bowl and the Cotton Bowl, Dallas leads the series 62-45-2 and have outscored the Giants 2,449-2,119. Although the Cowboys won the NFC East, the Giants managed to sweep the series, taking wins along the Jersey shore and in the Lone Star State and have won three of the last four meetings in the series (Dallas’ last win in the series came in 2015, when they took a 27-26 win in the Lone Star State).

The first meeting took place in Arlington to open the 2016 campaign and a Dallas rally in the final minutes of action fell short as the Giants came away 20-19 winners. Dallas trailed 13-9 at the half and actually led 19-13 with 13:59 left in regulation before Manning and WR Victor Cruz took the lead back on a 3 yard TD pass with 6:13 left. Big Blue outrushed Dallas 113-101 in the season opener, while Prescott (227) outpaced Manning (207 yards, 3 TDs) as Dallas got as far as their 46-yard line when WR Terrance Williams caught a Prescott pass but failed to get out of bounds and the clock ran out. Both teams did well on third down tries (New York was 5 of 10, Dallas was 10 of 17) and the Cowboys ruled the clock, holding on to the ball for 36:43 to New York’s 23:17.

That was game one.

Game two… the Meadowlands in week 14 and as was the case in the first meeting, the second meeting was close. For Cowboy fans, the result was the same as the Giants were 10-7 winners. Dallas led 7-0 at the half at Met Life Stadium before the Giants shut out Dallas in the second half, scoring all their points in the third quarter. This time, Manning and WR Odell Beckham Jr. connected on a 61 yard TD strike (New York’s first points came on a 39-yard field goal by Robbie Gould) to take the lead for keeps. This time, it was Dallas that would outrush New York 108-93 (Ezikel Elliot led all rushers with 107 yards) and Manning threw for 193 yards and the lone TD, while Prescott threw for 165 with a pair of interceptions (both were sacked three times). As well as they did on third down tries in the first meeting, such was not the case in the rematch, with neither team breaking the 50 percent mark (Dallas was 1 of 15, while the Giants were 2 of 14) but both clubs did reasonably well on fourth down (Dallas was 1 of 2, New York was 2 of 2). Time was the ally of New York, as the Giants kept the ball for 30:52 to Dallas’ 29:08.

New York covered the 1-point spread in the first meeting in Arlington and the two teams combined for 39 points, missing the 46 over/under. In the second contest, the Giants won by three in the Meadowlands, Dallas was favored by 3 and the Giants won by that margin, covering the spread. As for the over/under of 47 1/2? Neither club came close, scoring only a somewhat dismal 17 points.

Dallas is favored by 4 1/2 in the Sunday night matchup and the over/under’s 48. This could be one of the better Sunday night games. Dak gets revenge on Eli. Dallas covers the 4 1/2 and wins in the Lone Star State.

New Orleans (7-9) at Minnesota (8-8), 7:10 p.m. Monday on ESPN. The first of two Monday night games take place in the Land of 10,000 Lakes as the Vikings host the Saints at US Bank Stadium. The Vikings will see a familiar face in a different uniform, as Adrian Peterson returns as a Saint. Peterson, who played for Minnesota for 10 seasons, rushed for only 8 yards all last year before sitting out with an injury, moved on to the Big Easy when he was not resigned by his old club. New Orleans in their last seven games actually played decent but not great football, going 3-4 in those that contests and found themselves behind Atlanta in the NFC South. The Vikings managed to stay close to Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC Central as they won their first five contests before stumbling in divisional play the rest of the season.

Minnesota leads the series 18-10 and have outscored the Saints 703-512. New Orleans has won the last three regular season meetings in the series, with their last win coming in 2013 in the Big Easy by a final of 20-9. Minnesota’s last win over the Saints also came on the bayou, with the Purple Gang taking a 30-27 win in 2008. Both teams are below the .500 mark on Monday night (Minnesota is 27-31, while the Saints are 18-21; Minnesota was 1-1 last year, while the Saints lost their only meeting in the 2016 campaign).

Minnesota’s favored by 3 in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and the over/under’s 48. It’s the first Monday night game of the 2017 season and it

Los Angeles Chargers (5-11) at Denver (9-7), 10:20 p.m. Monday on ESPN. A pair of AFC West rivals that aren’t exactly crazy about each other meet in the Mile High City as Denver hosts the Los Angeles Chargers. Yes. You read that correctly. The Chargers have moved on to bigger and better pastures.

The Chargers missed the post-season party again, losing their last five contests and forcing Charger ownership to make two changes. One was on the sidelines. Mike McCoy? Out as head coach and they hire Anthony Lynn as the team’s 16th head coach in the club’s history. The second change? They waved farewell to San Diego after 56 years in southern California, loaded up their trucks and moved to Beverly (Hills, that is… swimming pools, movie stars) and Los Angeles. They’ll call Stub Hub Center home while a new stadium will be built for them and the Rams.

Denver fell from Super Bowl champs to bust last season, winning their first four contests before falling to eventual NFC champ Atlanta at home in week five. The Broncos managed to right their ship but failed to make the post season. Denver also got some much needed help under center when they signed QB Brock Osweiler away from the Cleveland Browns.

Including games that were played in Los Angeles when the Chargers were in Tinseltown and before they moved down the coast and the Broncos played at Mile High Stadium, Denver leads the series 63-50-1, while the Chargers lead in scoring 2,453-2,447. The then-San Diego Chargers and Denver split their two contests in the 2016 campaign, with each taking wins at home.

Week 6, Qualcomm Stadium on a Thursday night. The “Bolts led Denver 10-3 at the break in southern California before holding off a late Bronco rally to come away 21-13 winners. Neither team breached the 100-yard rushing barrier in the AFC West showdown but San Diego did manage to outrush Denver 99-84 in the game and Trevor Siemian did manage to outpace Rivers 230-178 (each had a TD pass and each was sacked twice). Each club turned the ball over twice in San Diego and each struggled on third down tries in the first meeting (Denver 6 of 15, San Diego 3 of 13) and both clubs had only one fourth try (the Broncos was 0-1, while San Diego was 1 of 1). San Diego ruled the clock in the first meeting, keeping the ball for 33:28, while Denver held the pigskin for 26:32.

Denver would get their revenge in the second meeting in the Mile High City two weeks later in week 8 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Taking a 10-3 lead at the half at home and came away 27-19 winners. San Diego did manage to outrush Denver again, this time tallying 123 yards on the ground to Denver’s 57 (the Chargers’ Melvin Gordon led all rushers with 111 of those yards). That was the good news for Charger fans. The bad news? Rivers (267 yards) was sacked four times and picked off three, while Siemian threw for 276 yards with one pick. As was the case in the meeting in San Diego in week 6, both teams had their problems on third down (Denver was 5 of 15, San Diego was 7 of 17) and both clubs stumbled on fourth down (Denver was 0 of 1, San Diego 0 of 2). San Diego once again ruled the clock, holding the ball for 33:08, while Denver kept the ball for 26:52.

On Monday night, the Bolts are break-even at 22-22, while the Broncos are 31-37-1 (Denver was 1-0 last year, while Los Angeles’ last appearance was in 2015, where they went 0-2). In the week six contest in San Diego, the Broncos, who were the defending Super Bowl champs at that time, were favored by 3 and the over/under was 44 1/2. San Diego covered the spread in that first contest, winning by 8 but both clubs missed the over/under of 44 1/2, tallying only 34 points. As for the week 8 contest in the Rockies? Denver won by 8, covering the 6-point spread and both the Broncos and Bolts covered the 44 1/2 over/under with 46 points. Denver’s favored by 3 and the over/under’s 43. Week one closes out with an interesting matchup in which one team is in a new city and the other is trying to re-establish itself in the AFC West. Chargers make this one interesting but Denver comes away with the win and covers the 3.

The National Football League announced Saturday that three-time Grammy Award-winning artists ZAC BROWN BAND will headline Super Bowl LI pregame festivities at NRG Stadium in Houston on Sunday, February 5. Indie-pop group FITZ AND THE TANTRUMS will kick off the NFL Tailgate Party before turning over the floor to Zac Brown Band and both performances will be televised live on the FOX NFL Sunday Pregame Show.

Zac Brown Band will perform “My Old Man,” the first single from their upcoming album ‘WELCOME HOME’ (Southern Ground / Elektra Records). Their concert at the NFL Tailgate Party sets the stage for the group’s 2017 North American concert tour, which begins on May 12, the same day ‘WELCOME HOME’ is released. Zac Brown Band’s previous album ‘JEKYLL + HYDE’ marked the band’s third consecutive #1 debut on the Billboard 200 chart and became platinum-certified.

Together with their four platinum-selling albums, ‘JEKYLL + HYDE,’ ‘Uncaged,’ ‘You Get What You Give,’ and ‘The Foundation,’ and their 2013 project ‘The Grohl Sessions Volume 1,’ Zac Brown Band has sold more than eight million albums to date. They have earned a historic series of fifteen #1 hit radio singles and became only the second artist to top both the country and active rock formats.

Los Angeles-based Fitz and the Tantrums have quickly grown into bona-fide hit makers. Their latest album – ‘Fitz and the Tantrums’ – features the RIAA-certified Gold single “HandClap,” which is currently climbing the Top 40 charts after already reaching Top 5 status on both the Hot AC and Alternative Radio charts.

Fitz and the Trantrum’s major label debut – ‘More Than Just A Dream’ in 2013 – featured back-to-back #1 Alternative Radio singles, including the RIAA-certified Platinum hit “The Walker.”  The band, which has headlined countless sold-out shows, continues to be a standout at music festivals and bring their infectious energy to fans around the world.

The NFL previously announced that Luke Bryan will perform the National Anthem; Renee Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas Jones and Phillipa Soo will sing “America The Beautiful”; Kriston Lee Pumphrey will perform in American Sign Language the National Anthem and “America The Beautiful” and Lady Gaga will headline the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show. The pregame and halftime shows are an NFL NETWORK PRODUCTION and will be executive produced by Ricky Kirshner.

For updates on Super Bowl LI festivities, fans may visit SuperBowl.com or follow @SuperBowl on Twitter.

In Other Super Bowl LI News…

The National Football League premiered a new TV commercial starring Super Bowl Babies saluting legends of the game. The :30 spot, viewable at YouTube.com/NFL, will appear prior to the start of the third quarter of Super Bowl LI on Sunday, February 5 on FOX.

The new commercial – “SUPER BOWL BABY LEGENDS” – expands upon last year’s “The Super Bowl Babies Choir” spot, which highlighted how every year since 1968 Super Bowl Babies have been born to fans of the winning team.

This time around, the Super Bowl Babies explain what the true inspiration is behind the making of that family and how the greatness of Super Bowl players, coaches and legends on that night inspire their creation. Set to the world-renowned song “You’re the Inspiration” by Grammy Award-winning and multi-platinum selling band Chicago, a cavalcade of star baby look-alikes appear on screen in quick succession.

“We are excited to build upon the success of last year’s Super Bowl Babies campaign,” said Dawn Hudson, the NFL’s Chief Marking Officer. “Through our new spot, we wanted to celebrate the players, coaches and legends who have helped make football America’s game while also engaging viewers of all ages in a fun fashion.”

The commercial, created by Grey New York, features unforgettable baby look-alikes of Pro Football Hall of Fame members Coach Mike Ditka, Michael Irvin, Coach Vince Lombardi and Joe Namath, as well as Coach Bill Belichick, Marshawn Lynch and Von Miller, who is portrayed by the daughter of former NFL star Ty Law and the Vince Lombardi Trophy

The spot concludes with a final “Who’s Next?” with Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman eyeing Coach Belichick with the Super Bowl trophy between them.

Behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the spot will be released, along with :10 teasers introducing the Super Bowl Baby Legends, to support the commercial.

It’s the second largest day that has food involved next to Thanksgiving. While it’s not a holiday, many have pressed Congress to make it a National holiday. Once an event that took place in the early afternoon after church, it’s now a prime-time event and many watch the commericals but for the most part, there’s a sporting event involved.

For the 51st time since its birth, Super Bowl Sunday will make an appearance, like the swallows at San Juan Capistrano. It signals the end of the football season. The winners get to take home a trophy that looks a lot like a football. The loser will be second guessed right up to kickoff the next season.

Friends, co-workers and families will gather for the big game. Church youth groups will have their get together, while most churches or mosques will move up their services so their parishoners can go home and watch the game. New televsions will be purchased on the day of or before kickoff and most will watch their team either win it all or lose.

A few things you need to know about the Super Bowl.

1. This year’s contest is Super Bowl LI (51 for those that are not familiar with Roman numerals).

2. It is one of the most-watched events in the history of televison or sports for that matter (Last year’s Super Bowl 50 contest between Denver and Carolina had 167,000,000 viewers either watching the game live on CBS or online either in the United States or outside the borders. The game had a 72 share, according to Nielsen, which meant that 72 percent of all televisions in the United States were tuned to the Super Bowl and the game had a 46.6 rating).

3. To date, through last year’s Super Bowl 50 contest in Santa Clara, 3,876,314 have attended Super Bowl games. The largest crowd was 103,985 at Super Bowl XIV, which was played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. That’s an average of 77,526. The smallest crowd? The first Super Bowl, which took place in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The crowd that day? 61,946. The cost of the cheapest ticket in the first Super Bowl? $5. Today, expect to spend about $3 to 4 thousand for a good seat with the cheap ones coming in at about $2,500.

4. There has never been a shutout in the history of the Super Bowl and while there have been some blowouts, for the most part, every team that has played in a Super Bowl on the winnning and losing side have scored points. There has never been a game go into overtime, either.

5. Remember that food thing we talked about before? There’s going to be a lot of it, which means that there could very well be leftovers. Remember your manners and watch out for your cousin Connie. She’s been known to wipe out a buffet and wiped out your Super Bowl party last year and did not gain a pound. Connie by herself could keep the local grocery store in business for the next three years. Be sure your guests have fun, they’re happy and they don’t drink and drive.

6. There are a lot of prop bets, which don’t always involve the game itself. Bets will be placed on the ammount of time it takes to sing the National Anthem, who scores first, what the halftime performer will be wearing (or not wearing). This year’s National Anthem singer, by the way, is Luke Bryant and Lady Gaga has the Halftime duties, in case you’re wondering.

7. There will be a lot of TVs sold during Super Bowl week. That’s a lot of cable and dish sales going on as well. Just make sure your dish/cable bill and the power bill’s paid.

8. The Super Bowl halftime show is 20 minutes long, instead of the usual 15. Be patient. There’s going to be a lot of moving parts involved, such as getting the players into the locker room, getting the performers set and ready to go and then taking everything down.

9. As a courtesy to their football neighbors, the NBA and NHL have a limited schedule of games and the last ones start at 1 p.m. Eastern, giving their fans a chance to watch the Super Bowl.

10. Lastly, those commercials. They’re not cheap. A 30-second ad will run you about $5.5 million or $183,333.00 a second. That means that you have about five seconds or so to decide if you like the ad or change the channel.

32 teams started the season with one goal in mind. There are four teams that have never gone to the big game in the Super Bowl era (Cleveland, Jacksonville, Detroit and Houston, either as the Oilers or the Texans). At the end of tonight’s contest in Houston, one team will be holding the Lombardi Trophy, while the other 31 will say “that should have been ours.”

Is the Super Bowl a BIG DEAL?

It’s a HUGE deal.

ATLANTA (11-5, NFC South champion, 2nd seed) vs. New England (14-2, AFC East Champion, 1st seed). Ryan vs. Brady. Peach pie vs. Clam chowder. New England vs. Atlanta. The two best teams in the National Football League meet to determine who takes home the Lombardi Trophy. The home of the Houston Texans, NRG Stadium, is the site of the last game of the 2016 campaign. Super Bowl LI takes the stage as the Lone Star State hosts the big game for the third time.

Both teams took big wins in their respective championship games in front of their home crowds. Atlanta took Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers to task January 22nd in the final game at the Georgia Dome, coming away with an impressive 44-21 win over the Packers to take the Halas Trophy and the NFC Championship. Atlanta led from start to finish in the Big Peach, leading 24-0 at the half and increased that lead to 31-0 with 13:51 left in the third before the Packers ended Atlanta’s hopes of a shutout when WR Davante Adams caught a 2-yard TD pass from Rodgers (287 yards, three TDs, interception) with 9:19 left in the period. Green Bay, who had a chance to score in the first half, missed a 41-yard field goal try by Mason Crosby and was marching down the field before Aaron Ripkowski fumbled near the goal line and Atlanta recovered, was held to 99 yards rushing, while the Falcons tallied 101 yards and a pair of rushing TDs from Tevin Coleman and Ryan. Ryan, who threw for 392 yards and four TDs without an interception, connected with Julio Jones on a pair of TD passes, the longest going for 73 yards and WRs Mohamed Sanu and RB DeVanta Freeman. Atlanta ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 33:39, while going 10 of 13 on third down in the win. Green Bay, who turned the ball over twice, went 4 of 10 on third down tries (2 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the pigskin for 26:21.

New England took the AFC title and the Lamar Hunt Trophy in Foxboro after their 36-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger at Gillette Stadium. Pittsburgh made it a close contest in the first 30 minutes of action and trailed 17-9 at the half before New England and Brady pulled away to take control of things in the second half. As far as the rushing game went in the Sunday evening contest, neither club breached the 100-yard barrier and barely touched the 50 yard mark in the contest (New England outrushed Pittsburgh 57-54), while Brady threw for 384 yards and three TDs. Meanwhile, for his efforts, Roethlisberger threw for 314 yards and a TD but was picked off once. In forcing a pair of turnovers for their win, the Pats were 11 of 17 on third down tries and kept the ball for 31:26, while the Steelers kept the pigskin for 28:34, going 9 of 15 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

New England leads the series 7-6 in regular season play and has won the last four contests, including taking a 30-23 win in the Big Peach in 2013. However, the Falcons have outscored New England 300-249. Atlanta’s last win over New England came in 1998 in Foxboro, where they left Gillette Stadium with a 41-10 win in hand. Atlanta is 0-1 in their only Super Bowl, while the Pats are 4-4 in eight trips to the big game.

Fpr one team, they’ll have a parade and a Lombardi Trophy to keep as well as bragging rights for the season. For the other, they’ll be talked about and second-guessed for years and years. Super Bowl Sunday is finally here. The last football game of the 2016 campaign. After this one’s over, there’s no more football until the pre-season, which means that most of America will be forced to watch those Gosh-awful Lifetime movies on Sundays until Baseball season. There have been 51 of these games and this contest is the star of the show in the sports world. The end of the 2016 NFL season will see a new champion.

It’s also the last chance for “THE DRILL.” It’s kinda sad but even Connie needs some time off (she can still fit into that prom dress she had in high school). (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 57 last June and dates a 42-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

It’s the FINAL game of the 2016 campaign. When this one’s over, the winners get the Lombardi Trophy and each player gets a $107,000 check (Which comes out to $26,750 a quarter or $1,733.33 a minute). The loser? They don’t come away completely empty handed. Granted, the check isn’t as big as the winner’s. Each player on the losing team gets a whopping $53,000 or $13,250 a quarter or $883.33 a minute.

The last game of the 2016 campaign gets underway in Houston at NRG Stadium, which will make it the third time that Texas’ largest city has hosted the big game.

Two teams. One game. It all comes down to this.

New England has 9 Super Bowl berths, most in NFL history. Have won 8 consecutive division titles, longest streak in NFL history. Since 2001, have won 4 Super Bowl titles, most in NFL. Have 31-19 (.620) all-time postseason record, 2nd highest winning pct. in playoff history. Head coach Bill Belichick has 25 career postseason wins, most all-time and has won 4 Super Bowl titles (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLIX), tied with Chuck Noll for most in NFL history. As far as their resepctive divisons go, both clubs won their divisions with one loss under their belts (Atlanta lost to Tampa Bay at home in week one, while the Pats were shut out by Buffalo in Foxboro in week four).

Atlanta is making their 2nd Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. Atlanta won the NFC South title and advanced to postseason for 1st time since 2012. Ranked 1st in NFL in total points (540) and 2nd in total offense (415.8 yards per game). Head coach Dan Quinn is making 3rd Super Bowl appearance in past 4 seasons and Was defensive coordinator for Seattle in Super Bowls XLVIII and XLIX.

“It’s an honor to get to go and play in this game,” says Patriots wide receiver Julian Edleman, who is the franchise postseason leader in both catches (84) and receiving yards (937). “This is what you fight for. This is what you train for. It’s to get an opportunity to play in this game,” he told the Boston Globe and the Christian Scientist Monitor.

“This is a really special team,” says Falcons fullback Patrick Di Marco told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We have so many playmakers on offense, defense and special teams. This is a special time for this organization. I am super proud and super excited we are going to be playing in Houston. The ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl – not just get there – and we still have a game ahead of us. We still have one more game to win.”

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady will be making their seventh Super Bowl appearance together, the most NFL title games for any head coach and starting quarterback duo in league history. Belichick and Brady have won four Super Bowls together, tied with Pittsburgh head coach Chuck Noll and quarterback Terry Bradshaw for the most by a head coach and starting quarterback combination.

“I’m proud of this team,” says Belichick. “They all deserve this. It’s a good, hard-working group.”

Belichick is tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Noll for the most Super Bowl victories by a head coach with four. Brady, who is making his NFL-record seventh career Super Bowl start, is tied with Pro Football Hall of Famers Bradshaw and JOE MONTANA for the most Super Bowl wins by a starting quarterback with four.

“You never know if you’ll get these opportunities in life and fortunately this team has got the opportunity,” says Brady about advancing to the Super Bowl. “Now we’ve got to do something and go try and take advantage of it.”

Brady and Montana are the only players in NFL history to be named Super Bowl MVP three times. Brady, who was the MVP of Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XLIX, can become the first player ever to win Super Bowl MVP honors four times.

Brady enters Super Bowl LI already holding numerous Super Bowl passing records, including attempts (247), completions (164), yards (1,605) and touchdown passes (13).

“He’s the best quarterback to ever play the game,” says Patriots running back Le Garrette Blount about Brady. “He’s obviously, in my opinion, the best ever.”

The Patriots have won nine consecutive games and advanced to the Super Bowl with a 36-17 victory over Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. In that contest, Brady passed for 384 yards and three touchdowns, including two scoring strikes to wide receiver Chris Hogan. Hogan finished the game with nine catches for a franchise postseason-record 180 yards and two touchdowns.

“I’m just happy to take advantage of this opportunity and be a part of this team,” says Hogan. “This whole team has worked so hard starting in April in OTAs. We’ve grinded through this entire year. This is what we worked for and this is what we wanted to get to.”

Patriots running back Blount, who led the NFL with a club-record 18 rushing touchdowns, added a rushing TD against the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. Including the postseason, Blount’s 19 rushing touchdowns are tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Curtis Martin (1996) for the most by a Patriots player in a single season.

The Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history (Super Bowl XXXIII, 1998 season) with a 44-21 win over Green Bay in the final game at the Georgia Dome.

Atlanta, which led the NFL with 540 points scored, has won six consecutive games and is averaging 39.0 points per game over that span. The Falcons are the first team ever to advance to the Super Bowl by scoring at least 30 points in each of the club’s previous six games.

“I’m happy for everybody in our organization,” says Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. “We’ve worked hard to get to this point but the challenge is still in front of us. What we set out to accomplish is still in front of us. It’s really difficult to get to this point, and we will enjoy the process leading into it but our ultimate goal is still in front of us.”

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, who is in his second year with the team, will be making his third Super Bowl appearance in the past four seasons. Quinn was Seattle’s defensive coordinator in Super Bowls XLVIII (2013 season) and XLIX (2014).

“I am excited for the opportunity. But more importantly, I’m excited for these players,” says Quinn. “It’ll be a great challenge.”

Atlanta quarterback Ryan, who led the league with a franchise-record 117.1 passer rating, has continued his stellar play in the postseason with a 132.6 passer rating. Over the team’s six-game winning streak, Ryan has thrown 18 touchdown passes and no interceptions for a 133.3 passer rating.

“MVP,” says Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones when asked how to describe Ryan. “He’s a great player. He’s a great leader on this team and he’s my brother.”

Ryan has thrown at least three touchdown passes in four consecutive postseason games, the first player in NFL history to accomplish the feat. In this year’s playoffs, Ryan has seven touchdown passes and no interceptions.

The Falcons have spread the ball out as Ryan threw a touchdown pass to 13 different players in the regular season, the most ever in a season in league history. Among his favorite targets is Jones, who led the NFL averaging 100.6 receiving yards per game this season (1,409 yards in 14 games).

“He’s a beast,” says Ryan about Jones. “He’s an absolute stud. I’ve been so lucky to play with him as long as I have.”

Jones had nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns in the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. It marked his second career postseason game with at least 180 receiving yards and two touchdowns and he is the only player in league history to accomplish that feat in multiple playoff games. In five career postseason games, Jones has 552 receiving yards and five touchdown catches. His average of 110.4 receiving yards per game is the highest in NFL postseason history (minimum five games).

Defensively, the Falcons are powered by Vic Beasley, Jr., who led the NFL in sacks (15.5), and a quartet of rookies – safety Keanu Neal, cornerback Brian Poole and linebackers Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell. All four rookies started in the NFC Championship Game and Atlanta can become the first team ever to start four rookies on defense in the Super Bowl. Jones (106) and Neal (105) led all NFL rookies in tackles this season.

“Every day, we are just trying to get one percent better for the guy next to us,” says Poole. “Every play, we are going to give it all we’ve got and not let our teammates down. We’re going out there trying to play ball and let people know that what we’ve got is serious.”

Beasley, who is in his second year, had a career-high 15.5 sacks and is the first Falcons player to lead the league in sacks. During the team’s current six-game winning streak, Atlanta has allowed just 19.3 points per game (27.6 points per game in the team’s first 12 games).

“We feel like we have the potential to be a great defense,” Beasley told WSB-TV. “Early in the season, we weren’t playing as well but we have come a long way and now we’re going to the Super Bowl.”

New England’s favored by 3 points in the last game of the 2016 National Football League season and the over/under is 59. Both numbers make a lot of sense. There’s a lot at stake and not just for those that have ads in this year’s contest. There’s a lot at stake for the teams that are involved. The winners will be looked at and heralded for eternity, while the losers will be second-guessed for the entire off season. The winner gets to pick last in the upcoming draft, the loser will pick 31st. Rise up, Atlanta! You’re picking last. Falcons cover the 3 and pull off the upset.

Records vs. Common Opponents

New England: 4-1 (Arizona. 1-0; Denver 1-0; Los Angeles Rams 1-0; Seattle. 0-1; San Francisco 1-0)

Atlanta: 5-1 (Arizona 1-0; Denver 1-0; Los Angeles 1-0; Seattle 1-1; San Francisco 1-0)(Atlanta’s win over Seattle came in the Divisional Round)

Playoff Records – New England: 31-19; Atlanta: 9-12

Broadcast Information – 6:30 p.m. on FOX: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews, Chris Myers (Field reporters). Westwood One: Kevin Harlan, Boomer Esiason, Tony Boselli, James Lofton (Field reporters). SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 81 (New England), 82 (Atlanta). XM: 88 (WestWood1), 225 (New England), 82 (Atlanta)

Referee: Carl Chefferss

Injury Report

ATLANTA – Atlanta reported no injuries.

New England – New England reported no injuries.

Weather Report: Game indoors

Broadcast information, officials and injury report courtesy the National Football League, odds courtesy Don Best, weather information courtesy The Weather Channel.

The NFL joined the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) at the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl in Atlanta to kick off their enhanced partnership. The initiative –  Strength of HBCUs, Impacting Pro Football Since 1948 –  will celebrate and honor the history and impact HBCUs and their players have had on the game and work to increase career opportunities for students and athletic administrators at these institutions.

The celebration of the legacy and impact of HBCUs and their players will continue at Super Bowl LI in Houston, the NFL announced yesterday. The NFL will carry on the tradition of honoring Legends and historic players at the Super Bowl by recognizing Pro Football Hall of Fame players who attended HBCUs, including Jerry Rice, Michale Strahan and Aeneas Williams.

The celebration will culminate with an on-field, pregame ceremony with these players at NRG Stadium on Sunday, February 5. (a full list is below)

“The HBCU influence on the NFL goes beyond the evolution of the game and reaches deep into the very fabric of football, and we are honored to celebrate their achievements at Super Bowl LI in Houston”, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV. “Our partnership with the HBCUs is an
important initiative which celebrates the tremendous legacy fostered by these institutions that continue to contribute a standard of excellence and character for our game”.

Hosted in conjunction with the Celebration Bowl, the inaugural NFL Careers in Football Forum introduced 80 students and entry-level athletic department administrators from the 23 MEAC and SWAC institutions to career opportunities in professional football. The event featured panel discussions with NFL and club executives, resume and skill building workshops and a behind-the scenes look into football operations on game day.

The NFL has a longstanding relationship with HBCUs, which have developed some of the greats of the game. Twenty-nine of the 303 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame attended HBCUs. Earlier this year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame (PFHOF) and the Black College Football Hall of Fame (BCFHOF), announced a partnership that will result in a permanent home for the BCFHOF as part of the new Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village on the PFHOF’s campus in Canton, Ohio, adding to the history and association of HBCUs and their players’ influence on the game.

To learn more about the partnership and the HBCU players that impacted the game, watch the NFL Films-produced tribute – https://youtu.be/fesPPn1mFKs.

Below is a list of the 29 Pro Football Hall of Fame members who will be recognized at Super Bowl LI. In addition to the Hall of Fame players, NFL Legends and former Grambling players, Doug Williams andthe late Paul “Tank” Younger, will be honored in Houston for their legendary achievements and profound impact on the game.

Lem Barney – Jackson State
Elvin Bethea – North Carolina A&T
Mel Blount – Southern
Roosevelt Brown – Morgan State
Willie Brown – Grambling
Buck Buchanan – Grambling
Harry Carson – South Carolina State
Willie Davis – Grambling
Richard Dent – Tennessee State
Bob Hayes – Florida A&M
Claude Humphrey – Tennessee State
Len Ford – Morgan State
Ken Houston – Prairie View
Charlie Joiner – Grambling
Deacon Jones – Mississippi Valley State
Leroy Kelly – Morgan State
Willie Lanier – Morgan State
Larry Little – Bethune Cookman
Walter Payton – Jackson State
Jerry Rice – Mississippi Valley State
Shannon Sharpe – Savannah State
Art Shell – Maryland Eastern Shore
Jackie Slater – Jackson State
John Stallworth – Alabama A&M
Michael Strahan – Texas Southern
Emmitt Thomas – Bishop
Aeneas Williams – Southern
Rayfield Wright – Fort Valley State

The National Football League and FOX Sports announced that country music superstar Luke Bryan will sing the National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI pregame festivities at NRG Stadium in Houston on Sunday, February 5. The performance will be televised live on FOX prior to kickoff.

The Super Bowl is annually the most-watched television program. Bryan’s performance of the National Anthem in Houston will be his first time appearing on the Super Bowl stage.

Bryan is a two-time Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year and has hosted the ACM Awards for four consecutive years. Since the debut of his first album in 2007, he has placed 17 singles at No.1 and sold nearly eight million albums. His fifth studio album, Kill The Lights, is certified Platinum and has sold 3.5 million tracks with over 400 million streams.

Bryan joins the ranks of many great performers who have sang the Super Bowl National Anthem including: Lady Gaga, Idina Menzel, Renée Fleming, Alicia Keys, Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Neil Diamond, Whitney Houston, Harry Connick, Jr., Garth Brooks, Natalie Cole, Vanessa Williams, Luther Vandross, Cher, Faith Hill, Mariah Carey, Dixie Chicks, Beyoncé Knowles, Christina Aguilera and many more.

In addition, on behalf of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), actor Kriston Lee Pumphrey will perform in American Sign Language both the National Anthem and “America The Beautiful”.

The NFL previously announced that Lady Gaga, who performed the National Anthem prior to Super Bowl 50, will headline the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show. The pregame and halftime shows are an NFL NETWORK PRODUCTION and will be executive produced by Ricky Kirshner.

About Luke Bryan: Country music superstar Luke Bryan is a two-time Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year. He has hosted the ACM Awards for four consecutive years. Since the debut of his first album in 2007 he has placed 17 singles at number 1 and sold nearly eight million albums. His fifth studio album, Kill The Lights, is certified Platinum and has sold 3.5 million tracks with over 400 million streams. The album debuted at No. 1 on both the Billboard Top 200 (his third to do so) and Top Country Albums charts and contains five consecutive No 1 hits- so far.

His concert tours have consistently sold out shows across North America including many NFL Stadiums like the Patriot’s Gillette Stadium where Luke played back-to back sold out concerts last summer. Luke has also sold out Chicago’s Soldier Field, Cleveland’s First Energy Stadium, the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Ford Field in Detroit, the home of the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field and Levi Stadium in San Francisco. His 2015 tour played for 1.5 million fans and in 2016 he entertained 1.6 million fans on his “Kill The Lights Tour.” That tour continues this spring with a new tour planned for the summer.

About Kriston Lee Pumphrey: Kriston Lee Pumphrey is a performing artist who is working as a news anchor at the Deaf Professional Arts Network (DPAN-TV). Kriston Lee graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2009 with a degree in business and communication. Kriston Lee co-founded ColorFest, a Deaf LGBT leadership conference for college students that is hosted both at Gallaudet University and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Kriston Lee is involved in various community related advocacy work and currently serves on the board of a D.C. based nonprofit organization that strives to end sexual assault and domestic violence within the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

In other NFL, Super Bowl music-related news…

The National Football League and FOX Sports announced that Renee Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas Jones and Phillipa Soo, original cast members of the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit “Hamilton: An American Musical,” will sing “America The Beautiful” as part of Super Bowl LI pregame festivities at NRG Stadium on Sunday, February 5. The performance will be televised live on FOX prior to kickoff.

The Super Bowl is annually the most-watched television program. The appearance will be the first time the trio, who starred as “The Schuyler Sisters,” will perform on the Super Bowl stage.

Goldsberry, Jones and Soo join Vicky Carr (Super Bowl XI), Ray Charles (Super Bowl XXXV), Mary J. Blige and Marc Anthony (Super Bowl XXXVI), Alicia Keys (Super Bowl XXXIX), Faith Hill (Super Bowl XLIII), Queen Latifah (Super Bowl XLIV and XLVIII), Lea Michele (Super Bowl XLVI) in singing “America The Beautiful” at Super Bowl. In 2013, Jennifer Hudson along with 26 children from the Newton, Connecticut community sang the song in advance of Super Bowl XLVII.

The NFL previously announced that Luke Bryan will perform the National Anthem, Kriston Lee Pumphrey will perform in American Sign Language the National Anthem and “America The Beautiful” and Lady Gaga will headline the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show. The pregame and halftime shows are an NFL NETWORK PRODUCTION and will be executive produced by Ricky Kirshner.

About Renée Elise Goldsberry: Renée Elise Goldsberry received the Tony Award, Grammy Award, Drama Desk Award and Lucille Lortel Award for her performance off and on Broadway in the musical phenomenon Hamilton. Since winning the Tony Award, she has appeared in Baz Luhrmann’s “The Get Down” for Netflix and shot the title role for HBO’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” opposite Oprah Winfrey. She is currently in production for the Netflix series “Altered Carbon”. Prior to Hamilton, Renee’s appearances on stage include her Outer Critics Circle Award nominated performance opposite Frances McDormand in the play Good People, as well as the original stage version of The Color Purple.  She made her Broadway debut in The Lion King and starred as Mimi in the final cast of Rent, filmed live on Broadway. Her off-Broadway appearances have included several Shakespeare productions for the New York Public Theater, where Hamilton originated. Her television appearances include her recurring roles on “The Good Wife,” “Law and Order: SVU” and “The Following.”  She was nominated twice for a Daytime Emmy Award for her performance on “One Life to Live.” On film, she appeared most recently in “Sisters” with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and in “Every Secret Thing” with Diane Lane and Elizabeth Banks.

About Jasmine Cephas Jones: Jasmine Cephas Jones originated the roles of ‘Peggy Schuyler’ and ‘Maria Reynolds’ in the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit HAMILTON an American Musical. Jasmine trained at the Berklee College of Music for vocal performance and The Neighborhood Playhouse for Theater. She is a member of the LAByrinth Theater Company. Theater: Hamilton (Broadway), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Atlantic Theater) Film: Mistress America (Fox Searchlight), Titus (Dakus Films UK). Television: “Blue Bloods” (CBS), “Unforgettable (CBS), “Odd Mom Out” (Bravo). Jasmine will be seen in the upcoming feature, BLOOD SURF with James Franco and the upcoming season of GIRLS (HBO). Jasmine has a fashion collaboration with the LOU & GREY brand debuting this spring.

About Phillipa Soo: Phillipa Soo is best known for her lead role in Broadway’s critically acclaimed show “Hamilton,” which she joined shortly after its inception. This Broadway phenomenon penned by Lin-Manuel Miranda and based on Ron Chernow’s 800 plus page biography of Alexander Hamilton, is predominantly focused on the trajectory of its titular character. But the Thomas Kail-directed production, which opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre last year, is as much about the personalities surrounding the founding father, chief among them his wife ‘Eliza Schuyler Hamilton’, played by Soo. The role also garnered her the Lucille Lortel Award in 2015 for Lead Actress in a Musical during the shows sold-out run at The Public Theater before heading to Broadway. The role has also earned her a 2016 Tony Award nomination in the category of “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical.” Soo will next star in Amelie, A New Musical, based on the Academy Award-winning 2001 French film, Amelie, opening on April 3, 2017 at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Amelie follows the whimsical and charming existence of a lonely French waitress who decides to act as a secret wish-fulfiller to the people who live around her.  After graduating from Juilliard in 2012, Soo was cast as ‘Natasha Rostova’ in the Ars Nova production of Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812, based on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace; the show went on to transfer Off-Broadway to Kazino. Previously on the small screen, Soo appeared on the NBC television series “Smash” in the role of Lexi. Soo currently resides in New York City.

Keegna-Michael Key, Emmy-award winning actor, writer and creator, will take the stage as host of NFL HONORS on Saturday, February 4 at the Wortham Theater Center in Houston. The two-hour primetime awards special recognizing the NFL’s best players, performances and plays from the 2016 season will air nationally at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacifci on FOX.

Key is the co-creator and co-star of Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele” with Jordan Peele. The show won the 2016 Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series, with Key being individually nominated for acting and co-writing with Peele. Key was previously nominated for five Emmy Awards for his work on the show, as well as a 2016 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. “Key and Peele” won a 2014 Peabody Award and an American Comedy Award for Best Alternative Comedy Series. The show has become a TV and viral sensation, with 15 total Emmy® nominations and approaching a billion cumulative online hits. The series concluded its five season run in September 2015.

Key can currently be seen in John Hamburg’s comedy Why Him? in which he stars alongside James Franco, Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally. 20th Century Fox released the film on December 23. Earlier in the year, he starred in in Mike Birbiglia’s critically acclaimed Don’t Think Twice, which premiered at this year’s South by Southwest and Tribeca Film Festivals and was widely regarded as one of the best films of 2016. He also co-starred and produced Warner Brothers’ Keanu, alongside Jordan Peele.

Keegan recently wrapped production on Nick Stoller’s comedy series “Friends from College” that will premiere on Netflix later this year.

Music for the show will be performed by vocalist-instrumentalist Spencer Ludwig. The trumpeter, singer, producer and dancer was the lyrical lead trumpeter for the multiplatinum-selling indie pop act, Capital Cities and toured on Katy Perry’s Prismatic World Tour. In April of 2015, Ludwig signed a worldwide record deal as a solo artist with Warner Brothers Records.

“NFL Honors,” which debuted in Indianapolis in 2012, is an annual event hosted from the Super Bowl city the evening before the AFC and NFC champions meet. Key joins Alec Baldwin, Seth Myers and Conan O’Brien on the list of award-winning celebrities to host the NFL’s awards show.

The show includes the announcement of THE Associated Press’ annual accolades and the newest Pro Football Hall of Fame class. Preceding FOX’s telecast, NFL Network will air “Super Bowl Saturday Night” at 7 p.m. Eastern, covering all the sights and sounds from the Red Carpet presented by VISA at NFL Honors.

The full list of awards that will be presented is:
AP Most Valuable Player Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year presented by Nationwide
AP Coach of the Year AP Comeback Player of the Year presented by McDonald’s
AP Offensive Player of the Year presented by Microsoft
AP Defensive Player of the Year presented by Old Spice
AP Offensive Rookie of the Year
AP Defensive Rookie of the Year
Bridgestone Performance Play of the Year
FedEx Air and Ground Players of the Year
NFL.com Fantasy Player of the Year
Courtyard’s Greatness on the Road Award
Salute To Service Award presented by USAA
Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award
Deacon Jones Award
Castrol EDGE Clutch Performer of the Year
Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Year

Super Bowl LI brings much more than football to the Houston area. Throughout the weeks preceding the game, more than 30 charitable activities and community outreach events will enrich the community and provide lasting legacies.

Super Bowl Week activities include the announcement of the annual Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide winner, the first-ever live American Heart Association-NFL PLAY 60 Challenge Virtual Field Trip, a series of community projects made possible by millions of dollars in NFL Foundation Super Bowl Legacy Grants and the Super Bowl LI Host Committee and a number of youth character development events including an InSideOut Character Initiative Forum and the NFL’s Women’s Summit.

During the week, the NFL Verizon will host an Unsung Heroes luncheon for volunteers and employees at local domestic violence and sexual assault prevention organizations and shelters. The league is also working with local organizations on social issues including human trafficking, providing financial grants to address issues in the Houston area.

The following events listed, courtesy of the National Football League, are just some of the ways the NFL and Super Bowl LI will positively impact the community.

NFL EXPERIENCE DRIVEN BY GENESIS

NFL Experience Driven by Genesis – pro football’s interactive theme park –  will return to Houston for the first time since Super Bowl XXXVII in 2004, this event offers fans a unique chance to get involved in the festivities surrounding Super Bowl LI, offering interactive games, youth football clinics, merchandise from NFL Shop presented by Visa, player autograph sessions and more.

Celebrating the history of the game and electrifying atmosphere of Super Bowl LI, NFL Experience Driven by Genesis at the George R. Brown Convention Center (1001 Avenida De Las Americas) will be open to the public Saturday and Sunday, January 28th and 29th and again Wednesday through Sunday, February 1st through 5th.

The hub of Super Bowl fan activity, NFL Experience provides visitors of all ages an opportunity to experience the game like never before. Fans can test their football skills in interactive games, receive autographs from current stars and legends of the game, shop the latest NFL team and Super Bowl gear in the NFL’s largest retail space in the nation, and get a photo with the most prestigious trophy in sports, the Vince Lombardi Trophy. For more information and a complete schedule of events for NFL Experience Driven by Genesis visit http://www.SuperBowl.com and download the Super Bowl LI Houston – Fan Mobile Pass app.

Tickets for NFL Experience Driven by Genesis can be purchased online exclusively through http://www.Ticketmaster.com. Tickets are $35.00 for adults and $25.00 for children 12 and under, and permit entry for a particular day and time. An NFLXtra Fast Pass may be purchased for $55.00. Beginning January 28, opening day of NFL Experience Driven by Genesis, fans can purchase tickets at NFL Experience Box Office located in the George R. Brown Convention Center. Tickets sold at NFL Experience box office will go on sale two hours before opening daily. For more information and to find out about special family packages available online only, visit http://www.SuperBowl.com. Tickets purchased online are subject to a Ticketmaster service charge.

On Thursday, February 2 local high school students will receive a $5 discount at NFL Experience Driven by Genesis.

2017 NFL Experience Driven by Genesis Hours of Operation:

Saturday, January 28 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Sunday, January 29 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Wednesday, February 1 from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Thursday, February 2 from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Friday, February 3 and Saturday, February 4 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Super Bowl Sunday (February 5) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

(Times are Central Time and are subject to change)

The complete schedule for NFL Experience Driven by Genesis, and other Super Bowl LI gameday and event information, will be posted on http://www.SuperBowl.com and in the Super Bowl LI Houston – Fan Mobile Pass app. To download the app, visit the app store or http://www.NFL.com/SBApp. Fans are encouraged to follow @SuperBowl and tag their posts and photos using hashtag #SB51.

SUPER BOWL LIVE: Super Bowl LIVE is the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee’s nine-day fan festival leading up to Super Bowl LI in Houston. The festival, a free event with music, food, games and attractions, will be located in and around Discovery Green Park (1500 McKinney Street) in downtown Houston from Saturday, January 28th through Saturday, February 5th.

The Host Committee has partnered with NASA to create Future Flight, the signature attraction of Super Bowl LIVE. Future Flight combines a virtual reality experience with a 90-foot drop tower that takes passengers on a trip to Mars and back, landing just in time for Super Bowl LI.

A series of concerts will take place on the Super Bowl LIVE main stage including Solange Knowles, Robert Glasper and Lizzo on Thursday, February 2; Leon Bridges, Shakey Graves and Robert Ellis on Friday, February 3 and ZZ Top, Gary Clark, Jr. and The Suffers on Saturday, February 4. Houston-based performers will also be on the main and secondary stage throughout the week, including bands The Tontons, Wild Moccasins, Los Skarnales, Nick Gaitan, Fat Tony, Buxton and many more.

In addition, the Host Committee has created two Super Bowl LIVE programming opportunities aimed at bringing local youth from different communities together. Touchdown Houston continues to bring the Super Bowl experience to local youth with inclusive and fun Play On activities.

Flag Football: The Houston Super Bowl Host Committee has invited local community youth football teams to experience the excitement of the Super Bowl by squaring off in flag football games. Participating teams hail from various parts of the city and will get their taste of the spotlight as they engage in friendly competition in Root Memorial Square before thousands of Super Bowl LIVE visitors. The games will include special half-time performances from the club cheerleading teams, local marching pep bands and dance teams. The flag football games will take place on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 28-29 and Friday and Saturday, February 3rd and 4th from 11 a.m. to Noon.

Play LIVE with Playworks: The Houston Super Bowl Host Committee has partnered with Playworks to provide children and families from the Greater Houston area an hour of fun and games through football-themed activities, four-square, tag and much more. School-age youth can participate in these activities which promote positive social values, higher self-esteem and a healthy lifestyle during the play hour. Playworks is a national nonprofit organization that leverages the power of safe, fun and healthy play at school every day. To learn more about Playworks, go to http://www.playworks.org. The Play LIVE with Playworks will take place Saturday and Sunday, January 28-29 and Friday and Saturday, February 3-4 from 2-3 p.m.

Super Bowl LIVE Hours of Operation:

Saturday, January 28 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Sunday, January 29 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Monday, January 30 and Tuesday, January 31 from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Wednesday, February 1 and Thursday, February 2 from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Friday, Febuary 3 and Saturday, February 4 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Super Bowl Sunday (February 5) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

HOUSTON SUPER BOWL HOST COMMITTEE PROJECT 51: Project 51 encourages Houston high school students to get involved in their community by collectively pledging 51,000 hours of community service in the months preceding Super Bowl LI. Students and schools will be recognized for their community service by the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee and the NFL Youth and High School Football department. Project 51 supports the Host Committee’s Lead On initiative which encourages students to be active leaders in their schools and community. Those making a pledge could win tickets to Super Bowl Opening Night Fueled by Gatorade, a tour of NRG Stadium or a Meet and Greet with an NFL player.

The promotion period began at Noon Eastern on Friday, December 23, 2016 and ended at 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Monday, January 23.

NFL PLAY 60 CHARACTER CAMP: On Monday, January 30 at 9 a.m., the NFL will host a free Character Camp on the field at NFL Experience Driven by Genesis at the George R. Brown Convention Center (1001 Avenida De Las Americas) before NFL Experience is open to the public. The event will include 300 predominantly-Hispanic youth from the Houston area. The non-contact football camp will be led by Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle Anthony Munoz.

The NFL PLAY 60 Character Camps program is a partnership between the NFL and the Muñoz Agency.  The mission of the camps are to make a positive impact on youth through teaching football skills, emphasizing exercise, and reinforcing the importance of character in athletics and life.  The camp is part of a series of NFL PLAY 60 Character Camps hosted as part of the NFL’s year-round Hispanic outreach initiative, focused on offering youth opportunities to play and experience the game of football. Since the inception of NFL PLAY 60 Character Camps in 2012, over 60 camps have been held impacting more than 20,000 youth across the country.

NFL PLAY 60 CHALLENGE SCHOOL VISIT: The NFL and Houston Texans players will visit Frank Black Middle School (1575
Chantilly Lane) on Monday, January 30 at 1 p.m. to reward them for successfully completing the Super Bowl LI edition of the NFL PLAY 60 Challenge. The NFL PLAY 60 Challenge, developed in conjunction with the American Heart Association, is the primary in-school curriculum for NFL PLAY 60. Sixth-grade students at Frank Black Middle School successfully completed the NFL PLAY 60 Challenge, a Super Bowl program that taught students the importance of getting 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Frank Black Middle School will also receive a $2,500 NFL PLAY 60 grant from the NFL and American Heart Association to be used to support the school’s health and fitness education efforts.

More than 24,000 fourth, fifth and sixth graders from Houston counties including Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Walker and Waller registered for the Challenge in the months leading up to Super Bowl. The schools that successfully completed the Challenge are invited to NFL PLAY 60 Kids Day at NFL Experience Driven by Genesis, on Wednesday, February 1.

NFL PLAY 60 CHALLENGE VIRTUAL FIELD TRIP: On Tuesday, January 31 at Noon Central Time live from the NFL Experience Driven by
Genesis at the George R. Brown Convention Center (1001 Avenida De Las Americas), the NFL and American Heart Association (AHA), working together with Discovery Education, will lead the first-ever AHA-NFL PLAY 60 Challenge Virtual Field Trip (VFT). The virtual class, featuring Houston Texans’ players Whitney Mercilus and Christian Covington and AHA’s Dr. Mercedes Carnethon, will be live-streamed in classrooms across the country, reaching thousands of students. In the VFT, students will learn the science behind cardio and strength exercises that NFL players use to stay fit. Mercilus and Covington will lead participating classrooms in quick physical activity sessions, after which students nationwide will have the opportunity to ask the VFT hosts live questions. The NFL PLAY 60 Challenge is designed to inspire youth to get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day and help more schools become places that encourage physically active lifestyles year-round.

Registration for the VFT is free. To register your classroom or follow along at home, visit: http://www.aha-nflplay60challenge.org/field-trip.

SUPER BOWL LI INSIDEOUT CHARACTER INITIATIVE FORUM: The InSideOut Initiative recognizes the significant role coaches play in
students’ lives and aims to shift the current win-at-all-costs sports culture to one of a four-part process centering on Awareness, Alignment, Action and Accountability. The initiative focuses on the purpose, power and privilege of coaching, and the responsibility coaches have to young athletes. The InSideOut Initiative will debut in Houston on Tuesday, January 31 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Houston Texans YMCA (5202 Griggs Road). Former NFL player and author of InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives Joe Ehrmann and Executive Director of the InSideOut Initiative Jody Redman will take more than 100 Houston high school educational leaders and coaches on an InSideOut journey to examine their own character and to assist in the development of a coach-specific character game plan that will enhance the human growth and development of the student-athletes they coach.

NFL-USO SUPER BOWL LI SALUTE TO SERVICE: The NFL and the USO continue to celebrate more than 50 years of partnership with Salute to Service. The NFL is proud to bring football to the USO family through programs and services year-round that tap the unique capabilities of football and help keep service members connected to family, home and country.

On Tuesday, January 31 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., the NFL, USO and Houston Texans will host a barbeque to celebrate over 3,000 service members and their families at Ellington Field Joint Base Reserve. The event will feature NFL player meet and greets, photo opportunities with Houston Texans cheerleaders, music by Texas Marine Veteran Cody Wayne, an NFL PLAY 60 zone for kids, a Madden Tournament and an NFL Raffle.

Additionally, Super Bowl care packages, which included branded Super Bowl LI decorations and promotional items, have been sent to 60 USO locations around the globe in support of their Super Bowl viewing parties.

NFL-USAA MILITARY OUTREACH: The following is a sampling of additional events planned for service members and
their families in the Houston Area during Super Bowl Week:

USAA will host current and former military and their guests at the “USAA Salute to Service Lounge” within NFL Experience. The Lounge will be open both Friday, February 3 and Saturday, February 4 and serves as an exclusive area for current and former military members and their families to enjoy complimentary food and beverage, games, NFL player meet and greets and more.

The NFL and USAA will recognize the winner of the 2016 Salute to Service Award presented by USAA at the 6th Annual NFL Honors awards show at the Wortham Theater Center on Saturday, February 4, the night before Super Bowl LI. Created in 2011, the Salute to Service Award acknowledges the members of the NFL for their exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community and their families.

SPECIAL OLYMPICS SKILLS AND DRILLS: The NFL, Special Olympics Texas and the Houston Texans will host a Special
Olympics Skills and Drills Clinic and unified flag football scrimmage Friday, February 3 from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the George R. Brown Convention Center (1001 Avenida De Las Americas) featuring local Special Olympics athletes.

The NFL and Special Olympics are teaming to provide opportunities for athletes of all abilities to ‘PLAY 60′ through the expansion of Special Olympics Unified Flag Football. The two organizations will kick off their new partnership by hosting a unified flag football game at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando during Pro Bowl Week.

PLAY 60 is the NFL’s campaign to promote youth health and wellness, aimed at encouraging kids to get active for 60 minutes a day. For more information, visit NFLRUSH.com/PLAY60.

Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. They empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5.3 million athletes and Unified partners in 169 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 108,000 games and competitions throughout the year.

PLAY FOOTBALL FAMILY FESTIVAL: To celebrate the football community and the coaches and players that bring passion, fun and excitement to the sport, the NFL will host a Play Football Family Festival on Tuesday, January 31 and Wednesday, February 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Taylor High School Performing Arts Center (2700 Kingsland Blvd, Katy) and the Aldine Campbell Center (1865 Aldine Bender Road, Houston). The event will kick off with football clinics, taking parents through drills and introducing them to different elements of the game. Guests will then go through a helmet fitting, receive autographs from NFL players and enjoy entertainment elements such as photo opportunities, breakout panel sessions led by NFL Ambassadors and local high school coaches and food and beverages. The festival will conclude with an NFL player-led TED Talk.

To learn more about Play Football visit playfootball.com or follow #LetsPlayFootball on social media.

SUPER BOWL LI BUSINESS CONNECT CELEBRATION: The NFL and the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee will host “Super Bowl LI Business Connect: Celebrating Opportunities & Success” event on Tuesday, January 31 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Ballroom at the Bayou (500 Texas Street, Houston, TX 77002). The event is a celebration of the Super Bowl LI Business Connect program spotlighting the accomplishments of Super Bowl LI Business Connect suppliers and local businesses that have grown and thrived under the tutelage of the program’s professional development initiatives and, acknowledging NFL event contractors who’ve aggressively utilized the program throughout the year.

More than 400 Houston businesses in 50 vendor categories participated in the year and a half long Business Connect program, which is designed to create Super Bowl LI contracting opportunities for experienced, local diverse business owners. To qualify for participation in Business Connect, businesses must be 51 percent owned by a minority, woman, disabled veteran, lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender individual. The Business Connect Celebration is a ticketed event for participating business owners. A networking reception will precede and follow the formal program. Former NFL Cornerback and Food Network Star Winner Eddie Jackson is the event’s keynote speaker.

NFL PLAY 60 KIDS’ DAY AT NFL EXPERIENCE: NFL PLAY 60 Kids’ Day gives more than 1,000 local children the opportunity to
spend time with NFL players at the NFL Experience Driven by Genesis at the George R Brown Convention Center (1001 Avenida De Las Americas) on Wednesday, February 1, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Children from the local Houston area will take part in the excitement of Super Bowl Week alongside NFL players. Multi-platinum recording artist and Grammy Award winner Jordin Sparks will perform two songs and teach the kids a dance routine at the NFL Experience Field at approximately noon.

Kids will learn more about the importance of healthy living during Kids’ Day as part of NFL PLAY 60, aimed at helping youngsters get 60 minutes of exercise each day. Classrooms earned their invite to Kids’ Day by completing the NFL PLAY 60 Challenge, in partnership with the American Heart Association, in the months leading up to Super Bowl.

As part of their Kids’ Day experience, local children will participate in interactive PLAY 60 fitness activities and take part in games including Punt, Pass and Kick, speed and mobility drills, quarterback challenge games and extra point kicking stations.

HOUSTON HABITAT FOR HUMANITY SUPERBUILD: On Wednesday, February 1 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Houston Habitat for Humanity (HHFH)
is sponsoring SuperBUILD LI at 8706 Shady Vista Lane. The event is hosted in conjunction with Super Bowl LI to build 51 affordable homes for partner families. A sanctioned NFL event since 2003, SuperBUILD provides affordable housing options for low to moderate income families through volunteerism. HHFH will invite NFL players to visit the job sites, participate in home dedications and celebrate with families who were able to achieve their dream of homeownership.

NFL PLAYER CARE FOUNDATION SCREENINGS

The only event that is not open to the public takes place from Wednesday, February 1st to Friday, February 3rd as the NFL Player Care Foundation (PCF), supported by the NFL Alumni Association, are proud to partner with one of the nation’s
premier medical providers, Tulane University School of Medicine, to conduct its annual Super Bowl Healthy Body and Mind Screening program. This complimentary national program is open to all former NFL players and includes cardiovascular and prostate screenings and mental health resources and education.

NFL Player Care Foundation screenings are offered as part of PCF’s research programs, which help to advance public awarenss and scientific understanding of health issues that affect former NFL players. The screening will take place at the Houston Marriott at the Texas Medical Center (6580 Fannin Street, Salons A, B and C) from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

The PCF is an independent foundation created in 2007 by a partnership between NFL owners, the NFL Players Association, Pro Football Hall of Fame and the NFL Alumni Association. Since its inception, the organization has screened more than 4,000 retired NFL players and provided over $11 million in emergency financial assistance. For more information, visit nflplayercare.com. (The screenings are closed to the public due to patient-client privilege.)

SUPER BOWL LEGACY GRANT EVENT: The NFL seeks to improve the surrounding communities of the Super Bowl host city with a Super Bowl Legacy Grant donation. This year, the NFL Foundation provided a $1 million grant to the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee via “Touchdown Houston” in an effort to leave an impact on all 11 counties of Houston by concentrating on education, health and community enhancement. Grant focuses include youth physical fitness and wellness, after school programs, health care and food access, neighborhood improvement, early childhood education, anti-poverty, dropout and homeless prevention strategies.

On Thursday, February 2 at 10 a.m., NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Houston Super Bowl Host Committee executives amongst others will take part in the Super Bowl Legacy Grant press conference at Pro-Vision Academy (4590 Wilmington Street.). NFL Legend and Pro-Vision Academy founder ROYNELL YOUNG will lead attendees through a ground breaking ceremony to celebrate a football field refurbishment granted to the school. Following the press conference, students will participate in a player panel on character education with current and former NFL players and led by former NFL player and author of InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives JOE EHRMANN. Ehrmann is the co-founder of the InSideOut Initiative, designed to help high school communities recognize the responsibility they have to their students and enhance the human growth and development of the student-athletes who play.

MAKE-A-WISH®: Through the assistance of the NFL, Make-A-Wish will grant the wishes of 12 children to attend Super Bowl LI. Attending the Super Bowl continues to be a wish that transcends generations: every year since 1982, one or more wish kids has wished to attend the big game.

This year, the children and their families will arrive in Houston on Thursday, February 2 for a welcome reception. Wish children and their families will participate in several other activities related to the Super Bowl and will attend the game at NRG Stadium through the support of the NFL and other organizations.

Make-A-Wish grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. According to a 2011 U.S. study of wish impact, most health professionals surveyed believe a wish-come-true can have positive impacts on the health of children. Kids say wishes give them renewed strength to fight their illnesses, and their parents say these experiences help strengthen the entire family. Based in Phoenix, Make-A-Wish is one of the world’s leading children’s charities, serving children in every community in the United States and its territories. With the help of generous donors and more than 33,000 volunteers, Make-A-Wish grants a wish somewhere in the country every 34 minutes. It has granted more than 285,000 wishes since its inception in 1980; more than 15,300 in 2016 alone. Visit Make-A-Wish at wish.org to learn more.

NFL WOMEN’S SUMMIT— “PLAYS FOR LIFE”: On February 3rd from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and February 4 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the NFL will host this year’s Women’s Summit—Plays for Life. Building on the success of last year’s Women’s Summit—which explored the role of sports participation in developing leadership, teamwork and other skills that promote success throughout one’s life and career, Plays for Life expands upon that conversation by engaging teen girls through an interactive and experiential event focused on personal development and achievement.

During the two-day event, 250 Houston-area teen girls will hear from prominent leaders from across the NFL and beyond about their own personal journeys and participate in a discussion about how to achieve their goals, prepare for life’s challenges and best utilize the tools that are critical for personal and professional development.

A live stream of the event will be hosted by women’s leadership platform http://www.MAKERS.com.

More than three dozen speakers and participants will be announced in the coming days. The event will take place at the Citadel (12130 Kirby Drive).(The event is limited to invited guests.)

NFL FOUNDATION GOLF TOURNAMENT: “Legends on the Links”

In celebration of its 26th year, the NFL Foundation is partnering with the NFL Legends community to host an 18-hole golf tournament on Friday, February 3 starting at 8 a.m. at Golf Club of Houston (5860 Wilson Road in Humble), home course to the PGA Tour’s Shell Houston Open.

Teams of amateur golfers will be captained by NFL Legends in 18-hole team scramble events to be played on both the Tournament Course, which hosts the PGA Tour event annually and the Member Course, where the PGA Tour played from 2003 through 2005. The celebrity captains entered thus far are Larry Brown, Donnie Edwards, Ahman Green, Rodney Hampton, Dhani Jones, Kwamie Lassiter, Ryan Leaf, E.J. Manuel, Curtis McGriff, Marty Moore, Jonathan Ogden, Chad Pennington, Mike Quick, John Randle, Mike Rucker, Will Shieldds, Al Smith, Mack Strong, Ben Tate, John Urshel and Leonard Wheeler. Additionally, NFL Legends’ Community Directors and Coordinators that serve as ambassadors across the country will be in attendance and facilitating the tournament.

Hospitality golf packages were open to the general public and the deadline for that was January 28th, with a tournament entry donation of $6,000 per team (teams of three paired with a NFL Legend) or $2,500 per individual benefiting the NFL Foundation and NFL Player Care Foundation.

ROSS INITIATIVE IN SPORTS FOR EQUALITY (RISE) SUPER BOWL TOWN HALL: The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) and NFL will host their second-annual Super Bowl Town Hall, “From Protest to Progress: The Power of Sports to Improve Race Relations,” from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, February 3. The town hall, hosted by Texas Southern University in Houston and supported by The Players’ Tribune, will be broadcast live on Sirius XM radio. Current and former NFL greats, including policy advocates Anquan Boldin of the Detroit Lions and Malcom Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles and Hall of Famer Aeneas Williams, will participate in a two-part panel discussion, reviewing lessons learned from the activist athlete and examining solution-oriented next steps for the sports industry to drive social change. RISE will release a report looking at the reach and impact of, reaction to and outcomes of activist athletes in the second half of 2016. RISE aims to use sports to improve race relations. To learn more, visit http://www.risetowin.org.

NFL and ALL PRO DAD FAMILY FOOTBALL CLINIC: Current and former players celebrate football and family at the second annual NFL and All Pro Dad Family Football Clinic at Super Bowl LI. Presented by NFL Player Engagement and All Pro Dad organization, players are invited to bring their children and significant others to participate in fun football activities on Friday, February 3 at 9 a.m. at the NFL Experience Youth Field in the George R. Brown Convention Center (1001 Avenida De Las Americas). Players and their children will learn how fun it is to PLAY 60 and create new football memories as a family. Within each football activity, kids and their parents will participate in an exercise designed to foster engagement and relationship building among family members. The clinic will begin at 9:30 a.m. with player media availability at 11:30 a.m.

For more information, contact Crystal Fukumoto at crystalf@bzapr.com.

22nd ANNUAL REBUILDING TOGETHER “KICKOFF TO REBUILD”: On Friday, February 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., in conjunction with Super Bowl LI, Rebuilding Together Houston will host a community revitalization project to rehabilitate the main section of the historic Independence Heights neighborhood as a Legacy of Super Bowl LI in Houston. Independence Heights is the first self-governing, African American city incorporated in the state of Texas. It is important to revive the neighborhood and keep its history alive, allowing longtime residents to age in place. The creation of a welcome center will allow visitors the opportunity to learn about the neighborhood’s history, beginning in 1905, through its eventual integration into the city of Houston and its vital role in Houston’s community today.

For the past 22 years, Rebuilding Together has partnered with the NFL to host projects in Super Bowl cities. These NFL-sanctioned events provide critical home repairs for low-income homeowners and their communities. The event will include help for individual homeowners in need and create a safer, healthier and beautifully rebuilt section of Independence Heights.

To learn more about Rebuilding Together’s Kickoff to Rebuild project, visit rebuildingtogether.org/ktr/.

CHARACTER PLAYBOOK HOUSTON LAUNCH

“Character Playbook,” a joint initiative of the NFL and United Way Worldwide and operated by EverFi, an education technology leader in more than 13,000 schools across the nation, will launch in Houston on Friday, February 3 at 1 p.m. at Pilgrim Academy (6302 Skyline Drive.). The digital course is comprised of six interactive modules that support positive character development, social-emotional learning and healthy relationships for grades 7-9. Houston Texans players will sit on a panel and discuss character development and decision-making with students.  Students will then go through the modules, designed to help students develop healthy relationships and social norms. Character Playbook will be provided to 40 schools in the Houston area via a joint partnership between the Houston Texans, United Way of Greater Houston and Verizon.

SUPER BOWL GOSPEL CELEBRATION: The 18th Annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration will take place on Friday, February 3 at 7:30 p.m. at Lakewood Church (3700 Southwest Freeway). The Super Bowl Gospel Celebration brings together Super Bowl champions and Pro Bowl players with Grammy Award-winning contemporary Christian, gospel and mainstream artists all on one stage.  The Super Bowl Gospel Celebration also gives back to the community. Each year, the event identifies a charity to donate a portion of its proceeds. For the second consecutive year, a portion of the proceeds will benefit the NFL Players Care Foundation.

For more information, visit http://www.superbowlgospel.com

1st AND FUTURE: The NFL, in collaboration with the Texas Medical Center (TMC) is calling on innovators to share their solutions to help advance the game of football and athlete safety. On Saturday, February 4, the partners will host 1st and Future, a unique startup competition that will take place at the TMC Innovation Institute (2450 Holcombe Boulevard). Up to nine startups will be invited to present their game-changing technologies in each of the following three categories: Communicating with the Athlete, Training the Athlete and Materials to Protect the Athlete. The startups will pitch their products to an exclusive audience, including a panel of judges, NFL team owners and executives and representatives from the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee and TMC. One winner from each category will be selected by a panel of judges comprising of former NFL players, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. The winners will receive a $50,000 prize from the NFL to further develop their innovation; acceptance into TMCx, TMC’s world-renowned program for start-ups and two tickets to Super Bowl LI.

SUPER BOWL BREAKFAST: The 2017 Super Bowl Breakfast will be held Saturday, February 4 at 8 a.m. at the
Marriott Marquis Houston (1777 Walker Street.).  The breakfast will feature the presentation of the Bart Starr Award, presented by Super Bowl Champion Coach, Tony Dungy. The award, voted on by NFL players, honors outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community.

In addition to Tony Dungy and the 2017 Award winner, the program will include former NFL players Roger Staubach, Bruce Matthews, Anthony Munoz, Derrick Brooks and emcee James Brown, host of The NFL Today on CBS and Thursday Night Football on NFL Network.

For more information, contact Jordan Sok at jordan@heartlandcommunicate.com or 859-519-7750.

HOUSTON CAREERS IN SPORTS FORUM: The NFL will celebrate high school coaches and educate students on various career opportunities in the sports industry on Saturday, Feb. 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Cemo Hall at the University of Houston. Parents will hear from NFL players and professionals in the sports industry about the vast career possibilities off the field. Guests will enjoy music from a professional DJ and food and beverages and interact with sports experts and NFL players. The event is open to Houston high school students interested in sports but space is limited.

NFLPA SMOCKS AND JOCKS: On Saturday, February 4 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Caracol (2200 Post Oak Boulevard), the NFL Players Association will hold its annual art auction and jazz brunch called Smocks and Jocks supporting the Gene Upshaw Player Assistance Trust Fund and a local foundation. Artwork from active and former players and others connected to professional football will be auctioned as part of the charity event. This event is invite-only.

TROUPE21’S 17TH ANNUAL PLAYER NETWORKING EVENT™: Troupe21’s 17th Annual Player Networking Event™ (PNE) at the Super Bowl will take place Saturday, February 4 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Houston Community College—West Loop Center (5601 West Loop South). PNE, an NFL sanctioned event for 15 years, helps active and former NFL players transition into meaningful second careers.

The networking event will include a private banking workshop; focus groups for players, corporate guests and vendors; an Internet radio broadcast featuring player-owned businesses and sponsors; a social media challenge designed to promote athlete and corporate responsibility; a scholarship drive for high school football student-athletes to attend the Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy; and a trade show featuring corporations interested in helping players pursue charitable, employment and entrepreneurial goals.

To learn more about PNE 2017 and PNE Week go to http://www.pneinfo.com or follow on Twitter@NFLPNE.

TASTE OF THE NFL: Taste of the NFL (TNFL) is a 501(c)(3) dedicated to raising awareness and funds for hunger relief organizations in the 32 NFL cities and across the country. Proudly celebrating its 26th year at Super Bowl LI, the organization conducts national and local fundraising events throughout the year, culminating in the annual Party with a Purpose® on Super Bowl Eve. Since its inception, Taste of the NFL has raised more than $25 million, which has provided more than 275 million meals for Americans. All proceeds raised are donated directly to local and national food banks in each of the 32 NFL cities.

This season’s Party with a Purpose® will be held at the University of Houston (4800 Calhoun Road) on Saturday, February 4 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. This star-studded fundraising event celebrates two of America’s favorite pastimes—food and football—by bringing together exceptional cuisine, prominent chefs from around the country, celebrities, NFL players, coaches, legends and more, all to support the fight against hunger. Alex Guarnaschelli and Richard Blais are the Culinary Hosts for this year’s Party with a Purpose®.

Follow @TasteoftheNFL on Instagram and Twitter as they #KickHunger this season, or visit Taste of the NFL on Facebook at facebook.com/TasteoftheNFL.

Tickets to this event can be purchased at http://www.TasteoftheNFL.com.

SUPER BOWL ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAM: The NFL and the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee have teamed up to develop a series of initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of Super Bowl Verizon is a key partner in several of these projects including the Super Kids – Super Sharing, the Super Bowl LI Urban Forestry Project and a public E-Waste Recycling Rally.

The Super Kids – Super Sharing Sports Equipment and Book Donation Event was held Thursday, January 19. Tens of thousands of books, school supplies, games and pieces of sports equipment were collected and distributed to low-income schools and youth programs throughout the region.  As part of Super Kids, local students have also donated used cell phones through HopeLine® from Verizon. HopeLine® collects wireless phones and accessories no longer in use and turns them into financial support for domestic violence organizations nationwide.

The Super Bowl LI E-Waste Recycling Rally was held Saturday, January 21 at the Houston Zoo, Medical Center Entrance (1481 Cambridge Street). This recycling rally, sponsored by Verizon, was open to the public and local residents were allowed to drop off all types of electronic waste to be recycled responsibly and kept out of local landfills. Items such as computers, printers, monitors, cell phones and televisions were accepted.

Other environmental projects include:

GREEN ENERGY: “Green” energy will be used to power major Super Bowl event venues throughout Houston including NRG Stadium, the George R. Brown Convention Center (site of the Super Bowl Media Center and NFL Experience), and the hotels being used by the NFL and AFC teams and by the NFL Super Bowl staff. NRG will be providing renewable energy certificates (RECs) equivalent to the electricity usage at these facilities to mitigate the climate impact of energy emissions.

FOOD RECOVERY: Extra prepared food from Super Bowl events will be recovered in partnership with the Houston Food Bank and a number of local nonprofit organizations to provide meals for shelters, missions, soup kitchens and other community programs.

MATERIAL RECOVERY: Recovery of all event materials will begin immediately after most Super Bowl events. During the week following the game, there will be an intensive drive to collect and donate items left over from Super Bowl including building materials, décor, fabric, carpeting and sign materials. These items will be donated to local organizations that can reuse, repurpose or remanufacture the material. The NFL has incorporated environmental projects into the management of Super Bowl for more than 20 years.

There is going to be a lot of money bet on Super Bowl LI and some of that betting will take place legally, while other bets will be taken outside the law.

While money will be spent on food, televisions, cable and souveniers, there are those things that the boys and girls in Vegas call prop bets. What are prop bets, you ask? Those are those events that take place during the Super Bowl that most of us don’t pay attention to, such as the length of the National Anthem, what color clothing the halftime performer will be wearing (assuming they will be clothed!). Those bets, while not exactly part of the game, could make this Super Bowl very interesting (apologies to Arte Johnson!).

Thanks to David Solar, who has done this as the Content Manager at Sports Insights for over four years, specializing in sports betting analytics and has created several popular data-driven betting systems, we present to you some prop bets for Super Bowl LI. Remember to bet wisely!

Who will the Super Bowl MVP thank first? (Sportsbook)
Teammates +160
God +200
None of the listed options +200
Fans/City +400
Coaches/Owner +600
Family +800

What color will the liquid be that is poured on the head coach of the winning team? (Bovada)
Clear/Water +300
Lime/Green +300
Yellow +300
Orange +300
Red +600
Blue +750
Purple +1200

How many times will Trump be said during the live broadcast? (Bovada)
Over 1.5 (-120)
Under 1.5 (-120)

How long will it take for Luke Bryan to sing the US National Anthem?
Over 2.5 minutes (-120)
Under 2.5 minutes (-120)

What will Luke Bryan be wearing when he starts singing the US National Anthem? (Bovada)
Blue Jeans -200
Any other pants +150

Will Luke Bryan be wearing a hat when he appears on screen before singing the US National Anthem? (Bovada)
Yes -120
No -120

Will Luke Bryan forget or omit a word from the Official US National Anthem? (Bovada)
Yes +400
No -700

Lady Gaga’s hair color during Halftime Show (Bookmaker)
Blonde/Yellow -170
Brown +200
Green +1000
Pink +1500
White +1500
Blue +1500
Purple +2000
Orange +2000

Lady Gaga’s hair color during Halftime Show (Sports Interaction)
Blonde -300
Non-Blonde +200

What will Lady Gaga Wear? (Sports Interaction)
Hat/Headdress -150
Glasses +200
Wings +500
Tail +1600
I Voted Hillary’ T-Shirt +2500
Cut-Off Sweatshirt +5000
Absolutely Nothing +10000

Will Lady Gaga wear an outfit that exposes her midriff? (Sports Interaction)
Yes -150
No +110

Lady Gaga’s 1st song at Halftime Show (Bookmaker)
Bad Romance -115
Born This Way +800
The Edge of Glory +900
Just Dance +1100
Applause +2000
Poker Face +2500
Paparazzi +3000
Field +165

Which of these artists will Lady Gaga cover? (Sports Interaction)
David Bowie +200
Prince +250
Leonard Cohen +330
George Michael +500
Glenn Frey +800

Who will perform with Lady Gaga? (Sports Interaction)
Kendrick Lamar +330
Beyonce +330
Justin Timberlake +450
R Kelly +450
Tony Bennett +500
Florence Welch +600
Father John Misty +750
Josh Homme +750
Jon Bon Jovi +800
Elton John +800
Beck +1000
Ted Nugent +5000
Performs Solo -140

How many different outfits will Lady Gaga wear during the halftime show? (Sports Interaction)
Over 2 (-120)
Under 2 (-120)

Will Lady Gaga say “Trump” during the Halftime Show? (Bookmaker)
Yes -140
No +110

Will Lady Gaga be shown on the NRG Stadium roof? (Bookmaker)
Yes +260
No -375

Will Lady Gaga have a wardrobe malfunction? (Bookmaker)
Yes +1500
No -5000

Will James Harden appear in a commercial in Super Bowl 51? (Bookmaker)
Yes -250
No +185

Peyton Manning commercials during Super Bowl broadcast (Bookmaker)
Over 1.5 (+120)
Under 1.5 (-150)

Super Bowl 51 total viewers (Bookmaker)
Over 117.5 million (-140)
Under 117.5 million (+110)

Super Bowl 51 Nielsen Rating (Bookmaker)
Over 48.5
Under 48.5

Will any player leave the Super Bowl with a concussion? (Bookmaker)
Yes +130
No -160

Will Matty Ice be said during the broadcast?  (Bookmaker)
Yes -200
No +155

Will Aaron Hernandez be said during the broadcast?  (Bookmaker)
Yes +190
No -260

Will Michael Vick be said during the broadcast? (Bookmaker)
Yes +210
No -300

How many times will “deflategate” be said during the broadcast? (Bookmaker)
Over 2.5 (+110)
Under 2.5 (-140)

How many times will “dynasty” be said during the broadcast? (Bookmaker)
Over 3.5 (-105)
Under 3.5 (-125)

How many times will Gisele Bundchen be shown? (Bookmaker)
Over 1.5 (-120)
Under 1.5 (-110)

Will Joe Buck or Troy Aikman reference the game’s odds? (Bookmaker)
Yes +100
No -130

Will Joe Buck or Troy Aikman mention that Tom Brady was drafted in the 6th round of the NFL Draft? (Bookmaker)
Yes -300
No +210

How many pizzas will Domino’s sell on Super Bowl Sunday? (Sports Interaction)
Over 11.5 million (-140)
Under 11.5 million (+100)

Will Donald Trump tweet more than five times during the Super Bowl? (Top Bet)
Yes +105
No -125

Will Lady Gaga mention a cause or protest during her halftime performance? (Top Bet)
Yes +200
No -260

Will a streaker be broadcast sometime between the opening kickoff and final play? (Top Bet)
Yes +1000
No -2000

And here are my picks …

Who will the Super Bowl MVP thank first? (Sportsbook)
Teammates +160
God +200
None of the listed options +200
Fans/City +400
Coaches/Owner +600
Family +800

Going with the Almighty. Nothing against friends, fans, coaches or family but it’s still Sunday.

What color will the liquid be that is poured on the head coach of the winning team? (Bovada)
Clear/Water +300
Lime/Green +300
Yellow +300
Orange +300
Red +600
Blue +750
Purple +1200

The most common color of Gatorade/Powerade consumed on NFL sidelines is yellow. Yellow takes this one

How many times will Trump be said during the live broadcast? (Bovada)
Over 1.5 (-120)
Under 1.5 (-120)

Going with the under here.

How long will it take for Luke Bryan to sing the US National Anthem?
Over 2.5 minutes (-120)
Under 2.5 minutes (-120)

Under. Pro athletes have a somewhat structured schedule and any disruption would be bad.

What will Luke Bryan be wearing when he starts singing the US National Anthem? (Bovada)
Blue Jeans -200
Any other pants +150

Blue jeans. Duh! It’s Luke Bryant.

Will Luke Bryan be wearing a hat when he appears on screen before singing the US National Anthem? (Bovada)
Yes -120
No -120

If he’s got any sense, he’ll got hatless.

Will Luke Bryan forget or omit a word from the Official US National Anthem? (Bovada)
Yes +400
No -700

No.

Lady Gaga’s hair color during Halftime Show (Bookmaker)
Blonde/Yellow -170
Brown +200
Green +1000
Pink +1500
White +1500
Blue +1500
Purple +2000
Orange +2000

Blondes have more fun.

Lady Gaga’s hair color during Halftime Show (Sports Interaction)
Blonde -300
Non-Blonde +200

Blonde

What will Lady Gaga Wear? (Sports Interaction)
Hat/Headdress -150
Glasses +200
Wings +500
Tail +1600
I Voted Hillary’ T-Shirt +2500
Cut-Off Sweatshirt +5000
Absolutely Nothing +10000

Although the Absolutely Nothing route looks good, there may be kids in the room, so I’m going with the “I Voted Hillary” route.

Will Lady Gaga wear an outfit that exposes her midriff? (Sports Interaction)
Yes -150
No +110

No… then again, this is Lady Gaga we’re talking about.

Lady Gaga’s 1st song at Halftime Show (Bookmaker)
Bad Romance -115
Born This Way +800
The Edge of Glory +900
Just Dance +1100
Applause +2000
Poker Face +2500
Paparazzi +3000
Field +165

Poker Face.

Which of these artists will Lady Gaga cover? (Sports Interaction)
David Bowie +200
Prince +250
Leonard Cohen +330
George Michael +500
Glenn Frey +800

Prince, although Bowie would be a somewhat close second.

Who will perform with Lady Gaga? (Sports Interaction)
Kendrick Lamar +330
Beyonce +330
Justin Timberlake +450
R Kelly +450
Tony Bennett +500
Florence Welch +600
Father John Misty +750
Josh Homme +750
Jon Bon Jovi +800
Elton John +800
Beck +1000
Ted Nugent +5000
Performs Solo -140

Ted Nugent? HELL NO! Justin Timberlake’s a good choice but if anything, she’ll call on her pal Tony Bennett.

How many different outfits will Lady Gaga wear during the halftime show? (Sports Interaction)
Over 2 (-120)
Under 2 (-120)

Taking the under.

Will Lady Gaga say “Trump” during the Halftime Show? (Bookmaker)
Yes -140
No +110

Yes.

Will Lady Gaga be shown on the NRG Stadium roof? (Bookmaker)
Yes +260
No -375

No.

Will Lady Gaga have a wardrobe malfunction? (Bookmaker)
Yes +1500
No -5000

No.

Will James Harden appear in a commercial in Super Bowl 51? (Bookmaker)
Yes -250
No +185

Yes.

Peyton Manning commercials during Super Bowl broadcast (Bookmaker)
Over 1.5 (+120)
Under 1.5 (-150)

Taking the over. Peyton may be retired but he’s still gold.

Super Bowl 51 total viewers (Bookmaker)
Over 117.5 million (-140)
Under 117.5 million (+110)

Over. While everyone thinks that the Pats will win, there are some in the South that want to see Atlanta pull off the upset.

Super Bowl 51 Nielsen Rating (Bookmaker)
Over 48.5
Under 48.5

Over.

Will any player leave the Super Bowl with a concussion? (Bookmaker)
Yes +130
No -160

No.

Will Matty Ice be said during the broadcast?  (Bookmaker)
Yes -200
No +155

Yes.

Will Aaron Hernandez be said during the broadcast?  (Bookmaker)
Yes +190
No -260

No.

Will Michael Vick be said during the broadcast? (Bookmaker)
Yes +210
No -300

No.

How many times will “deflategate” be said during the broadcast? (Bookmaker)
Over 2.5 (+110)
Under 2.5 (-140)

Taking the over, considering who’s at QB for New England.

How many times will “dynasty” be said during the broadcast? (Bookmaker)
Over 3.5 (-105)
Under 3.5 (-125)

Over.

How many times will Gisele Bundchen be shown? (Bookmaker)
Over 1.5 (-120)
Under 1.5 (-110)

Over.

Will Joe Buck or Troy Aikman reference the game’s odds? (Bookmaker)
Yes +100
No -130

No.

Will Joe Buck or Troy Aikman mention that Tom Brady was drafted in the 6th round of the NFL Draft? (Bookmaker)
Yes -300
No +210

No.

How many pizzas will Domino’s sell on Super Bowl Sunday? (Sports Interaction)
Over 11.5 million (-140)
Under 11.5 million (+100)

Given that Domino’s is the competition and that Papa John’s is the pizza sponsor for the NFL, we’re going over… with extra bacon, please!

Will Donald Trump tweet more than five times during the Super Bowl? (Top Bet)
Yes +105
No -125

No.

Will Lady Gaga mention a cause or protest during her halftime performance? (Top Bet)
Yes +200
No -260

Yes.

Will a streaker be broadcast sometime between the opening kickoff and final play? (Top Bet)
Yes +1000
No -2000

No.

Super Bowl 51 (or LI) kicks off Sunday, February 5th at 6:30 p.m. Eastern on FOX. While you anxiously await the game, don’t forget to check out the countless prop bets available to sports gamblers this year. Most of these prop bets will take fairly low limits and the book manager’s decision is final.

Remember, you were warned.